Humans Are Morons

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"An American monkey, after getting drunk on brandy, would never touch it again, and thus is much wiser than most men."

Sometimes, it feels like the only difference between humanity and the chimps is that we're only slightly less hairy.

A subtrope of Humans Are Flawed, Humans Are Morons shows that, when compared to other civilizations in works of Speculative Fiction (or even lesser animals, on occasion), humans are nowhere near as technologically advanced, incapable of understanding such civilizations as being any different than the most generic Sci-Fi stories, very gullible, insanely superstitious, constantly having more astounding lapses in judgment than a more sensible being could possibly tolerate, far more primitive than realized (possibly even more savage-like than realized), and completely oblivious to all of this.

Humans are not special. They're just an oddly evolved ape[1] out in the boondocks of the galaxy where, thankfully, intelligent life is so far away from us that we can live in our own squalor on this filthy planet without a care (or clue) in the world and not pose a threat to anyone out there who may actually be decent and civilized (but God help them if they ever do actually come here).

This is often the source of Fantastic Racism exemplified in alien civilizations towards humans; whenever you see words like "monkeys," "primates," "chimps," and "apes" used as Fantastic Slurs, you're generally dealing with an alien species that believes humans are pretty far down on the totem pole. This may also lead to a sufficiently advanced species to note that there is No Intelligent Life Here.

Outside of the Speculative Fiction genre, Humans Are Morons may be invoked in works with more political contexts, especially with those that argue Hobbes Was Right or that Democracy Is Bad, again emphasizing that there is still a very savage, primal side of human nature that clouds our better judgment and hampers our social progression towards a more idealistic Utopia.

This can overlap with Humans Are the Real Monsters in the event that any brutish or violent human actions are more closely perceived as being thoughtless, rather than malicious, but usually these two tropes are separate. When trying to figure out whether an act of violence counts as humans being bastards or morons, there's always one easy distinction to tell the two apart:

If this trope is ever Subverted Trope, it will involve a human talent or trait that makes us special for some reason totally not related to the author's species.

Compare with The Ditz and The Fool when dealing with stupidity on an individual level, and Medieval Morons when a time traveler has to deal with human stupidity, rather than aliens. Contrast: Humanity Is Superior, Humans Are Leaders.

See Also: Puny Earthlings if humanity's stupidity inspires/causes a stronger alien or species to take advantage of this weakness, Surrounded by Idiots if the human imbeciles are an Evil Overlord's Mooks, Hanlon's Razor if someone or something other than humanity pays a price for our own idiocy, and This Loser Is You because you're not so smart, either.

Not to be confused with Viewers are Morons.

No real life examples, please; We don't know any Real Life non-human societies to compare humanity to.

Examples of Humans Are Morons include:


Comics[edit | hide | hide all]

