Humans Through Alien Eyes

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Koopa Police Radio: Alien species escaping from police detention.
Luigi: Aliens? We gotta deal with aliens too?
Mario: Luigi, we're the aliens.

Luigi: We are? Whoa, cool!

Stories that have humans interact with aliens who are actually alien run into the fact that we're as weird to them as they are to us. This can cause the most remarkable misunderstandings....

This seems to be a heavily literary trope, perhaps because the basic concepts are easier to convey in writing. One variant has humans as cosmic abominations to primitive aliens. See also Culture Clash. Many times, they think Humans Are Ugly. This can also be used for a nice, satisfying Author Tract with the aliens puzzling "But why do they (insert the author's worldview's opposite here)?

If the aliens are the good guys, then it is Humans Are the Real Monsters. If the aliens are more socially and technologically advanced, it's Humans Are Morons. If the aliens want to figure out humanity, then Humanity Is Infectious. If the aliens completely freak out and go insane at the sight of humans, then it is Humans Are Cthulhu. Can result in Alien Arts Are Appreciated.

Examples of Humans Through Alien Eyes include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Though not an alien per se, Sebastian from Black Butler has a chapter dedicated entirely to his view of humans. While he doesn't find them unattractive physically (judging by the fact that he sleeps with a couple), he finds most wants and desire to be trivial and their very personalities abhorrent most of the time and finds kitties to be more pleasurable to be around, explaining to the viewers that there is nothing in Hell half as cute as a cat.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • It comes up occasionally in Elf Quest.
    • The plot of Mender's Tale revolves around an elf trying to understand humans better. He thinks the best way to do that is sleeping with a couple of women, while the humans in question have what we would consider extremely conservative views in those matters. Huge problems ensue.
    • Jink features an alien race which at first cannot even communicate directly with humans. One individual, Firstborn Newbreed, is made as a sort of ambassador and sent to learn more about humans. He has not the slightest idea about etiquette and is very honest ("Your kind are all so ugly"). When someone tells him this is considered rude, he's devastated to the point of making serious requests of "Kill me now!", because courtesy is very important in his culture, so he failed his mission.
  • One Uncle Scrooge comic has Scrooge reactivating a crashed alien satellite, causing his money bin to warp to deep space without him. To get it back, he follows in Gyro's spaceship, only to find it has been claimed by the alien equivalent of rednecks, who treat the ducks as hostile alien beasts incapable of intelligent thought, since they can't speak their language.
    • In case you didn't already guess - yes, it is an Affectionate Parody of 1950s sci-fi B-movies (specifically the "alien encounter" kind), and yes, it's written by Don Rosa.
  • In A Distant Soil, an alien who is undercover as a botanist brings plant samples back to the mothership. He walks over to Liana on his ship and asks her what Earthlings call that beautiful flower in his hand. Liana looks surprised at this, because this flower is a Dandelion, which as anyone would know is considered a weed.
    • This is actually a rather big part of the early arc(s) of the series. Rieken finds it odd that there is a pregnant woman walking around town and thinks she should be sitting down. (Also because Ovanians are test tube babies.) When Liana calls him out on having sex with Bast, Rieken finds it odd that humans see adultery as a crime.
  • A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen issue has Allen Quartermain's body taken over by a fragment of Yuggoth, the Wendigo. A few paragraphs are devoted to what the Wendigo is barely capable of comprehending about Allen's body; describing it as, "a soft, five-pointed star of rind and pulp enclosing a strange, spider-like machinery of brittle bone."


Fan Fic[edit | hide]

  • The sixteenth chapter of "Reunions Are a Bitch" is probably one of the better examples out there, and could almost be considered an essay on the subject. If for no other reason than that it takes into account just how much raw data is being pumped out from Earth every second, with many Colonial intelligence operatives commenting that they have no idea what is fiction and what is reality due to all the radio signals coming from Earth getting all jumbled together, not to mention the fact that they're being broadcast in dozens of different languages. They end up thinking at the end of the chapter that Star Trek was a documentary, the Earth is infested with Kaiju, the Third Reich was the good guy in World War II, and that the Earth is secretly ruled by an evil dictatorship that brainwashed everyone into believing they're monotheists.
  • The Mass Effect fic First Contact presents a first contact scenario where an asari exploration vessel discovers Earth in 2034. It is basically fueled by this trope.
  • Peter Watts' "The Things" is a chilling take on The Thing from creature's POV. From the perspective of a millennia-old empathic shape-shifting intergalactic ambassador who can spread its consciousness across separated parts, we Earthlings aren't just primitive but barely sapient tumors that walk.

"I will work behind the scenes. I will save them from the inside, or their unimaginable loneliness will never end. These poor savage things will never embrace salvation. I will have to rape it into them."

