Humanity Is Insane

"I think we're all mentally ill; those of us outside the asylums only hide it a little better (and maybe not that much better after all)."

A thread sometimes seen in Sci-fi, is that humans - all of us - are several cans short of a six pack. It could be the emotional drive that overrides logic, or more of a "What were they thinking?!" when aliens watch us go about our day, but when looked at compared to all the races in space, Humanity is bonkers. This can be to our advantage, as a sane race would never even consider trying to sneak into the fortress dressed up as pizza delivery men. What really drives other races crazy is that it sometimes works.

This also makes it very difficult for Humans to be mind-controlled, for as soon as the Puppeteer Parasites get inside, they realize how nuts we are and flee, or are driven insane by the hosts.

Of course, other species might seem just as insane to humans.

May be the reason Humans Are Warriors, or the reason Humans Are the Real Monsters, or the reason Humans Are Morons, or the reason Humans Are Cthulhu.

On the other hand, it may just be the reason Humans Are Special.

Also compare Confusion Fu (sorry, no "Humans Are.." comparison here).


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime & Manga 
  • Death Note: This is pretty much the conclusion of Ryuk's Human Observation Journal (which he finds highly amusing).
  • In Macross Frontier, this was in fact the entire cause of the show's central conflict. The Vajra, being Bee People, didn't quite get humanity's whole "individuality" thing, and assumed our lack of clear, unifying purpose and direction to be the result of a catastrophic breakdown of our Hive Mind. Being nice, altruistic types, they decided to rescue the being they believed to be the human Hive Queen, Ranka, and the rest was history. To their credit, though, they eventually realized their mistake, and even went as far as to sacrifice millions of their own to prevent the Frontier fleet from being obliterated by the Big Bad before offering them a place to stay on their homeworld.
  • In Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro, this trait subverts Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: the (arguably) main character came to the human world because if he'd stayed in the underworld he'd have died of starvation. Basically, he feeds on the energy that makes people do crazy and wrong things like premeditated murder, and there's plenty of that. In the early manga, he's focused on trying to find food, but then the really crazy people put their plans in motion and he basically has to save humanity to protect his food source. He specifically states that he's not capable of understanding humans because Humans Are Insane, too.
  • Semi-example in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. At one point Kyubey says that in his culture, emotions are considered a mental disorder. Although he never comes out and says this, the implication is that he and his kind view all humans as insane for having emotions. There is also an implication of Power Born of Madness from their perspective, as they are trying to turn emotions into energy.
  • Insanity is a huge theme in Soul Eater, with numerous characters losing their minds at least once throughout the series, whether it's because of the black blood, Asura's influence, or in the case of people like Dr. Stein, already being insane to begin with.
  • Gunnm: Desty Nova firmly believes this and is trying to deal with this realization for many years trying to defeat "karma". Which he seems to pull off nicely since he is simply impossible to get rid of no matter what sick acts he commits. Nova himself is probably the biggest lunatic of us all, of course.

    Comic Books 
  • The Joker:
    • The Killing Joke:
      The Joker: Faced with the inescapable fact that human existence is mad, random and pointless, one in eight of them crack up and go stark slavering buggo! Who can blame them? In a world as psychotic as this... any other response would be crazy!
    • Several of the Joker's more notorious schemes are attempts to prove this is true to everybody else — and maybe to himself. Otherwise, he'd have to face the possibility that maybe the world isn't crazy... that maybe it's just him.
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy the Galactic Council meet and discuss how earth is crazy and logic holds no sway there. The repeated repulsions of Thanos, Galactus and the Dark Phoenix are all cited as examples of why it's so dangerous. Later, one Spartax candidate for political office is seen vowing to, if elected, go and wipe out Earth before some cosmic conqueror takes over and harnesses Earth's many superheroes to conquer the galaxy.
  • This is part of the underlying theme of Garth Ennis notoriously Gorn-filled series Crossed. It's pointed out several times by different characters that as monstruous as the Crossed's behavior is (cannibalism, rape, infanticide, usually all three at the same time), they're still things that normal humans do all the time. What the Crossed virus does is seemingly removing the sane parts of the human psyche, leaving only the madness behind.
  • Humanity is described in Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire: "When Humanity joined the Gallimaufry, the first impressions of established idea sifters were rather disappointing. Yes, they were entertainingly crazy, but their quirks were mere amplifications of other neuroses and psychoses that had been in and out of vogue for millennia." Among other reasons for being viewed as an insane species, humans are noted for being the first species in the history of the universe to invent popsicles. Freezing liquids on sticks? And then eating them?? Madness!

