"Okay, that's it. It's official: All aliens are bastards!"
When man looks up at the stars, the sense of wonder, and emptiness, can be as overwhelming as the questions they inspire. Is there life out there? Is it intelligent? Are they friendly? In fiction, the short answers are: "Yes", "Yes" and "Hell no!
" Why? Because Aliens Are Bastards.
In Speculative Fiction
stories dealing with the extraterrestrial and otherworldly, the beings from beyond the veil are rarely friendly, and if they are it's usually a pretense so they can eat us
or make us mommies
less than consensually. The reason is that it makes good drama, it exploits humanity's latent fear of the unknown with implacable and indecipherable menaces
. Traditionally this trope uses aliens not as characters but as forces of nature. They will be the Monster of the Week
for the heroes to fight, a terrifying and nigh-unstoppable foe with little to no motivation other than violence for its own sake.
This type of alien bastard is usually very visually distinct from "good" aliens
(who tend to be Green Skinned Space Babes
). They will be ugly
, obviously inhuman
and rarely humanoid
. Of course, they won't be friendly
, do not understand love
, want to steal our women
, natural resources
and possibly leave nothing behind of the planet itself
. Despite having the technology needed for space travel, they will make no attempt to communicate or explain their actions and seem to have targeted us for no good or readily apparent reason
Where this trope gets interesting is when the aliens' motivations for bastardry are explored and placed parallel
to our own penchant for bastardry
. Humans bulldoze over entire habitats for housing with nary a thought, but imagine an Eldritch Abomination
the planet so it
can live here? Alternately, America Wins the War
is a pretty common trope, but ever wonder how those losing
said wars feel when being steamrollered by the invincible American war machine? Enter the typical Alien Invasion
work where our guns are useless.
Then there are stories where aliens use us
(sometimes even after
they create us
) so that they can survive, prosper, or just get high
and toss us aside afterwards... just like what humans would do.
In different decades, aliens have been used as allegories for different groups or ideologies
. In the 50's during the Red Scare
, aliens who were Hive Minds
or body snatchers
were popular, while in the modern age dominated by fear of terrorism, they will tend to be groups of individuals motivated by some religion or quest for vengeance, frequently using propaganda against their own people. Alternately, the aliens might be better
than us in a lot of ways... because they fully embraced eradicating The Evils of Free Will
, and want to make our lives easier by taking the difficulty of choice out of our hands. With recent ecological concerns, a new trend is for bastard aliens to come teach us a Green Aesop
about not killing trees, usually by way of genocide
This is aliens being Always Chaotic Evil
. If they are Precursors
, they were either neglectful
or are downright abusive
On a lesser scale, there are, of course, The Greys
with the reputed stereotype of mutilating cattle
and abducting humans
for the sole sake of probing
them in the name of Science
for their own, vague, nefarious purposes.
NOTE: This trope does not apply to animalistic aliens without intellect. Violent as they are, they aren't knowingly being bastards.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Dragon Ball has many races in its universe and only a small percentage are actually good. Most are assholes who either Heel Face Turn or die a Karmic Death, Frieza is the most blatant of these characters.
- Houshin Engi has Jyoka. She has been playing God with this little planet of ours for millions of years,modifying genomes of species,altering face of the world,causing rise and fall of major dynasties and in short controlling the history of the entire planet in order to evolve it into a perfect replica of her lost home planet. When something goes wrong in her plan,she life wipes the entire planet,destroying the planet's surface and starts afresh.She has repeated this rinse and repeat tactics quite a few times,by the time the story begins.Oh,and she does all this in spirit form,cut off from her physical body and much of her power!
- In Haruhi Suzumiya, it is eventually revealed that both the Data Integration Thought Entity and the Sky Canopy Dominion, the two opposing races of Sufficiently Advanced Alien, are too concerned with fighting each other than caring about the effect their actions will have on humans, or even their own interfaces. Indeed, The DITE is willing to send Yuki as an ambassador to the Dominion, in order to break her, as punishment for going rogue due to an error which wasn't her fault in the first place. The only reason they can't enforce a more direct punishment is because Kyon is threatening them with a trump card that could potentially fuck over the universe. The Sky Canopy are the villains, so they're even worse than that. When Kyon tells another DITE Interface that "Earth is not a playground for aliens", the response is, roughly, "What an entertaining joke." So at this point, it seems that the only unambiguously good alien is Yuki.