  • Article 2 is about a human spaceship crashing into Equestria. The story is told from the perspective of the Equestrians


Film[edit | hide]

  • This is the premise of Mating Habits Of The Earthbound Human, which is essentially an alien wildlife documentary about, well, human mating habits.
  • The basic premise of the CGI movie Planet 51, where a space-suited human accidentally terrorizes an extraterrestrial suburb (as well as an extraterrestrial "doggy").
  • The basic theme of Avatar.
    • Avatar did a good job with this one. Whenever a Na'vi and a human were in the same shot, the camera was always up on the Na'vi's level, making the humans look a bit out of place.
  • The main plot of Happy Feet involved Mumble trying to find the aliens who had "abducted" another bird (radio-tagging) and were taking the penguins' fish. One of the final shots, of the aliens' ship (a helicopter) landing and the heavily suited aliens stepping out, is filmed with all the awe of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In Larry Niven's Known Space series, the Kzinti were amazed by the (at the time) highly pacifistic human mindset reported by their telepaths... and unpleasantly surprised by humans' facility for converting peaceful technologies to warfare when they found it necessary to take up violence again.
  • In Niven and Pournelle's Footfall, the alien invaders reflexively remain submissive once they've surrendered to an opponent. They find it difficult to understand beings that will pick themselves up after a defeat and come back for a rematch. They're also shocked that humans are willing to destroy large swaths of their own territory with nuclear weapons rather than let the aliens hold onto their initial conquests to use as forward bases for further assaults. The result is that it honestly never occurred to them that humans would attack their initial invasion forces with nuclear missiles, so they took no precautions against it. They lost a lot of soldiers as a result.
  • Star Trek novel Final Frontier (no, not the movie The Final Frontier), there's a moment when a Human and a Romulan are trapped in a place where they're about to be eaten by beasts, and the Romulan muses that this "must be hard" for the Human, who seems ready to fight till the end and never accept the inevitable (just the time to show off the state-of-the-art transporter technology, too).
  • There's also C. J. Cherryh's Chanur Saga, in which most of the main characters are aliens and the plot revolves around the results when a crew of hani merchants take in a single human who had escaped from the kif. The story is told strictly from the perspective of said crew, which along with the general absence of helpful Translator Microbes helps reinforce the alienness of the human in their familiar environment.
  • The aliens in Terry Bisson's short story "They're Made Out of Meat" find the idea of purely organic intelligent beings incredible (not to mention disgusting—it's strongly implied that the norm for intelligent life is Mechanical Lifeforms and/or Energy Beings, and it's outright stated the closest they've come to this before are species with metamorphic life cycles that have an organic stage, or creatures with organic bodies but an electronic or energy-based brain), and decide to sweep the whole thing under the rug rather than make contact.
  • Arthur C. Clarke's short story "Crusade" is also about aliens looking at human biology with alien eyes and little tolerance.
  • This is a major theme in Orson Scott Card's Ender series. In Ender's Game, it takes the Hivemind alien race some time to adjust to the idea that each human being lives mentally separate from others, causing a disastrous First Contact, and a war, only because neither side is capable of understanding how the other communicates. In the sequels, humanity encounters others: one species which goes through a radical metamorphosis upon death -- and thus they find it nearly impossible to conceive of death as a tragedy, because for them it leads to full adulthood. Later, a species which communicates using molecular engineering crops up.
  • In Harry Harrison's short story "The Streets of Ashkelon", a human missionary converts an alien culture to Christianity. The aliens then try to initiate the millennium of the missionary's message by crucifying him and waiting for him to rise on the third day. The twist being they were committed pacifists BEFORE he succeeded...
    • Alternate title: "An Alien Agony".
    • Something similar is mentioned in a Ijon Tichy story from The Star Diaries: A missionary tells a race of thoroughly altruistic aliens about the holy martyrdom, and they torture him to death so that he will become a saint.
  • The concept of aliens that have taken much longer than humans to develop high technology, and are surprised by human progress, turns up in several cases:
    • In Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series, aliens who did their initial recon of Earth in the Middle Ages arrive during World War II, expecting humans to still be at medieval tech levels and prepared accordingly.
      • They are also utterly repulsed by human sexuality (not only do Tosevites not have a mating season like "normal people," they also have this weird exclusive-mating agreement known as marriage that typically is for life... and don't even get me STARTED on that whole birth instead of hatching issue or the "nutrient fluid" that females secrete.)
      • Another example of how differently the aliens view humans in Worldwar. Early on in the invasion Molotov is brought up into orbit (becoming the first Russian and second human in space) to meet with the leader of the invasion force. While discussing the leader's aims and reasoning behind the invasion he explains that they are doing so in accordance with their Emperor's will, Molotov then proudly proclaims that his people killed their emperor (The Czar). The alien leader is horrified to hear this since, due to subtle differences between their sociology and that of humans, the diplomat had effectively admitted to murdering his God. (Though that's practically what it would sound like to a medieval Russian, too. 'Regicide' was a very, very high crime, probably higher than 'patricide'.) Also, as a Communist, Molotov would presumably have approved of deicide as well.