    Comic Strips 
  • One Calvin and Hobbes comic has Calvin ask Hobbes, whilst narrowly missing several dangers on a sled, whether he thinks people are "basically good... basically bad... or just crazy" with Hobbes yelling at him to look out instead of answering.
    Calvin: [buried in the snow after a crash] You know, it's very rude of you to keep changing the subject after every sentence.
    Hobbes: I choose crazy.

    Fan Works 
  • In No Gods, Only Guns, humanity is generally considered batshit crazy by the Citadel species. There's a good reason for it; rampant genetic experimentation by the various Mega Corp. superpowers upon the human genome has resulted in wild mutations, with insanity being a common side effect of the more physiological-altering effects. As a result, you get a human race that thinks shotguns that shoot rockets and personal shielding systems that create giant explosions when they collapse is not only viable, but preferable.
  • This is a repeatedly appearing theme in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fandom. Mostly that's explored when the topic at hand is how Equestria's carefully hand-crafted weather is bizarre to us, the staggering amount of independent nations and the history of wars between them, our lack of a defined destiny as depicted by ponies' cutie marks, or how some humans prefer this apparent bedlam over the more rigid order of the Equestrian world.
  • Used for a throwaway gag in From Bajor to the Black, Part II.
    Bajoran: I scoop up my glass and start to tell the barman to open a tab before I remember that Earth doesn’t use money. Humans, what can I say? They’re weird.
  • Humanity in Mass Effect: End of Days is regarded as insane by pretty much every Citadel race, for one very simple reason; they have created a synthetic partner-race, similar to the Quarians and Geth. However, unlike the Quarians and the Geth, the humans and their A.I's, the Vision, learned to fight together, and are quite comfortable with the other. Naturally, the Citadel (which has always regarded A.I's to be crapshots) finds it insane that the Vision are even allowed to aid humans in matters of technology and genetic engineering.
  • In Death Note: The Abridged Series (kpts4tv) Ryuk seems to think so:
    Ryuk: Yep. You humans are just plain crazy without my help.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Men in Black: This could be why human thought is viewed as an infectious disease by some aliens. No wonder they don't want us to get our hands on a Universal Translator.
  • In the direct-to-DVD sequel, Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation, the Arachnids (or Bugs) use this as a justification for attacking and taking over humanity.
    Control Bug: [speaking through a human] Poor creatures. Why must we destroy you? I'll tell you why. Order is the tide of creation. But yours is a species that worships... the one over the many. You glorify your intelligence... Because it allows you to believe anything. That you have a destiny. That you have a right. That you have a cause. That you are special. That you are great. But in truth, you are born insane . And such misery... cannot be allowed... to spread!
  • In Avatar, when telling Jake he will be taught the ways of the Na'vi, Mo'at says, "We will see if your insanity can be cured."
  • Spoken word for word in Stephen King's horror film adaption of The Mist when unstable Mrs. Carmody takes over the grocery store with her group of desperate followers and makes increasingly terrible demands while Eldritch Abominations lurk right outside the windows, as part of the main theme that humanity would automatically drop all the rules when thrown into the dark.
    Ollie: As a species we're fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room, we pick sides and start dreaming up ways to kill one another. Why do you think we invented politics and religion?