- The aliens in Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin.
- UFO Robo Grendizer plays with this trope: At the start Kouji believes he can try to communicate with the Vegans -the alien invaders- and befriend them, but Daisuke tries to warn him they are NOT his friends and are NOT peaceful or reasonable. However, Daisuke himself was an alien and a decent person. And although the Big Bad, Great King Vega and several of his subordinates are definitely evil, throughout the series more aliens -including Vegans- are introduced are decent people or at the worst are Well-Intentioned Extremists who believe Utopia Justifies the Means.
- One of the most twisted examples of this trope is the Anti-Spiral of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Ostensibly, he's a Well-Intentioned Extremist who's trying to prevent the death of the universe. That's a noble goal, right? WRONG! The way he goes about preserving the universe involves Mind Rape to send entire races past the Despair Event Horizon, attempted omnicide and torturing The Woobie. And he enjoys seeing other species cross the Despair Event Horizon.
- In the 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, at least when not partaking in the traditional Anal Probing and alien-human hybrid experiments. When The Greys 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), it turns out to be a Batman Gambit for The Greys' own benefit of helping them conquer Earth themselves.
- Pick an alien race from Marvel Comics. Any of them will do:
- The Skrulls like to infiltrate other planets with their shape-shifting power in order to destroy them from the inside. This is usually because they're (ironically enough) just that damn paranoid.
- The Kree like to play god with genetics, are big fans of enslavement, and are Nazis IN SPACE!!
- The Brood are expies of the Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise except they are a bit more intelligent, thus giving them no excuse to act like animals.
- The Shi'ar Empire are probably the "nicest" aliens. They're a militaristic empire that bounce back and forth between Well Intentioned Extremists, Anti-Heroes, and Social Darwinists depending on who is in charge of the empire and what mood they are in. They tend to fight against Earth's heroes as often as they team up with them.
- The aliens in Guardians of the Galaxy killed Earth's heroes and took over the galaxy for a time as the backstory for the series. Which alien race is responsible depends on the retcon.
- The symbiotes from Spider Man are parasitic organisms that cling to people who are violently insane and then drive them even more insane before killing them. Spidey's villain, Venom, has a rare symbiote in that it actually cares for "her" hosts. Yes, that's right. Venom is the nicest product of that race.
- The Badoon not only hate you, but they hate women as well.
- The Dire Wraiths are related to Skrulls but use magic instead of technology.
- The Space Phantom was the shapeshifting advance scout of a race of aliens from the planet Phantus who wanted to conquer Earth...that is until Immortus recruited him and revealed his true origin.
- The Phalanx combine the Borg with a Zombie Apocalypse. Fun!
- There are some races such as the The Inhumans and Eternals who are more or less aliens but they are also off-shoots of humanity. They are usually good guys but they've had their moments (read War of Kings to see what the Inhumans have been doing lately). In this way, they combine Aliens Are Bastards with Humans Are The Real Monsters in one, neat package.
- The crossover event "Maximum Security" debuted with a conference of many different alien races voting on what to do about Earth, since Earthlings were always meddling in their affairs. The only race that spoke up for us were the Kymellians from Power Pack, who seem to be Always Lawful Good and knew us mostly from their dealings with the friendly Power children.
- And speaking of Power Pack, the Snarks count too. Though apparently not all Kymellians weren't as good as Aelfyre.
- And of course, aliens from Another Dimension instead of another planet are like that too - Just look at the Negative Zone's Blastaar and Annihilus, or worse, Dormammu and Shuma-Gorath.
- This is less true over at DC Comics, probably because so many DC alien races first appeared as members of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
- Prior to the New 52 DC reboot, the most recent depiction of the Kryptonians cast them in an unflattering light. Lack of Empathy for anyone that isn't a Kryptonian is their Hat.