      • It is mentioned later on in the series that The Race had someone once tried to kill the Emperor. His name is now spoken with the same kind of scorn a human would reserve for Hitler.
    • A similar event occurred in the Backstory of David Weber's The Apocalypse Troll, with a bunch of aliens who were hell-bent on wiping out every other sentient race in the universe finding themselves with a fight on their hands due to under-estimating humanity's adaptability and rate of development, as well as not realizing that we'd reverse engineer every bit of their technology we could get our hands on in order to improve our chances.
    • The Animorphs character Elfangor describes surprise during The Andalite Chronicles: Who could imagine any species going from their first heavier than air powered flight to working manned spacecraft and satellites within a century?
      • Elfangor's little brother Ax comes to the conclusion that though the Yeerks became interested in Humans because of the peculiar category of race we fit into (numerous enough to host all of them, and supposedly unable to resist them), they're obsessed with us now because they're terrified of our ingenuity and ability to adapt and have to stop us before we get out into space and really screw things up.
      • Ax is a frequent provider of examples for this trope. For instance, he finds it amazing that humans would bother reading webpages when they had already invented books, which are clearly superior.
      • Or use a chatroom when we have the telephone, which actually lets you hear the person you are speaking to.
      • And in fact The Visser Chronicles is almost entirely this trope (the viewpoint character is a Yeerk). The now-disgraced former Visser One relates how they found Earth and why they're so intent on conquering it, and her experience living among humans. They categorize species based on their usefulness, and humans fall into the "perfect host" category (the first species the Yeerks encounter that does so).
      • In The Andalite Chronicles, Elfangor encounters humans for the first time, and a lot of paragraphs are spent on his view of us - being shocked and appalled when Loren takes off her "hoof" (shoe), puzzlement over what humans eat, distaste for our music, and so on. There is a point where he drives a car while drinking Dr. Pepper or "brown bubbly water" through his hoof. With a Rolling Stones cassette playing.
      • A Running Gag in the series is that Andalites have no concept of "Taste" and go crazy over stuff such as Cinnabons. An Andalite with a mouth is a dangerous thing.
    • A variation occurs in Harry Turtledove's short story "The Road Not Taken" where, due to chance, humanity never stumbled on the ability to control gravity and travel faster than light that practically every other alien civilization has. Unfortunately, for the aliens, it's so easy to stumble on to this technology that they do it early in their histories and don't make much progress in other areas of science and technology. The invaders arrive on Earth and try to conquer the world with Napoleonic tactics and flintlock firearms. In the 21st century. It's a brief invasion.
    • An extreme example is in the early Arthur C Clarke short story, The Rescue Party.
  • The beginning of The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi has a scientist trying to escape a military base which is under attack by aliens. He's captured by one, and being a xenobiologist starts describing the "ugly hominid", concluding with his final thought as he's drugged to unconsciousness: "F---ing humans..."
  • This is one of the main themes of David Brin's Uplift series. Not only are the aliens actually alien, they've been civilized for longer than humanity has walked upright. Everything you could ever want to know can be looked up in libraries—which leads to cultural clashes; for instance, few alien languages even have a word for "change".
  • Happens with most, if not all, genuinely alien (as opposed to extraterrestrial human) species in the Strugatsky Brothers' Noon Universe:
    • The reptilian Tagorians are obsessed with calculating the possible consequences of all and any endeavors or innovations (though it doesn't seem to hold them back much), and so are horrified/disgusted to the point of breaking off all (up to then fairly beneficial) contacts with the Earth when they learn that humans didn't destroy the tykebombs left behind by the Wanderers immediately upon discovery like they did with theirs.
    • The same novel, Beetle in the Anthill, has a character muse on how difficult it is to understand what his Golovan (member of a species of sapient dogs with very large heads) friend thinks about being with him on the expedition because the Golovan language has only one word for "must", "want" and "can". They also lack technology and folklore, and apparently lose all interest in humans after a few decades of studying them.
    • The novel Space Mowgli features a human child raised by highly-advanced isolationist aliens. It is unknown what parts of Kid's quirky behavior are just the consequences of growing up without any human contact and having unusual powers and what may be attributed to the "Ark Megaforms" (as the aliens were tentatively named), but they themselves seem both altruistic and isolationist to an unimaginable extent, or so the characters theorize, having failed to make any genuine contact.
    • The Leoniders are only mentioned in passing, but they live in full symbiosis with all their entire ecosystem, which has rendered the question of technological exchange with humans more or less irrelevant.