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Star Trek: The Original Series Spock often feels this way about humans. Particularly emphasized in the Leonard Nimoy song "Highly Illogical". The United Federation of "Hold my Beer I Got This"
  • When it comes to humanity, the other species in Farscape have a sample set of one, and may not fully grasp that Crichton doesn't really meet our commonly accepted definition of "sane". His constant Earth pop culture references that nobody else could possibly get surely can't help.
  • This seems to be a common view by the vast majority of the Stargate-verse's aliens. Granted, even the transplanted humans seem to think this of the Tau'ri. Though this may reflect mostly on Stargate SG-1... okay, mostly on Jack. And Rodney.

    Literature 
  • Values Dissonance can leave modern readers with the interpretation that it is the humans portrayed in the works of H.P. Lovecraft who are insane, being so fixated on a ridiculously dull, narrow-minded view of the universe that any exposure to the fact that they don't know everything there is to know about the universe and/or are not inherently gifted above even other branches of the human race causes them to end up going mad. This is particularly noticeable when one compares straight up Lovecraft-authored protagonists to those of more "Sword & Sorcery branches" of the Cthulhu Mythos, such as Conan the Barbarian, where the protagonist, whilst still finding the Eldritch Abominations to be scary, manages to take a stand at them and comes out ultimately mentally unscathed.
  • Arthur C. Clarke's "Rescue Party" comes to mind. "Are they trying to make an interstellar voyage with rockets?!" Explanation: the Sun is about to go nova so humans ALL got on rocket ships to find a new sun, knowing how crazy that would be. Aliens find us mid-journey. They deeply regret that.
  • Stephen King is fond of this trope, as the quote shows. CELL discusses it — Clay theorizes the phone didn't drive the humans insane — it simply wiped everything out, and the psychos everywhere are simply base humans doing human things. Like stabbing everything. Another character puts it simply:
    "We didn't survive as a species because we were the toughest, or the smartest. We survived because we were the most murderous, craziest fuckers in the jungle."
  • Animorphs:
    • In the companion book Visser, Edriss comes to this conclusion after infesting her first human. Several other books suggest that when the Yeerks jumped at the thought of a Class Five species (lots of useful bodies that didn't have the tech level to fight back), they had no idea what they were getting into.
    • In The Visser Chronicles, Visser One was shocked when she first entered a human mind, because it had the ability to doubt itself, seeing this as insanity at best. She stated that living with our own traitor in our heads was something completely alien to her, and was why we went to war with other members of our species, even committed suicide — another unfathomable concept.
    • However, she also recognized the major advantage of self-doubt: decisions made when you can question your own thoughts tend to be wiser and more useful in the long run. This may be why humanity gains technology so quickly compared to other races.
  • There are several ways to interpret The Damned by Alan Dean Foster, but in terms of tropes on this site this might be the best way to describe its portrayal of humanity. Humans evolved on a planet that shouldn't have been able to support life, in a way that shouldn't have produced a sentient species, and while as individuals we're usually decent, we display disturbing tendencies in our speech patterns and our art that are magnified when we're in large groups. We're also immune to Mind Reading, with spectacular results any time it's tried. The Lepar, normally considered the least intelligent of the fully sentient species in the Weave, are immune to the countereffect resulting from using mind reading on humans. Because the Lepar can counterbalance the negative influence of humans, humanity is finally fully integrated into the Weave.
  • This is the conclusion drawn by Wonko The Sane in So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, who decides the world has gone mad after seeing detailed instructions on a package of toothpicks. He then creates the Asylum, which contains the entire world except for his house, which he turns inside-out and declares "Outside the Asylum". He spends much of his time patiently waiting for the world to end, unaware that the world already ended three books ago.
  • The Race of Worldwar`s reaction to half of what humanity does — from Humanity's always-on sex drive to what The Race sees as a suicidally-reckless approach to science and technology — "Madness!"
  • Letter to a Phoenix ends thusly: "Only the insane destroy themselves. And only the phoenix lives forever." All other sapient species in the galaxy grow moribund and die out, but humanity survives because it periodically comes within a hair of wiping itself out. (The near-immortal narrator still hopes we never again get as far as the civilization that planet-busted the world between Mars and Jupiter, though.)
  • Codex Alera: Kitai is a Marat — basically a Proud Warrior Race of neolithic wood elves. She makes no secret that she thinks humans are insane. Of course, her companion and ultimately lover Tavi is human, so at least some human craziness is the kind she can get behind.
    • The Canim consider humanity to be insane as well, but not in a good way. When Tavi is attempting to negotiate with Nasaug to have the Canim leave Alera peacefully, he points out that the both sides are going to suffer needlessly if they fight, as the Alerans want the Canim gone and the Canim want to leave. Nasaug agrees, pointing out that in a rational world, this would happen. However, he says, they are in Alera.