- The Daxamites' Hat is vicious xenophobia. Ironically, the Daxamites are taught their entire lives that Aliens Are Bastards, which makes them bastards when they kill any alien they meet just for existing. Notably, Daxamites are the product of a genetically-diverged Kryptonian Lost Colony, so at least the genus is consistently xenophobic.
- The people of Apokolips. All of them. Even the downtrodden Lowlies prove themselves to be total bastards if they are given power — Darkseid's Torture Technician Granny Goodness used to be one of the Lowlies. One of Darkseid's hobbies is to free some slaves and make them his new overseers just so he can watch them become as cruel as their former tormentors. Considering who's in charge of the place, being the biggest bastard you can be is actually a very sound survival strategy.
- The Thanagarians from Hawkman, Tamaranians from Teen Titans, and the citizens of Rann from Adam Strange have all had turns being antagonists at some point but they tend to be more gray than many of the aliens here.
- The DC crossover Invasion involved many races forming an alliance to invade Earth, this included the aforementioned Thanagarians and Chameleon Boy's race. A race called the Dominators were the main villains, however.
- Coluan scientist and Superman villain Brainiac has personified this trope since 1958.
- The Mars Attacks! series, based on the trading card series from The Sixties (see page image), featured Martians running amok on Earth. This race seemed to be Always Chaotic Evil in every version.
- The trading card series did have a reason for the attack (Mars will soon blow up, so the Martians need a new home quickly), though jumping directly to a brutal, excessively cruel invasion was kinda bastardly.
- The comic Brain Camp, whose alien birds were collaborating with the leaders of a kids' camp to use the kids as incubators for their young. True the race was dying on its own, but it's still squicky to see aliens bursting out of teenagers.
- The Xorda in Sonic the Hedgehog is this. Granted, they're still sore over having their diplomat captured, killed and dissected by humans, but deciding that Mobians were just the same as the humans they all but wiped out was a little harsh. Most other worlds, such as the Bern, are much more friendlier, but they don't get involved with Mobius because they don't want the Xorda breathing down their necks. Doesn't stop the Black Arms from trying to claim Mobius as their own and getting stuck in a massive war.
Films — Live Action
- Avatar (James Cameron's epic Sci-Fi/Fantasy) is a brilliant combination of averting the trope AND playing it straight.
- The averted part comes from the fact that the sentient race which is considered "alien" at first (the Na'Vi) are clearly a good-natured people who are willing to consider any life sacred, and they accepted the humans' presence until the Corrupt Corporate Executives decided to destroy their homeland and hire trigger-happy mercenaries to murder the natives for greedy purposes.
- The part played straight comes from the fact that the humans (particularly the greedy corporation) are the ones invading a foreign planet, destroying the land, and murdering innocent natives, all for a mineral that's worth a lot of money. The protagonist even refers to the invaders as "aliens" by the end of the movie, making us realize that we didn't notice the humans' "alien-ness" all along. So the movie can be viewed as an Alien-Invasion film from the point of view of the aliens.
- The Day The Earth Stood Still 2008 has aliens nearly wipe us out because we were potentially about to destroy the environment. In their defense, they were going to negotiate first, but then their envoy was shot and captured, and his request to speak to the UN was denied. None of this went far toward proving that humans were no longer careless, violent, or wasteful. In the original version the aliens only come to Earth after Earth developed nuclear ICBMs... they don't care at all what humans do on their own planet, but the instant they can launch weapons towards other planets they intervene.
- Mars Attacks! parodies the whole thing with The Unintelligible belligerent Martians.
- Independence Day. And how! They are a race of Planet Looters who take what they need and wipe out what's left of the planets they ravage.
- The War of the Worlds has the Martians attack Earth. The remake shows them using people as compost; for Alien Kudzu, in fact.
- Fresh addition: Skyline's aliens are complete assholes. Sure they invade the planet, hypnotize people with their blue lights and brutally steal the brains of anyone they capture to use as Wetware CPUs, but what do they do when they come across pregnant women? They try to suck the babies out of them, that's what.