  • Viscous Circle, part of Piers Anthony's "Cluster" series, involves a grotesque and disturbing description of an alien that one of the flying magnetic disk aliens sees; it's very easy not to realize that this is a description of a human being. The rest of the Cluster series often deals with "outsider" views of humanity, sometimes literally through human eyes as body-sharing technology is a major plot device.
  • In Stephen King's short story "I Am the Doorway" (appears in the collection Night Shift), an ex-astronaut exposed to an alien mutagen finds himself with tiny eyes covering both hands, which he comes to realize are the manifestation of an alien presence that hates humanity. At one point, he looks at the eyes on his hands - and catches a glimpse of himself through the alien eyes, who perceive him as a twisted, hateful monster. It also finds our world in general horrifying and hateful—during the same sequence, it's terrified and confused by the unnaturally small number of dimensions and impossible right angles in our Alien Geometries.
    • Also, in King's "From a Buick 8" where a car that's not a car produces all sorts of -mostly dying- alien lifeforms. the one thing that manages to stay alive is violently butchered by the good guys because they feel like the mere sight of it is raping their brain. Right before it dies, they realize how alien and horrific they look in its eyes. They keep killing it but feel sorry afterwards...
  • Several Halo novels show the war from the Covenant perspective, using this trope often.
  • The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien, begins with a description of Hobbits and how big, clumsy, and scary humans appear to them. Aragorn changes Frodo's opinion about the Big Folk, whom he had previously seen as varying between stupid and nice and stupid and mean.
  • Tolkien's unfinished work The Notion Club Papers. At one point a character experimenting with astral projection techniques (which allow him to travel through time and space and see other planets) comes across a place where what seems like a giant anthill spreads across the countryside, polluting and ruining it. He's shocked to realise he's actually seeing the (sped-up) history of Oxford.
  • In Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn series, an alien child is alarmed when she first sees a human. Thing has not enough legs! Thing does not fall over! Why?
    • Hamilton's later novel Pandora's Star features a sequence in which the vivisection of two humans is described from the point of view of their alien captor.
      • With the alien in question at first not understanding concepts like "pain", blood, and the fact that screwing around with human brains is not healthy for said human.
  • Examples from Isaac Asimov's stories.
    • In Asimov's short story "Hostess", a four-legged alien who has lived with humans for some time still thinks we look like we should fall over (he is a Heavyworlder, and on his planet we would have fallen over).
    • Another of Asimov's short stories, 'The Deep' is written almost entirely from the perspective of aliens who first discover humans. They originally hoped to make contact, but were so disgusted by human nature, particularly the fact that we know who our parents and offspring are, that they decide to avoid humans entirely.
    • Asimov's jokey short story "Playboy and the Slime Gods" (a Take That to a Playboy magazine article on science fiction; an alternate title is "What is This Thing Called Love?") features two alien scouts who find the notion of sexual reproduction unbelievable and potentially dangerous (due to increased genetic adaptability), respectively.
    • Asimov's story "In a Good Cause" features a short passage from the point of the alien Diaboli, who discuss the foul odor of humans and express hope that the humans won't insist on eating in front of them: "My cud will never be sweet again."
  • In John Clute's Appleseed, the protagonist watches a show, made by aliens, where caricatures of humans—well, their genitalia keeps changing back and forth between male and female. Then they wind up with huge vaginas full of teeth, which with the humans literally eat each other. This is an alien satire of human sex. (I was impressed, when I got to the word "satire.")
  • Diane Duane's Young Wizards series incorporates an increasing amount of this as the characters' horizons grow. Book 7, where the main characters participate in a transplanetary exchange program, devotes at least a third of the exposition to the alien visitors' difficulties, among them the significance of a florist and the difficulty of determining which parts of a house are meant to be edible.
  • Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in The Sky both have a bit of this. In the former, the Hive Mind Tines are weirded out by independently sentient "singletons", and near the end of the latter the Spiders mention that humans appear cute and childlike due to their soft skin and movable eyes.
  • The alien species in Alastair Reynolds ' "Revelation Space" trilogy are mostly extinct, but one character, while studying a species whose ability to exchange body parts makes them seem disturbingly fluid to her, realizes that the "Scuttlers" might well have seen humanity's unchanging nature (or that of other aliens lacking their ability) as a kind of living death. The Scuttlers' isolation, which bought them some time before the Inhibitors attacked them, suggests she may have been right.
  • In Eric Flint's Mother of Demons (free online version), the cephalopod-descended gukuy are discomfited and surprised when they first see humans, mostly because of how quickly and strangely they move. They also tend to inaccurately attribute emotions to humans based on skin color at first, since gukuy are chromatomorphic and express emotions by changing color.
  • In The Course of Empire and The Crucible of Empire it alternates between seeing humans through the eyes of their Jao conquerors and vice-versa. Humans tend to be more imaginitive as the Jao are a Slave Race that once served Scary Dogmatic Aliens before their rebellion and rise to glory. Thus the Jao's ancestors had no more imagination then their masters thought fit to breed into them. Word of God says that the inspiration is from the cultural influence of Greece on Rome with humans as Greeks and Jao as Romans.