    • Interestingly, Kitai says in the third book that she also thinks the Canim are insane, if not quite so insane as the Alerans. It's the convoluted internal politicking both groups engage in that she finds so irrational.
  • Bruce Coville's My Teacher Is an Alien series uses this trope, which is rare for a children's story. Humans are potentially the smartest creatures in the galaxy (due to 90% of Your Brain), but also the only ones stupid enough to have war and poverty. Turns out that all that extra brain matter was there to grant us telepathy long in the past. When there were too many humans, there was too much "noise", and we instinctively suppressed this ability to protect ourselves. Losing that power left us traumatized as a species, with both an inherent desire to come together and a need to stay apart, and resulted in us being somewhat sociopathic.
  • Discworld approaches this at times.
    • It's most explicit in Thief of Time, which portrays a "dangerously sane" character as effectively inhuman. The reason most of the Auditors go Ax-Crazy when Humanity Ensues is because they're fighting their insanity, rather than trying to work with it.
    • Night Watch uses the same recipe; Carcer Dun is not, technically, insane. It's merely that he's realized that all those little rules that keep society ticking over nicely only apply to you if you let them, and therefore the only thing between him and murdering a coach full of accordion players for shits and giggles is his own inhibitions. He is, in fact, more in tune with objective reality than the average man on the street; a sort of inverse psychosis if you will.
    • Also something Death said of humanity in Mort:
      "That's mortals for you. They've only got a few years in this world and they spend them all in making things complicated for themselves."
    • The Bursar is kept more or less on this side of reality (at least by UU standards) by taking a hallucinogen carefully designed to make him hallucinate that he's sane. The Lemony Narrator adds that this is a very common hallucination.
  • In David Weber's Out of the Dark, the invading alien Shongairi are confused and flabbergasted by humanity's continuing resistance against them even after they've killed half of Earth's population. They eventually realize that, by their own standards, humans are clinically insane. The Shongairi, being a pack-based carnivorous species, have a psychology focused on pack-mentality, with the rest of the pack submitting instinctively to the strongest "alpha" once s/he has demonstrated superiority. All other species they've encountered are herd-based omnivores or herbivores, who will submit to deflect violence away from the herd as a whole. However, humans are family-oriented instead of pack- or herd-oriented, and as a result the act of bombarding entire cities off the map and killing half the population just pisses them off. Since the need to protect family overrides submission, and pure, undiluted hate due to harming or killing family drives humans to keep fighting regardless, the humans come off as completely insane to the Shongairi. Also, one of those cases where it works.note 
  • To the aliens in The Mote in God's Eye (called "Moties"), humans are all "Crazy Eddie", because we refuse to accept that some problems just can't be solved and persist in trying to Take a Third Option.
  • Larry Niven's Puppeteers, from the Known Space universe, are absolutely single-mindedly focused on self-preservation. The Kzin see them as unbelievable cowards. Humans just think they take it too far, to the point of neurosis at best. But the Puppeteers think the rest of us are absolutely nuts for not being the same way. After all, what other priority can possibly ever be more important than self-preservation? (Kinda makes sense when put that way, huh?) The puppeteers use those who are considered insane in their culture as diplomats, partially because they're better able to relate to us, and partially because from their point of view you'd have to be crazy to voluntarily leave the safety of the homeworlds.
  • The Foxen general opinion of humanity in The Red Vixen Adventures, partially because they have a lower rate of mental disorders than we do and because they think our obsession with democracy is funny. But the Foxen are poorly equipped to treat the few who do develop mental disorders, one main character has PTSD from an abusive spouse and only shows signs of improvement after her family brings in a therapist from Earth, and her ex was simply locked up in an asylum.
  • George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four plays this in the worst possible way. The entire planet is ruled over by a totalitarian regime which encourages the population to adopt a concept called "Doublethink", which allows people to accept the truth of two mutually contradictory statements simultaneously: for example, O'Brien describes how the Party will develop a dual system of astronomy which says that stars are very close or very distant depending on which is more convenient to Party propaganda at the time. This is completely in flight with logic and absolute madness, but it's what the Party wants.
  • Humanity in Troy Rising comes off as this to other alien civilizations, often. As the only species that developed the concept of science-fiction prior to First Contact (other species were exposed to the galactic scene while still in pre-industrial states), humans have a rather... unique approach to all things space related, be it asteroid mining, space station construction, or intergalactic politics.
    Tyler Vernon: If it's crazy and it works...
    Granadica: ...it's not crazy. You humans are the only sophonts in this galactic region to have that saying. Most people just go "that's crazy."