- The Predators, who use Earth as a game reserve for Hunting the Most Dangerous Game. The Expanded Universe of the Alien vs. Predator comics show they regularly seed other planets with aliens so they'll have a good hunting spot later on.
- In Battle Los Angeles, within minutes of the first alien craft crashing down in the ocean, they're opening fire on civilians and shooting indiscriminately. Corpses of massacred human civilians and soldiers are visible nearly everywhere throughout the movie, and news reports state that the aliens are rounding up humans with death squads and executing them in the streets. One scientist suggests that the aliens are using textbook "colonization" tactics: invade, wipe out the indigenous population, and take their resources.
- Cowboys and Aliens featured a race of alien miners who make it a point to capture and dissect humans out of curiosity.
- In Prometheus, while an Engineer did seed life on Earth, at some point in history the other Engineers decided humanity needed to die. Extinction was averted when the Engineer ship sent to destroy humanity fell prey to the Engineers' own bioweapon. The lone surviving Engineer tries to complete the mission moments after being woken up by the Prometheus' crew. Word Of God confirms that the Engineers by and large are monsters. The fact that they created a horrific mutagenic bioweapon — the Xenomorphs being a mere by-product of it — capable of wiping out all life on a planet also doesn't paint them in a good light.
- The Martians from The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, although it's a somewhat complex example. The author notes that Mars is a dying world, and that the Martians are only carrying warfare sunward so that their species can survive (in the epilogue, it is implied that after the invasion failed they settled for colonizing Venus instead). He also compares them with Imperialists of the 19th century, making the Martians something of a This Loser Is You to his primarily British readers.
- The Pierson's Puppeteers from Larry Niven's Known Space series are not just alien bastards, they are alien manipulative bastards. How so? They maneuvered all of humanity into the sights of the predatory, warlike, technologically superior Kzinti, just to give them some breathing room, then after the war was over used humans as if we were a race of Polish landmine detectors. Plus the thousands of humans they kidnapped and enslaved under the guise of "spacecraft failures".
- On the side of helping us to screw over other races, the Puppeteers set up a starseed lure because they knew that (for their own impenetrable reasons) the Outsiders follow the starseeds. When the Outsiders encountered humanity, they sold us the hyperspace drive. Humans quickly become a much bigger problem for the Kzinti.
- When a Puppeteer told a Human and a Kzinti the truth about their manipulation in Ringworld, both were furious. The human was furious that his race had been forced to fight, the Kzinti was furious that his race had been forced to lose.
- As far back as the 1940s, C. S. Lewis noted the tendency in sci-fi literature for aliens more advanced than humans to be amoral and regard humanity as inferiors. The Space Trilogy was a deliberate reaction against this trend—his aliens are more moral than humanity.
- Lisanne Norman's Sholan Alliance series gives us two examples out of numerous interstellar species who are willing to be nice.
- The Chemerians are conniving, double dealing tree-climbing...
- The Valtegans from planet M'Zull have already wiped ALL life off the face of two Sholan colony planets for no other reason than that of being Sholans. They then go off and do the same to another planet of Valtegans simply because they are rivals.
- A rather nasty science fiction novel by Charles R Pellegrino, Flying to Valhalla is built around the theory that a species looks out for itself only, destroying all competitors. Also a sort-of-sequel, The Killing Star.
- The Prador of the The Polity are a Giant Enemy Crab race whose culture revolves around a Social Darwinist "kill-or-be-killed" mindset. Members of the species are cruel to those weaker than themselves and maim or even eat their own children. They are just as sadistic when they go to war with humanity.
- Subverted in Animorphs, which often explores the implications of any sentient species supposedly being Always Chaotic Evil. The main antagonists, the Yeerks, are trying to enslave humans as hosts, but only because their natural forms are weak, blind slugs desperate for the lives other races can enjoy. It's explored further with the Howlers, servants of the Sufficiently Advanced Eldritch Abomination Crayak; while dedicated to wiping out every other species in the universe, it's revealed that Crayak keeps them unaware that other species have any sort of sentience or sapience, allowing them to slaughter other races as easily as people playing a video game.