  • In another one of Harry Turtledove's novels, A World of Difference, the Minervans (Martians) cannot comprehend that any of the American (or Soviet) crew could possibly be female until a Minervan "prince" out for a walk sees two of the Americans without their "outer skins" after investigating an odd noise coming from behind a rock due to the fact that their females are basically baby factories that live to sexual maturity, get pregnant, then bleed out when they give birth. Mercifully for the females, it seems nature provides them with some sort of anesthesia. Note that the males don't particularly like this little fact, they just can't do anything about it with medieval tech.
    • In the same novel, one of the Minervans gets blinded in three of his eyes by a camera flash, leaving him only able to see out of the three on his other side. He's utterly terrified until his vision clears. This same alien later goes into battle with another tribe that snagged a Soviet AK-74 while an American with a pistol helps. Then an American ultralight drops a jumbo-sized molotov cocktail on the alien with the AK, causing the friendly alien to shudder at the concept of a battle with noise-weapons everywhere and fire falling from the sky.
      • To put the true horror of this into perspective, Minervans evolved to live in a climate cold enough that ice is a common building material. Hot water is a weapon of war. Napalm would be like dropping a piece of the sun on someone.
  • Bud Sparhawk's "Sam Boone" stories play this for humor, from both Boone's human point of view and that of the bizarre, advanced aliens he interacts with. Boone finds himself in such bizarre situations as being announced via shipwide comm as a violent predator (because he sometimes eats meat) and then being accused of murder because a cabinmate has vanished by dehydrating himself like a tardigrade into a temporarily inanimate lump, being perceived as polite by a violent species because he (accidentally) slams himself into a member's crotch, distributing pornography (Better Homes and Gardens), arranging for a marriage between one aged and one infant alien (since the species is naturally female when young and male when old), and being gifted with art by a species that communicates via some very offensive (to humans) odors. Technically most of the encounters are from Boone's perspective, but his Fish Out of Water situation invites the reader to surpass his rather limited imagination.
  • Alan Dean Foster's Nor Crystal Tears is told almost entirely from the POV of the insectoid Thranx. As described in the first contact between Thranx and humanity, humans are rather effectively presented as Starfish Aliens—bizarrely, impossibly bipedal, revoltingly fluid in movement, and emitting eerie gargling yowls and shrieks. However, both sides get over their negative first impression with some effort and get along great eventually.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld, the incorporeal, collective, and rigidly ordered Auditors find all life completely alien and offensive because of its chaotic and individualistic nature. Their primary goal is to rid the universe of it.
  • In the Liaden Universe novels by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, the Clutch Turtles are perpetually bemused by the strange behaviors and values of the "hasty" humans, and often misinterpret social cues. It is only when they begin to perceive that Val Con and Miri are in trouble that one of them starts to develop a remarkable level of empathy for the way humans think in order to figure out how best to help them.
  • C. J. Cherryh's Cuckoo's Egg is the story of a human growing up on a planet inhabited by humanoid dogs. His foster father is disturbed by his adopted baby son: this wriggling hairless thing. Later, the way his son looks at without turning his head to face him. His son is equally affected. For example, he is distressed that his "coat" is only coming out in patches. Unfortunately this arc turns into a (figurative) Shaggy Dog Story: there are no major differences, under the skin.
  • The mulefa in His Dark Materials, who have trunks, horns and wheels (yeah), find the humans ugly and strange, but are able to tell that they're also smart and conscious, and welcome them into the tribe. The trope is also explored via the Gallivespians, a race of Lilliputian Warriors who are at war with the humans from their universe, and the armoured bears, who are sentient but don't seem to have emotions in quite the same way, and don't seem to understand what it really means to be human.
  • The short story anthology I, Alien is basically entirely this.
  • In Timothy Zahn's The Conquerors Trilogy, humans and Zhirrzh are barely comprehensible through each others' eyes, made worse by the fact that they are at war; they call each other "conquerors" and claim that the war is necessary to defend against the other's aggression.
  • There's a some of this in Ursula K. Le Guin's science fiction. The Left Hand of Darkness, which is set on the planet Gethen, involves an alien species whose members are completely androgynous 28 days a month. It starts out with a human narrator called Genly Ai, but later begins shifting between Genly and a Gethenian named Estraven, who highlights Genly's strangeness by Gethenian standards. The short story collection The Birthday of the World also features several instances of this.
  • CS Lewis' Space Trilogy uses this, mostly in the first book. There's a lot of confusion between the native Malacandrians (Martians) and the humans, partly because humans suffer from Original Sin, and the Malacandrians don't. Lewis has fun suggesting how messed up we would look to races that weren't violent, cruel, or selfish. On a simpler level, Ransom has a moment of weirdness when he sees his fellow humans after having spent months among Malacandrians. At first glance, he thought they were another alien race.