    Music 
  • The group Puzzlebox has a song, appropriately titled "Nuts," about an alien scout's observations of our species. Said scout pleads for his leader to let him come home early, away from the crazy humans who do things like live on fault lines, exalt football players, and buy extremely high-priced trading cards. His commander quickly agrees, but quarantines him to make sure he doesn't contaminate other aliens with the craziness he's been studying.
    They're nuts, I say, Commander! Their heads aren't screwed on right.
    The bird of wisdom took one look at them and then took flight!
    As near as I can tell, they just get by on luck and guts.
    I've studied them, and I should know, they're nuts!

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000 has this in spades.
    • While every race in the setting considers every other race to be some flavor of crazy, humanity come right out and owns it.
      Thought for the day: Only the insane have strength enough to prosper. Only those who prosper truly judge what is sane.
    • The Tau have this view of humanity. As they tend towards Pragmatic Villainy (enemy too tough? Retreat and try elsewhere), they think the Imperium's noted fondness for human wave tactics, incredible wastefulness and blind zeal can only be attributed to insanity. And of course, taken Up to Eleven when they encounter the forces of Chaos (who are insane, but as the Tau can't be possessed or know what it's like to have Psychic Powers they think Chaos troops make deals with imaginary devils, and the daemons that sometimes pop into existence alongside them are merely another unpleasant alien species).