- The Andalite case is far more interesting. In the beginning of the series, kids look up to their erstwhile saviors, the great and glorious Andalites, and are counting on them to swoop in and save the day. It becomes increasingly obvious, however, that Andalite military command couldn't care less about humans. In the end, their strategy for for winning the war was to bombard Earth from orbit to take out as many Yeerks as possible.
- Discussed in passing in Blindsight: a mention is made of the benevolent aliens of Carl Sagan, then compared with the idea that someone who ventures into space must have strong instincts of conquest and expansion.
- Zigzagged in Pamela Service's Under Alien Stars: Yes, Tsorians are brutal, paternalistic bastards. Humans don't have much of a moral high ground. And compared to the Hykzoi, both races look like saints.
- The Toralii in Lacuna destroy three major cities on Earth just because humans were developing jump drive.
- The Vogons of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy are every Obstructive Bureaucrat stereotype turned Up to Eleven and armed with planet destroying weaponry (and horrible poetry). Even evolution considers them to be a mistake.
- Ender's Game is a long deconstruction of this trope. The Formics, during the First and Second Invasions, would board captured ships and colonies and brutally murder the captives - while the recording equipment was still transmitting. Naturally, the humans have a deep hatred and fear of them because of this. It turns out the aliens did this because they operate as a Hive Mind. Killing all the individuals aboard a ship was simply their way of disabling the ship's communications equipment, and they never imagined until it was too late that each individual was an independent, thinking, feeling being. By the time the humans launch their counterattack, the Formics have figured this out and are deeply remorseful for their actions.
- Robert Reed's short story, Five Thrillers has an unknown race of aliens shooting the sun with a relativistic ship, causing it to eject plasma straight at the Earth. Because they can.
- The Masters in The Tripods, who enslaved humanity with mind control caps and then planned to annihilate life on Earth in the process of making the planet's atmosphere breathable for themselves.
- The Lindauzi of The Wild Boy. They were just trying to avoid their race regressing to wild animals. But they still released a virus on Earth, then released a second wave, killing millions before it was over. And to further endear us, they came with a vaccine, appearing to be saviors. They killed off our pets, cats and dogs, then started breeding humans like dogs to re-engineer the bond they once shared with the Iani, the creatures who originally created them.
- Most aliens in the Star Wars Expanded Universe are pretty variable. Planet of Hats is in effect and there are many nasty species, but search for long enough and there are always some who feel that My Species Doth Protest Too Much, and individuals can be anywhere from bastards to very much not. However, there are a handful of antagonistic species who are never shown to have any sympathetic representatives at all.
- The Yevetha are pretty hideously genocidal towards... well, everything. They're also Manipulative Bastards, playing nice for a long time so that when they did start war, the New Republic was caught unawares.
- The Enzeen in Galaxy of Fear: Eaten Alive similarly play nice, encourage tourism, and make visitors to their world feel welcome, when in fact the ground eats offworlders, and the Enzeen then feed from it.
- Subverted nicely with the Yuuzhan Vong. Initially introduced as quite possibly the most implacably evil faction in the setting- the one guy (a pacifist) who tries to negotiate with them gets ritually murdered and has his gem-encrusted skeleton shipped back to his friends for his troubles- but about a third of the way through the series a more openly sympathetic light starts getting shone on certain members of the species, and once the Vong's backstory is revealed, it's stated outright that they're no better or worse than humans would have been under the same circumstances. Oh, and the guy who murdered the pacifist diplomat? He was a member of a group that were considered particularly extreme and depraved even by Vong standards.
Live Action TV
- Every alien species in Warhammer 40000:
- Averted in Traveller . The closest to this is the K'kree which are herbivores on a holy war against carnivores (and omnivores, since those also eat meat), but even the K'kree have good qualities and are not an "evil race" as such. There are no "evil races" in Traveller.