"...and he, for one privileged moment, had seen the human form with almost Malacandrian eyes."

  • The front cover blurb for Hal Clement's Cycle of Fire invoked this with the words: "Each of them was a stranger to the other. But which was the alien?"
  • Voltaire wrote a story much in this fashion, titled Micromégas, effectively make this trope Older Than Radio.
  • In the Codex Alera, the various species in the lands around the human Realm of Alera have different views on how alien humans are to them. For example, there's the Marat, a species of barbarian elf-like people who bind themselves to animal "totems" (forming an empathic link to another species, gaining aspects of their biology from them) and then form tribes around those totems (i.e. the Wolf Tribe, the Horse Tribe, etc). The Marat believe in fighting alongside ones' totems, whereas humans prefer to wear armor and fight within fortifications, and are therefore referred to as the "Dead Tribe" and consider them weak. The Marat also do not believe in the concept of deliberate falsehoods (read: lying) and declaring that someone is "mistaken" is grounds for a trial of combat. They are, understandably, extremely perturbed by the humans' constant use of falsehoods, along with all the other contradictions of human society.
  • Several short stories in Honor Harrington see humans through the eyes of Treecats. The "two-legs" do weird things, like fly, build separate dwellings from each other and make "mouth noises" instead of speaking "normally" (ie, telepathically). They also do scary things, like take down "death-fangs" (hexapumas) from a distance and remove areas of forest rapidly. In one short story that uses this, the treecats save the princess of Manticore.
    • Treecats pity humans for being unable to directly communicate mentally, but are awed by their cleverness. Basically they think all humans are autistic savants.
  • Older than you might think: The part of Gulliver's Travels where he visits the Houyhnhnms (horse-like beings) has heavy elements of this. At the end, when Gulliver goes back to England again, he himself has started to view humanity with the same disgust as the Houyhnhnms.
  • "The Color of Distance" and the aptly-named "Through Alien Eyes", by Amy Thomson, are a First Contact story in which a human does have some narrative time, but it's largely from the POV of the local Tendu, brachiating froglike people who speak with their color-changing skins. They think the human - Dr. Juna Saari - always looks sorrowing thanks to her (beige) skin tone. The second book deals with two Tendu visiting Earth and finding it bizarre, wonderful and awful in turns. Notably, the books are remarkably evenhanded in portraying both Tendu and humanity as good in some ways, flawed in others, but not inherently beyond hope.
  • The Things, the Hugo-nominated short story by Peter Watts, views the events of the 1982 sci-fi horror movie The Thing from the alien's POV. Every species the Thing has encountered thus far is capable of shapeshifting and merging with other cells just like the Thing, which cannot understand why this strange new 'world' violently resists its attempts to 'commune' and adapt its offshoots (people). On eventually realising the nature of humanity—each offshoot an individual 'thing', isolated and doomed to decay and death—the horrifed alien realises it has a duty to infiltrate humanity and bring about its 'evolution' by force.
  • There's a Doctor Who novel called Night of the Humans.
  • In Robert Silverberg's At Winter's End, what are these weird, hairless, flat-faced beings that seem to crop up so often in ancient records? Why, they're the now-extinct humans, as seen through the eyes of highly evolved baboons.
  • In Steven Brust's Dragaera books, the elf-like Dragaerans consider themselves "human" and real-world humans to be "Easterners." The Phoenix Guards series is told by a Dragaeran narrator who occasionally describes Easterners' curious phyical appearance and gives his biased opinion on their culture, which is loosely based on Medieval Hungary.
  • In Poul Anderson's novella "Day of Burning," a Merseian privately describes humans as an ugly, hairy caricature of his own species.
  • There is a short story told exclusively from the viewpoint of a member of an expansionist race who arrive to the third planet in a yellow dwarf system and find remnants of a strange civilization. Yes, you guessed it, humans are dead in the story, wiped out by an "atomic storm" from space. However, the aliens manage to revive several members of this species, only to realize that they possess strange powers, including teleportation. Fearing that the human, whom they've been unable to kill, might learn their technology and use it to revive the rest of humanity and learn their FTL method and homeworld coordinates, the ship's crew chooses to fly into the Sun. Moments before the ship is destroyed, the protagonist realizes that the ugly teleporting alien has learned all their secrets in the first several minutes and was just messing with them after that.
  • "The Horror Out of Time", an H.P. Lovecraft pastiche by Randall Garrett, tells the story of an incautious adventurer who explores the ruins found on an isle which has just been lifted from the bottom of the sea, and eventually comes upon an horrific sight in what is obviously an ancient temple; it is not until the final sentences of the story that we discover that it is a sculpture of Christ on the crucifix in a Roman Catholic church, and the narrator, now driven mad by what he's seen, is a member of some apparently insectoid or arachnoid successor species to man.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The earliest promos for Nickelodeon's The Journey of Allen Strange included the following speech by Allen: "I'm trying to adjust to this strange world called Earth. The lifeforms are solid, school teaches geometry in only three dimensions, and space travel is limited to a mere few million miles per journey. Currently I'm learning a concept called Friendship..."
  • The title of a Disney Channel movie Stepsister From The Planet Weird applies to both girls, as the alien girl and her Manic Pixie Dream Guy father are actually air bubble-like aliens. Much wangsting is done about her hideous new "meat body" and how terrifying this windy planet is (her mom was blown away) and how stupid the inhabitants are. Because this isn't contrived enough, she also falls for a human guy, to the confusion of her boyfriend (son of the tyrant who drove them away in the first place), who (after attaining a meat body) falls for the human stepsister.
  • This was the premise of 3rd Rock from the Sun for the first three or four years, until the aliens became accustomed to life on Earth. At that point, their extraterrestrial origins became The Artifact.
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "First Contact" focuses on the aliens' view of their initial contact with The Federation. The opening's particularly effective, as the doctors are trying to treat an unconscious Riker (who was in disguise and doing research on their culture), and gradually realize with a mix of awe and dread that none of his organs make any sense to them.
    • The Star Trek: Voyager episode "Distant Origin" also uses this as its premise. Most of the story follows two alien scientists, who investigate and later directly study the Voyager crew, without their knowledge. Their initial reconstructions, based on their own cultural and biological biases, are very inaccurate.
    • There's also the TNG episode "Home Soil," wherein one of the life-forms native to Velara III describes humans as "ugly bags of mostly water."
  • The Doctor from Doctor Who usually likes humans, but isn't beyond rebuking them, either.
    • "Planet of the Dead": "You look human." "You look Time Lord."
      • Phrased very similarly by the Eleventh Doctor in an exchange with Amy Pond in "The Beast Below". It could become one of his standard responses.

