Most versions of this parable run something like this:

Unable to swim, a scorpion asks a frog to carry him across a rising river.

The frog worries that the scorpion could sting him. The scorpion argues that if he stung the frog, the frog would sink and the scorpion would drown as well.

Convinced, the frog agrees and lets the scorpion climb on his back. Halfway across the river, the scorpion does in fact sting the frog, dooming them both.

“But why?” asks the frog.

“It’s just my nature,” says the scorpion.

It’s a useful parable that illustrates several principles:

  • Creatures can’t change their basic instincts, even for self-interest.

  • It’s folly to think you’ll be the exception to the rule. (He’ll keep his word just this once.)

  • Scorpions are dicks.

As parables go, it feels more inherently dramatic than most: trust! betrayal! poison! Compare that to another favorite: The tortoise may win the race, but his life was never in danger.

There’s nothing wrong with the scorpion and the frog. But as screenwriters, let’s stop having characters actually recite it. It’s been done before. A lot. So now it feels like a hacky and desperate way to make villains seem cool by rationalizing their actions.

A friend writes:

Really was digging the MAGIC CITY pilot until the mob boss dude asks Jeffery Dean Morgan, “Do you know the story of the scorpion and the frog?” to which, of course, JDM replies, “No, I don’t.” — and then the fucking mob boss proceeds to tell the entire fucking parable.

Can a brother get a moratorium on that bitch or what?

Perhaps a brother can.