  • A favorite for Alan Moore when he writes anything about aliens interacting with humans, occasionally referring to humans derogatorily as "chimps" and "apes."
    • In Skizz a peaceful alien is stranded on Earth a la E.T., which, to his own species, is classified as a "hellworld" planet for many reasons, among them being that human civilization is far too primitive and undeveloped for people to handle alien contact. The first encounter the alien has with humans is discovering drunk skinheads pummeling each other with their fists; the revelation that he's stranded on a planet where the locals are that primitive is more than enough to make him cry.
      • The Big Bad in the story, a government agent known only as "Van Owen," could be interpreted to an extent as an example of the overlap between this and Humans Are the Real Monsters. No matter what anyone says or asks him, he's convinced in his own mind that the peaceful alien is a secret spy looking to destroy the planet.
    • "DR and Quinch Have Fun on Earth" features the title characters manipulating humanity throughout history in an elaborate scheme that relies on humans developing a space travel program. When humans finally reach the characters' corner of the galaxy and encounter "their first real, actual people," they're given a civic reception at "The League of Disadvantaged Planets' Charity Hall" as everyone sees humans as stupid, mindless life-forms.
    • Several of Moore's Future Shocks from 2000 AD are about humanity's stupidity allowing aliens who are actually malicious to take advantage of them. Notable examples include, the Grawks who conquer Earth not through war but by giving gold to any human on the planet in exchange for world landmarks or even entire countries while the humans who take the gold are unaware that they are making a legitimate sale in accordance with Intergalactic Law (this also deflates the price of gold on Earth so much that humans can't buy Earth back) and the humanitarians who don't seem to bother the military too much about taking security precautions when making first contact.
  • In Judge Dredd this is one of a few arguments made to show that Democracy Is Bad (especially as an In-Universe argument). With the Judges in control of everything, the rest of the population has seemingly accepted the parentalist state of things and now cannot be trusted to competently vote on individuals to run the government on their behalf.
    • There was also the time when an orangutan named Dave was able to do a better job at predicting the winners of sporting matches than human sports analysts. His fans later rally to get him elected as Mayor of Mega-City One, believing that he can do a better job than an actual person. Dave the Orangutan won the election and was later assassinated.
  • In another 2000 AD strip, Bec & Kawl, The Greys who abduct Pierre seem to view humans as play-things to be abused and toyed with for their amusement, when not partaking in the traditional Anal Probing and alien-human hybrid experiments, of course. One grey even refers to Pierre as a "monkey-man." The Greys do, however, decide to recruit Pierre (who is a pest control expert) for the job of "taking on the filthiest vermin of all" (a separate malevolent alien race hiding amongst us on Earth, waiting for the opportune moment to strike), which turns out to be A Batman Gambit for The Greys' own gain.
  • In the Strontium Dog story arc "Bitch," aliens who have taken Ronald Reagan hostage find The Gipper to be so astonishingly stupid that they can't fathom how this man could possibly be "the leader of the human race" without assuming that the rest of us aren't that bright, either.
  • Throughout Silver Surfer's solo series, Surfer, confined to Earth by Galactus in punishment for rebelling against his master, constantly bemoans the madness of men. No matter what he does to try and fit in, he encounters human prejudice and fear. His evaluations vary from Humans Are the Real Monsters to Humans Are Morons though.


Fanfic[edit | hide]

  • In Aeon Entelechy Evangelion, this is how almost everybody non-human views humanity in general and the NEG in particular. This view is especially held by the Migou.


Film - Animated[edit | hide]

  • In Don Bluth's Titan A.E., after losing their homeworld, humans are viewed as sort of sentient, endangered vermin unleashed on the galaxy.
  • The main antagonist in Finding Nemo is a slightly hyperactive little girl who simply doesn't realize that if she shakes the bag too hard she'll kill the little fish inside.
  • In Ratatouille, unlike Remy's father, who believes Humans Are the Real Monsters, Remy believes the humans are just ignorant, seeing that rats have traditionally been pests, anyway.
  • In Samson and Sally, Moby Dick states, "Mankind is not vicious, mankind is stupid!"


Film - Live-Action[edit | hide]

  • Idiocracy takes place in a future where Survival of the Fittest has been hijacked by the astoundingly stupid.
  • Mars Attacks!! features many situations where people want to believe that the Martians are peace-loving and our friends, despite them repeatedly vaporizing everyone.
  • In Men in Black humans are the least technically advanced space faring race in the galaxy. Most of the better technology the MIBs have is acquired from elsewhere, and the greater human population cannot be allowed to know the truth. Also, aliens that come here seem to have a rather high mortality rate. An early scene in the film has Agent K noting that humans are immune to an alien brain scanner because, "Human thought is so primitive it's looked upon as an infectious disease in some of the better galaxies. That kind of makes you proud, doesn't it?"
    • The Bug even dishes out the Fantastic Slurs, calling Agent K a "monkey-boy" and claiming that compared to us, he's "on the top of the evolutionary ladder!"

Agent K: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.