Amy: You look human.
The Doctor: No, you look Time Lord. We came first.

    • We get a double dose of this when the companion is Romana, a fellow Time Lord with less knowledge of, and a more detached view of, humans. Cue things like loud, public discussions of how the Mona Lisa compares to other works of art in different galaxies.
    • Appears in the first ever Who story An Unearthly Child. "Before your ancestors invented the wheel my people had made time-and-space travel into child's play!"
  • The Twilight Zone used this for a twist ending or three.
  • The early Farscape episode "I, ET" where the heroes crash onto a planet where the culture resembles 1950s America. Besides Crichton this is actually "aliens through other alien eyes," but he's the main viewpoint character so it still works this way. Plus, rather unusually for the show, the locals are Rubber Forehead Aliens and one of them is a bit disappointed when Crichton looks so much like them. Then she gets a look at Pilot.
    • This happens a lot early on in Farscape with the aliens constantly commenting on how deficient and generally strange humans are (John's constant pop culture references certainly don't help) but as time goes on the aliens start to befriend John and find that he is much more useful than he seems at first, what with his "improvisation" that always saves the day. Most aliens outside the main cast don't get a chance to think so as to them Crichton just appears to be a Sebacean anyway.
    • This trope also occurs in the season 4 episode "A Constellation of Doubt" which shows a television program made on Earth using interviews with the aliens. While a lot of the show is just reinforcing human prejudices (perhaps a bit anviliciously), the aliens do make some good points about how wasteful humans are, how foolish intraspecies conflict is with the real dangerous in the universe, how humans never give up (even when maybe they should), and the Unfortunate Implications of popularizing skimpy clothing, among other things.
  • Pretty much the purpose of Mork and Mindy. And in turn, Mindy visits Ork for a few episodes for her honeymoon.
  • In the first episode of Cosmos after a montage of images of planet Earth and the different human cultures, Carl Sagan muses:

For an extra-terrestrial observer, the differences between human cultures would seem trivial.