    Video Games 
  • In The Darkness FPS it's theorized at one point that the Darkness, (cosmic horror, demonic force of chaos and destruction) wasn't originally evil and crazy but that Humanity drove it insane. (However, this is learned in the Darkness's own realm, so odds of Mind Screw are high).
  • In Mass Effect, the Reapers believe that anyone that knows of their existence and power but still opposes them to be completely outside the bounds of logic. Paragon Shepard tells Harbinger to shut it in the Arrival DLC for Mass Effect 2.
    Shepard: Maybe you're right. Maybe we can't win. But we will fight. We will sacrifice. And we will find a way! Because that's what humans do!
    Harbinger: Inconceivable!
  • Considering the amount of horrifying and traumatizing shit Dead Space's Isaac Clarke is forced to go through, he's arguably a lot safer fighting the hideous undead Necromorphs than he is deciding which humans he should trust as they are likely to be (1) unlucky people driven insane by the Marker, (2) EarthGov like Kendra Daniels, or (3) deluded or conniving Unitologists in the form of Daina or Challus Mercer. Good, sane people are few and far between out in the black, with a good half of them either horribly killed or driven bonkers by the Marker.
  • Space Station 13 is essentially based entirely on this trope. Expect people to randomly explode and others to just start screaming their heads off. With such conditions as nanotrasen's on every station; no wonder an overwhelming majority of the human species is utterly stark-raving batshit crazy. And then you get cloned, which adds even more genetic defects. It's probably by the time of the cloning revolution that humanity no longer gives a shit about their lives. They just plonk the most-sane version of you into a station, whittle you down, then when you get back to Central Command- there are gun racks and other forms of weapons; Even on the escape shuttle; this is the worst as it crams countless possible crazies into a box. And that's just to start. Meanwhile, The Thing (1982) is eating everyone- and everybody's too busy screaming endlessly and blowing eachother up. Suffice to say; anybody that IS sane on SS 13; will eventually become insane as a rule of thumb.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In the Veil of Madness stories from 4chan's /tg/, this is revealed to be why humans haven't found any alien life. When humanity finally journeyed into space, they found several extinct alien civilizations, some pre-industrial, some which had expanded into space empires, but eventually they had all succumbed to some mysterious internal destruction. When humanity finally finds an alien species that's still alive, an aggressive reptilian one still in its prehistory, it quickly turns out that the entire race is psychotically violent to the point that spontaneous suicide is common, and they probably would've died out already if they didn't have such a high birth rate. It's not until humanity has its first disastrous encounter with an alien space ship that the truth is revealed: Earth is located in an area, encompassing around 3% of the galaxy, that is known as the "Veil Of Madness" because every species that evolves here (as well as non-native aliens coming into the area to colonize planets) are eventually driven insane by some kind of Negative Space Wedgie. Through some quirk of evolution, humans have just enough sanity that our species haven't succumbed to complete self destruction and are capable of rational behavior, but the fact that our species originated from the Veil means that the rest of the universe is terrified of us. Eventually, the humans give up on trying to convince the rest of the galaxy that we aren't roaming space murderers, instead using our scary reputation as an edge in negotiations and diplomacy, playing up the Terrifying Psycho Alien image by wearing scary power armor and distorting our voices. The result is that the other space-faring civilizations view humans as "scary and dangerous but not unreasonable".
  • Another such story starts with an alien species on the other side of the galaxy noticing human produced radio waves emanating from Earth in the course of their charting the stars. After observing humanity, they promptly concluded that humans are all, indeed, bugshit insane. They still didn't regard humanity as a threat, figuring humans were too stupid and violent to do anything but maybe destroy their own planet. Then, when humans "split the atom and breached the heavens" in a single generation, the aliens grew concerned. Then humans started sending messages out into space, and the aliens practically panicked, and concluded that "They knew we were out here, and they were coming for us." The alien "Predictor" concluded that, left unchecked, between their apparently psychotic nature and ingenuity, they'd expand outward at a frightening rate, consuming everything they came across. So the aliens built a MASSIVE doomsday device to blow up most of the solar system after traveling across the galaxy at relativistic speeds. The trope was subverted when humans evolved, literally and figuratively, beyond their apparent insanity in the millennia between the launch of the weapon and its impact. There being no way to stop the weapon at that point, the aliens were left wracked with guilt over their needless genocide. After the weapon's impact, the aliens are surprised and elated to see lights on the edge of the solar system, indicating humanity's survival of of the attack. Then the trope is double subverted. The aliens receive a messages from the remaining humans, "We know you're out there, and we're coming for you."
  • This is the consensus of most alien species in The Jenkinsverse. While humans are certainly more prone to delusions and mental illness than other species, the stereotype that humans are all crazy is an unfair one.
  • Not Always Right: You really have to wonder how some of the customers manage to survive despite being almost completely disconnected from reality.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Humans Are Insane

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HumanityIsInsane