  • In Star Trek: First Contact, humans of the 21st Century live in a post-apocalyptic society with just barely enough infrastructure to continue research on warp drive, while the other races have already begun exploring the galaxy and view humanity as being "too primitive." However, this is ultimately subverted by the rest of Star Trek canon as we somehow nonetheless become one of the dominant space faring races.
    • Primarily because First Contact finally inspired humans to work together. The more amazing part is how the Phoenix (first ship with warp drive) was built mainly from scrap and based on a decommissioned ICBM.
    • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home includes a lot of this, too; Kirk notes to his crew before exploring 20th Century San Fransisco that "this is an extremely primitive and paranoid culture" and believes that no one pays attention to you in the contemporary age "unless you swear every other word." Bones is shocked to find a woman in a hospital on dialysis, asking if this is the Dark Ages.
  • The alien Eros from Plan 9 from Outer Space can't seem to reason with the humans without chastising them for their stupid minds! "Stupid! Stupid!"
    • "Because all you of Earth are idiots!"
      • Although considering that their way to warn us about potentially dangerous scientific experiments we shouldn't attempt is a (very localized) Zombie Apocalypse, there's a strong case for this being the pot calling the kettle black.
  • Both versions of The Day the Earth Stood Still feature Klaatu chastising humanity for being irresponsible with all that they have; The Remake provides a Humans Are Special moral to ultimately subvert this, however.
  • As mentioned on the quotes page, this is one of the lessons brought up in "The Galaxy Song" Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.
  • In Battlefield Earth, it's the belief of Terl and the Psychlos is that the so-called "man-animals" are too stupid to tie their own bootlaces. This arguably becomes unintentional Hypocritical Humor given that Terl and his fellow Psychlos spend a great deal of time holding the Idiot Ball themselves.
    • It's even more stupid when you consider that Terl is fully aware that humans had a technological society prior to the Alien Invasion.
      • In the novel, it's established early on that Terl is an idiot. Scheming, devious, decently educated, but still an idiot.
  • The Mothman Prophecies:

John: I think we can assume that these entities are more advanced than us. Why don't they just come right out and tell us what's on their minds?
Leek: You're more advanced than a cockroach, have you ever tried explaining yourself to one of them?

  • Planet of the Apes, naturally, is the rare example of this in Speculative Fiction where humanity is less civilized than the apes, as opposed to usually being the slightly more civilized ones.
  • Demolition Man provides the unique depiction of a Future where humanity has eradicated all the things that make humans bastards in the Present Day but has become more paranoid, inexperienced, and clueless as a trade-off.
  • prot from K-PAX certainly has a few choice words for humans.

prot: You humans, most of you, subscribe to this policy of an eye for an eye, a life for a life, which is known throughout the universe for its... stupidity.

And another...

prot: Sometimes it's hard to imagine how you've made it this far.

  • In Army of Darkness Ash shows himself on many occasions to be no different than the Medieval Morons... except he's the one with the gun.
  • Subtly subverted in Steven Spielberg's remake of |The War of the Worlds. The aliens who explore the basement our human characters are hiding in show a lot of fascination in a bicycle tire, hinting that for all the greater technological advancements they have over humans, they never invented a tool as simple and practical as the wheel.
    • Similar scenes also happen in another Spielberg film, ET the Extraterrestrial. ET is often fascinated with mundane objects and panics when they fall over or move unexpectedly. In some scenes, he acts not unlike a wild animal.
    • They also act like little children who constantly have to be told not to lick everything in sight because they may get sick. Especially on an alien planet.
  • Jackass, a series of movies (and a TV series at first) that uses this trope and Rule of Funny, did well enough at the box office to have sequels.
    • America's Dumbest/Funniest Home Videos is similar.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In Interstellar Pig, when Barney finds out that he has been made a character in the game, he finds that his species has a ludicrously high IRSC rating; the Interstellar Relative Sapience Code gives lower numbers to species with higher intelligence.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, Arthur Dent, the only human left alive (except for Trillian) is constantly being referred to as an ape or otherwise put down as a moron (mainly by Zaphod, though he isn't exactly bright himself.)
    • Well, humans ARE only the third most intelligent species on Earth, behind Dolphins
  • A chapter of Carl Sagan's book Pale Blue Dot titled "Is There Intelligent Life On Earth?" covers a fictional alien visitor observing human activity from space that cause it to speculate if there really is such a thing as human intelligence.
  • Terry Bisson's short story "Theyre Made Out of Meat" is about Starfish Aliens who discover humans and find it impossible to comprehend how a species made entirely out of organic matter could possibly be sentient, among other characteristic traits. They rationalize striking us from any of their records and avoiding contact by noting how humans only inhabit one planet and lack the physical and, more importantly, technological capabilities to travel long distances through space, making the chances of future contact very slim.
  • Both Mein Herr and the fairies tend to share this opinion in Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno.
  • The original adaptation of The War of the Worlds makes the subversion noted in Spielberg's film (mentioned above) a lot more apparent, with the main character explicitly pointing out the aliens' lack of wheels, speculating that they may have never invented them on their own.
  • In Tales From the Mos Eisley Cantina this was a definite theme in The Devaronian's Tale.