  • Crusade: had crop flags and UFOs that looked like human aircraft, all part of the local government's plan to use aleins (humans) as a Red Herring & scape goat to distract them from politics. Sound familiar?
    • The planetary leaders didn't count on humans actually showing up at their doorstep in the near future. When they did, the alien representative told them they had no right to interfere in planetary business. Unfortunately, they're Wrong Genre Savvy, as EarthForce has no Prime Directive. Gideon has all the information recorded on dozens of probes which he then sends to the planet, informing the populace of their leaders' actions.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Mass Effect actually has references to how aliens respond to the oddness of humans, as well as each other. For example, Liara T'Soni, one of the recruitable party members, finds humans to be quite odd and strange at first, with their short lifespans clashing with her own (she's the oldest person on the ship, aside from Wrex, despite being twenty something by asari standards). In the Mass Effect novel Revelation, a batarian businessman spends a good paragraph describing all the aspects of humans that he hates and how strange they look compared with his own species.
    • The main reason for the latter is that to batarians everyone with less than four eyes looks stupid and unsophisticated - presumably because they are unable to form expressions that the batarians would recognize as cultured.
    • The turians in general take duty very seriously, and conscription on their homeworld, marking the beginning of adulthood as well as citizenship, is universal. When the Alliance liberates Shanxi from turian occupation, the turians are surprised that a species that hasn't even expanded enough to have made any previous first-contact is able to turn them back at all. When the First Contact War is settled diplomatically and things cool off a little, the turians are more surprised to learn that only 3% of humans serve in the military. There's also the fact that since there's no such thing as a turian civilian, they regard bombarding houses from orbit to flush out defenders as a legitimate tactic and can't understand why humans regard the Shanxi invasion as brutal.
    • Shepard can also ask Grunt if any of the tank imprints he's received deal with humans. The krogan's response is that humans are physically frail compared to krogans, and that he only needs to penetrate a blade a krogan finger's depth to sever a human's spine. He next states that everybody is physically frail compared to the krogan, and humans are on the tougher end of the scale.
    • The geth are the best example of this in the series, although it applies to all sapient species. The geth are a race of artificial intelligence programs who are in constant contact with each other. They know each other's thoughts, and make decisions based on consensus, thoroughly discussing an issue with each other at the speed of light. Bodies are also considered unimportant, because they can just upload themselves to any type of form they might need. They also don't truly die, simply being uploaded to a different body if one is destroyed. To them, being alone is not just impossible but completely alien and unknowable. Every geth that joins a collective makes that collective more intelligent as a whole, able to process data faster and see things from different viewpoints; while a lone geth is more or less inanimate, a thing of programmed responses and reactions, barely even an animal. They don't understand how other species function without achieving consensus (rather than "forcing" consensus, as democracies do), and tend to describe things in their own terms (an organic's body is referred to as "hardware"; having reactions shaped by it is considered rather weird by the "software" geth). They really want to understand organics, but it's difficult because of how different they are, combined with having trouble understanding organic emotions. Interestingly, the geth seem to be developing emotions of their own, even if they don't realize it.
    • Played for laughs in a (sadly cut) line from a turian security guard. "Excuse me for asking, but... you're a female, right? You've got those funny bumps, like an asari."
  • Star Control has a species known as the VUX, which humans claim is an acronym for "Very Ugly Xenoform" - and for good reason, since these aliens are hideously ugly... by human standards. In the VUX's eyes, however, it is the humans who are hideous ("You humans are SO ugly, that I get my kids to behave by holding a picture of you behind my back and I tell the kids that if they aren't good, I'll show it to them!")
  • One riddle in Professor Layton and the Curious Village involves identifying a thing based on how an alien might describe its use.
  • In the strategy game Sword of the Stars, the lizard-like Tarkas find humans disturbing in an uncanny valley-like fashion. We come across as androgynous and childlike, even cute, to the point that they find fighting us in boarding action difficult. Sort of like we would find it hard to shoot a race resembling 10-year olds in the face.
    • Hivers find human individuality and ability to multipurpose puzzling, and think human perfumes are incredibly overpowering. They also zero in on females during boarding actions regardless of actual target value, instinctively attack the oestrogen source (aiming for a queen).
    • The psychic space dolphin Liir also find our tendency to eat other creatures disturbing, and find religion a highly puzzling concept. Hivers and Liir are the only races that have an easy time at all telling the difference between men and women due to a lack of obvious dimorphism.
  • Strange Journey has the demons deeply confused and not exactly pleased with humanity. Mitra is conducting experiments on them (with conclusions like "It seems humans require something called 'blood' to survive"), and demon negotiations frequently require you to explain or justify humanity's actions.
  • In Persona 3, Velvet Room residents Theo and Elizabeth, who look human, have some very odd ideas about the human world. One may request oil; you get him some machine oil, he drinks it, and when you tell him it's for machines, he assumes this means you deep-fat fry machines in it. "I'll use it on Mech Fries next time!" Elizabeth assumes that you have to run up the escalator the wrong way as a "test of strength," Theo thinks the circular running track at school is a metaphor, it goes on and on.
  • Not quite aliens, but in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, it's easy to tell which of the beast folk NPCs in Belinsk originated as beasts instead of humans. They're the ones who comment on how weird it is to be walking on their hind feet, wearing clothes, and cooking meat before they eat it.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • The Space theme of Irregular Webcomic features a plant-based alien. At one point, he(?) declines to enter a florist because, well, how would you like it if someone cut off your reproductive organs and put them on display for people to smell?
    • He has also stated that from his point of view, wine is equivalent to crushed infants fermented in sacks made of human skin
  • Goblins: Life Through Their Eyes is a Dungeons and Dragons based web comic showing how the traditional "monsters" of the game view the player characters. It demonstrates how anyone in can be evil or good, regardless of race, as shown by the contrast between the goblin protagonists and the "good" adventurer PCs who slaughter the goblins' village because they see them as easy loot and XP.
  • In Freefall, you get not one, not two, but three distinct outsider viewpoints of human culture. Not to mention those times when its outsider POV vs. human culture and Sam, or outsider POV vs. human culture and Florence. There's a whole undercurrent of slavery moving toward emancipation because the humans haven't quite figured out that robots are becoming sentient enough to be self-willed, and then again, the humans aren't quite the same as the humans from earth either... all in all, just go read it. Seriously.
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • Done with demons in the place of aliens in this strip.

"Why are mortals freaked out by blood? They're the ones full of it!"

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • It's implied that a very extreme version of this is the reason for SCP-682's Omnicidal Maniac tendencies—wherever it's from, life works very differently, and life as we know it is disgusting to it to the point that its gut reaction to living things is to try to make them stop. Presumably, if this is the case, the exact same property that makes SCP-053 a Creepy Child to humans makes it the only living thing that seems "normal" to SCP-682.

Did you like the servants they were the BEST of the cleansed only the BEST for you Great Ones made like you form you assume here on a WORLD to clean to honor you do appreciate please please I will complete the cleansing soon and you can take me away in your ships of FIRE and I can love you and you will love me

Western Animation[edit | hide]

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Watch how your dog reacts to you.