- In (almost) every version of the Transformers, The Decepticons. Usually, they're on Earth for a reason, but even if they get what they want, they mostly still decide to stay and cause untold devastation anyway. They are a faction of merciless warriors, led by a fanatical tyrant (Megatron) who willingly destroyed most of their home planet, as well as a large percentage of their own species, so it probably shouldn't be surprising that they would show even more disdain to another species that are like insects by comparison.
- Some versions of the franchise (*ahem*Animated*ahem*) have less than flattering portrayals of the Autobots as well.
- The Cyantian Chronicles gives us the Moulin Phedra, AKA the Squid. They wanted to have some new sport fighters for their fighting pits. Their creations drove them off.
- More recently we have been introduced to the Rastin. One of them kidnapped one of the main characters. The Rastin ship's commander implied that some of his passengers/crew did this sort of thing all the time.
- The trolls in Homestuck start out as literal Internet Trolls, and are revealed to be children of a race consisting of Scary Dogmatic Aliens who created our universe. However, in some ways subverted, in that some of the trolls (such as Feferi and Tavros) are actually fairly nice once we learn more about them, and some of the ones who are jerks get a fair amount of Character Development over the course of the story. It's implied that the trolls being forced to work together, along with their interactions with the human kids, is "humanizing" them to an extent.
- It turns out the trolls were only Scary Dogmatic Aliens thanks to the influence of Lord English's agents — Doc Scratch, the Handmaiden, and the Condesce. In a session without this outside interference, the trolls were a peaceful race.
- The Lydian Option involves a prison filled with aliens hostile to humanity. Outside the prison, aliens resent humanity for winning the Spiral War - inside, humans lack protection and must travel together as a group.
- In Spacetrawler the G.O.B. will declare a species "non-sapient" for reasons up and including bad fashion sense and their technology is built by a race of highly intelligent but weak-willed (and therefore non-sapient) aliens known as "Eebs". And the Animal Wrongs Group devoted to Eeb rights shanghaied six humans from pre-contact Earth into helping them. And then it turns out that Eebs are only weak-willed because of brain clamps placed on them at birth, and they're naturally psychopaths.
- In Cradleland, the alien ba'thulaz had used humans as cattle and slaves, and still viewed them as such even a thousand years after they were overthrown in a slave uprising and forced to flee. Humans were not much better, as the slaves were purchased from human slave traders on Earth during the Middle Ages.
- In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, the Daribi invade the Earth three times because once, two hundred thousand years ago, they used the planet as a forward base and now want "their" planet back. They get beaten back worse after each invasion, killing nearly three million people and levelling three cities in the process.
- Also the Xorn, a Proud Warrior Race who invaded Earth just because it was there to invade. They ended up killing nearly a billion people worldwide and came close to wrecking Earth's ecology by introducing alien life. And when they left, they stranded hundreds of thousands of imported alien slaves, who had to find new lives on a new planet, surrounded by humans who were hostile to most of them.
- In Freeman's Mind, Gordon frustratedly provides this page's quote after getting ambushed and zapped by a Vortigaunt for the nth time.
- Which is pretty ironic, since Vortigaunts are some of the only aliens that aren't bastards after they are freed.
- Marvin the Martian was a bit of an Affably Evil bastard in his shorts, though like most of Bugs Bunny's foils, he's not too bright.
- In Invader Zim, the Irken Empire. Not only are they after total intergalactic domination, but, they destroy all the life on a planet, just to build a parking lot on it!
- American Dad: Roger, so very much. However, it is later revealed that this is justified, as his species needs to "let their bitchiness out", or else it will turn to bile and poison them to death.
- Averted and subverted in the Ben 10 series, where there are good aliens, evil aliens, and everything in between. With some minor exceptions (most notable being the Inkursians), it seems most aliens avert the Always Chaotic Evil status (Azmuth's assistant, Myaxx, if from the same species than Vilgax, and she is in no way as evil as he is, and their species are anything but evil.).
- Teen Titans did have some good aliens (one of the main heroes was one, after all), but normally an alien species would only show up if some of their members were going to be the episode's villains. Lampshaded with The Source, whose only reason for wanting to blow up the Earth is "It is our way."