Labria: What do you call someone who speaks three languages?
Wuher: Trilingual.
Labria: Someone who speaks two languages?
Wuher: Bilingual.
Labria: Someone who speaks one language?
Wuher: Monolingual?
Labria: Human.

  • In the book The VMR Threory, this is the view held by many races that first contact humans, given that the human individuals who are in charge of first contact situations are complete idiots to the point that other species think that humanity is Too Dumb to Live. This has sparked two theories of how it's possible for humanity to have been able to reach space and survive as a species. The first is that there's smart humans and dumb humans, and if they mess with the dumb humans, the smart humans will come and kick their asses. The second is that there is a specific race out there guiding humans that is infinitely more dangerous than all of humanity. The most popular theory of who this master race is happens to be The Vampire Master Race.
  • In Earth (The Book), anything that doesn't make us look crazy or evil makes us look like complete idiots. For instance, "not masturbating on a mass-transit system" is the example used to explain the "harsh, at times maddeningly frustrating trade-offs" that served as the basis for a social contract.
    • Another example comes at the end of the FAQ Section on Chapter 2: Life, revolving around the author refusing to explain to aliens what creationism is, despite "billions of people" believing in it as the origin of life up until the end.

Q. Come on.
A. Look, if you're so damn curious, check into a hotel room, open the bedside table and start reading.
Q. Hold on a moment. [Pause]
Wow.
A. We know.
Q. Six days? Six days?!?
A. [Covers eyes, shakes head]


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has humanity constantly proving that we're idiots. First, there's Sunnydale. There's a reason the trope Weirdness Censor used to be called Sunnydale Syndrome. Secondly, Season 8 shows the rest of humanity isn't much better. Basically all of humanity (although, Stephen Colbert has been shown to be one of the few smart ones) has become vampire fanboys/fangirls after Harmony gets a TV show, with people willingly getting sucked on Riley-style. They also think the Slayer Organization is evil. Fucking idiots.
  • Stargate SG-1:

Thor: The Asgard have tried to stop [the Replicators]. You have demonstrated their weakness may be found through a less... sophisticated approach. We are no longer capable of such thinking.
Dr. Jackson: Wait a minute, you're actually saying that you need someone... dumber than you are?
O'Neill: You may have come to the right place.

  • The Star Trek: Voyager episode "Virtuoso" introduced us to the Qomar, a Rubber Forehead Alien species highly dedicated to mathematics and sciences and far more advanced than the Federation, which the Qomar looks down upon in contempt. When the Doctor provides medical treatment for one of them, the Qomarian sarcastically asks if the process involves bloodletting. Even in an idealized future where humanity has overcome a good number of its flaws to become one of the most dominant space-fairing races, we're still finding aliens who think we're dumb and primitive.
    • In "Dark Frontier", we learn that the Borg catalog humans as having "below-average cranial capacity". Ouch.
  • The darkest episodes of the Outer Limits Revival are more often the ones where the human protagonist(s) is an astounding Unwitting Pawn who is duped into destroying the Earth or selling out his own species for the benefit of a more cunning alien villain or someone who winds up paying dearly for a severe lapse in judgment.
    • See also Cruel Twist Ending as they are occasionally the result of a character's mistake, stemming from the human weaknesses mentioned on this page.
  • In Doctor Who, there comes a moment when the Fourth Doctor wonders why he likes humans so much, seeing as we have "such limited brains."
    • His later incarnations seem to have pretty much the same thought. Indeed, when he's not going on about the marvelousness of humanity (a particular feature of the Tenth Doctor), he's ranting about how stupid/blind/ignorant they are. Sometimes in the same episode.
    • The Ninth Doctor was particularly fond of calling humans "stupid apes" whenever he was angry at us.
    • This trait in humans is why the Tenth Doctor in particular finds the human race to be amazing. In the episode Utopia, The Doctor visits a human refugee base in the year 100,000,000,000,000 AD, a time in which the Universe was ending and most races had gone extinct, and states his wonderment at how the human race is one of the few races to survive to the very end of existence.

Doctor: [While walking through the hordes of human families living in the base] "This is fantasic! You humans with your simple, STUPID ways...with all your soap dramas and gossip mags, micowave dinners and ipods... Your pathetic small brains and your simple homes, your greed and your sins, your bad ways and your poor souls, with your ignorant nature and your frankly appalling manners at times...with all that you STILL manage to amaze me. Look at you lot, here at the end of TIME ITSELF and you're living! The human race, the race of passion! Indomitable! That's the word...indomitabe!

  • In Spaced, Tim defends the Sci-Fi genre arguing that "the thoughts and speculations of our contemporary authors and thinkers have probably never been closer to the truth." Cut to a group of aliens outside the comic book shop laughing at how ridiculous everything on display is.
  • Played for laughs in the early episodes of Farscape. D'Argo and Aeryn continually get frustrated at how slowly John learns new skills and generally view him as completely useless. However, his own ingenuity and pluckiness end up saving the day very frequently.
  • A fantasy variation appears in True Blood.

Nan: I have proof. Scientific. People are far dumber than they realize.


Music[edit | hide]

  • Ever since GWAR was banished from their home planet for stinking up the place, they've been stuck here with what they often call "human filth." In their eyes, humanity is far beneath them, and human life is practically worthless, existing only give them something to enslave and viciously exploit. The song "Slaughterama," for instance, is about a game show that's intentionally designed to "kill everyone that's worth killing."
  • The XTC song "Across This Antheap."

The stars are laughing at us, as we crawl on and on across this antheap.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Warhammer 40,000's Imperium of Man has hardly advanced their technology in the 10,000 years since anyone has last seen The Emperor Of Mankind. Human culture throughout their vast empire is extremely paranoid and superstitious, and the government is such a vast, inept bureaucracy that a simple filing error can lead to entire populations of people being immediately forgotten about and/or destroyed.
    • A similar example exists in FASA's ship combat sim Renegade, at least for the majority human government. The Terran Overlord Government got to be the big dog in the galactic stage by being brutally stupid and corrupt, being based upon the worst excesses of Rome. In their case, the filing error will not only wipe out a planet and/or its location, but also result in about 140 senatorial murders. Whereas the most gross stupidity in Warhammer is a result of religious fanaticism, in Renegade's universe, it's a result of purely shortsighted greed and avarice. And occasionally throwing bureaucracy into bureaucracy. Forget the name of it but the creation of one TOG fighter led them to many victories, as the constant reshuffling and re-titling of it while it was in development resulted in a huge amount of nasty ambushes for spies who reported on freighters and dignitaries having only 'light escorts.' To make matters worse, TOG owns roughly 3 times as many planets as the Tyranids have devoured. It is not unheard of for an entire SYSTEM to escape taxes in the political morass for decades, only to later be invaded by their hosts who want it paid back with interest.
  • Any game that goes in for The Masquerade ends up with some level of this. It's particularly egregious in settings where human ignorance of the supernatural is reliant entirely on humans' refusal to accept the existence of such things.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Much of the humor in Destroy All Humans! and its sequels is derived straight from this.
  • The Batarians from the Mass Effect universe tend to think that every other alien race is beneath them, but they especially think humans are among the stupidest and most expendable of the Citadel species. Then again, those guys are just bastards. It is really stinging them that humans are beating them out economically and militarily despite being the new arrivals on the galactic scene.
    • They mainly assume humans are dumb because it's not possible to make facial expressions they would recognize as thoughtful or sophisticated with fewer than four eyes.
  • R-Type Tactics II: Operation Bitter Chocolate - the glowing little ball Force Device says it all. While facing the menacing threat of the Eldritch Abomination Bydo Empire, the humans begin to fight each other over whether to continue to develop the Force Device or not! Again, this is probably an Excuse Plot created by Irem in order to make players experience two types of R-Fighter battles.
  • The Sims Medieval has "people are dumb" as the epiphany that prompts The Watcher into direct intervention.


Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • In Drowtales humans are considered to be a type of goblin. Though considered somewhat cunning individually (like Vaelia, the Badass Normal human bodyguard of Ariel) collectively humans are viewed as less intelligent than orcs. In one chapter, a group of drow children with the help of said Badass Normal and a squad of Mauve Shirts, took down an entire human castle, which was being used to sacrifice elves as part of a hairbrained bid for immortality.


Web Original[edit | hide]


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Invader Zim. So Much. EVERYONE is an idiot, except for Gaz and maybe Dib. The Irken Empire could not care less about the planet and just use it to get rid of Zim. The episode where Tak is introduced sums it up quite nicely; her home base turns out to be much too big because it's actually a giant pump, so she disguises it as a giant hot dog stand. Dib asks why she didn't think anyone would notice, and Tak explains that the good thing about humans is that if there's anything like food or technology covering it up, they don't notice it; they just see there's food in that building, not that it's 50 feet tall.
    • To be fair, the Irkens as a whole seem more technology smart than having common sense, Tak being an exception. Then again, they base their social structure on height and not smarts.
  • The Simpsons. Everyone in Springfield is a complete idiot or social reject for one reason or another. NO EXCEPTIONS (Except, maybe Maggie). In almost every annual Treehouse of Horror episode, however, the townsfolk are visited by Kang and Kodos who, despite being more advanced and pretty crafty on occasion, are probably the only aliens in the universe stupid enough to even want to travel the galaxy for what there is in Springfield, let alone turn it in to an annual activity.
  • In Futurama the 20th Century is known as "The Stupid Age" to historians. However, that doesn't make humans of the 31st Century any less stupid than us.
    • And again in the episode "The Late Philip J. Fry" where we see Fry, Bender, and The Professor time-travel forward to the year 5 Million AD where they learn that human evolution has deviated along two paths, one evolving from intellect and reason and the other evolving from brute strength and very little else. The mentally superior race explain that they can devise a backwards time-travel device for our characters to use within five years. Cut to five years later where we find that the brainless apes have sacked the settlements of the more intelligent, reasonable species.
      • That last part may have been a reference to how the Morlocks appeared to be nothing more than brutal savages but were actually maintaining the machinery that supported their Eloi cattle.
  • On Aqua Teen Hunger Force the Mooninites believe that they are superior to Earth in every possible way; however, the logic and reasoning they use to enforce their position is very, VERY flawed. Truth be told, they're probably dumber than all life on Earth—human, food product, or otherwise.
  • The 100th episode of South Park, "Cancelled," reveals Earth to be a giant Reality TV show for the rest of The Universe's silly amusement.
    • Not to mention the whole "Space Cash" incident.
    • To be fair, all adults in the show are seen as stupid by their kids.

Notes

  1. Many apologies to any apes out there who now feel insulted.