I hate this place. This zoo. This prison. This reality, whatever you want to call it, I can't stand it any longer. It's the smell, if there is such a thing. I feel saturated by it. I can taste your stink and every time I do, I fear that I've somehow been infected by it.
Humans are filthy creatures, this is true. Regular maintenance and cleanup is required to avoid foul odours but to those species that consider themselves higher than some lowly earthling, humans always
smell bad. You'll often find other races like elves, The Fair Folk
and especially aliens talking about the stink of human, especially amongst more arrogant species. To them, a stinky creature is an inferior one and you, you foul hairless ape, are on the lowest rung. Due to the nature of this trope requiring the response of a non-human party, this trope is normally reserved for fantasy or sci-fi genres and possibly verge on being an inverted Fantastic Racism
In many fantasy and mythology examples, this trope may be justified
by the concept of ritual purity
, which is a near physiological concern for supernatural beings in many worldviews that feature it, like toxicity for humans. Some myths feature supernaturals who describe ritual pollution as stinking
; many ritual purifications involve physical bathing.
Note that for this trope to apply, it applies to all
humans and not just The Pigpen
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- In The Matrix, Agent Smith tells Morpheus that to him (and presumably to other agents and machine programs), humans stink.
- The infamous "Backstroke of the West" version of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith has General Grievous refer to Anakin as a "smelly boy".
- In Green Lantern Kilowog sniffs Hal Jordan, loud and long, before remarking: "You smell funny."
- In The Fifth Element it is inverted. Ruby Rhod is complaining about the aliens assaulting his show, and cries, "They stink!" and the general identifies them as Mangalores.
- In The Last Starfighter it is semi-inverted. Centauri, who looks like a human because of a disguise but is really an alien himself, warns that the Zando Zan assassins smell terrible; apparently they smell bad to any humanoid lifeform. This turns out to be more than a complaint as someone whiffs them later on — but it doesn't save them from the alien assassins.
Anime And Manga
- In Spirited Away, several bathhouse workers complain about Chihiro's "human smell".
- Arlong complains about how humans smell in the 4Kids dub of One Piece, prompting him to coin the derogatory term "PU-mans".
Live Action TV
- Star Trek: Voyager: Humans smell really bad to the Voth, a reptilian species descended from dinosaurs, with highly advanced olfactory faculties.
- While it hadn't been brought up in the chronologically later series, Star Trek: Enterprise reveals that humans smell bad to Vulcans, and that T'Pol has had to take medications to desensitize her.
- It's stated at one point that it's specifically female Vulcans who think humans stink, which would explain why none of the male Vulcans throughout the rest of series/movies had a problem with it.
- In Wilfred, Wilfred the dog complains about Wilfred and others constantly smelling like "human shit" even after showering.
- In book #7, the Animorphs are wandering around in cockroach morphs says Ax says he smells humans. Someone objects that humans don't smell, but Ax insists they do—not that it's a bad smell, of course.
- However, he denies vehemently that Andalites have ever been known to stink.
- #35: The Extreme'' has a Inverted Trop. Cassie, in fly morph, says that Visser Three would stink to a human, but her fly brain thinks he smells pretty good.
- In Warrior Cats, the feline characters believe that humans smell, and even once the main character earns his place in the Clan (since he was born as a house cat), other cats still occasionally insult him by saying he smells like humans.
- In Runt by Marion Dane Bauer, after Runt is healed by humans, his mother keeps washing him over and over, trying to get the human scent off him, even when he thinks it's gone.
- In Nor Crystal Tears, one of the things the thranx find objectionable about the weird bipedal creatures they've taken prisoner is their sweaty/greasy mammalian body odor.
- The Witches: Human children, though not adults, smell just like dog droppings to witches. They use this trait to help them track down children to destroy them.
- Half-elf Morley in the Garrett, P.I. series taunts Garrett about how his meat-eating habits make him smell funny, although he may be just kidding about that.
- In Venus on the Half-Shell, a science fiction novel attributed to the fictional author Kilgore Trout but actually written by Philip José Farmer, among the hundreds of alien races in the galaxy, humans are known as the smelly ones. Wondering why humans smell so bad to other races, some of whom smell like a sewer, it is pointed out that human morals stink, so that makes our smell stink.
- In Codex Alera, the Canim Varg complains that the ship he's on smells of wet human. In a later book, another character is trying to teach a different Canim how to speak the human language, and has to explain the difference between "humans smell bad" and "humans have a weak sense of smell", and while doing so acknowledges that, from a Canim's perspective, both things might well be true.
- In Calvin and Hobbes, after Calivin turns himself into an owl with his transmorgrification gun, Hobbes says it might he might be better off, and when Calvin asks why, Hobbes replies, "Well, I never knew quite how to say this, but little boys don't smell very good..."
- And in another two strips, Hobbes tells him that he has unique words for different smells, such as "snippid" for burning leaves. When Calvin asks what the word for his smell is, Hobbes can't resist saying "terrible", causing Calvin to chase after him.
- Classic Traveller, The Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society issue 10, article "Contact! Centaurs". The alien race called the K'Kree (AKA Centaurs) were vegetarians who couldn't stand the smell of humans who had recently eaten meat. Before meeting a Centaur, humans had to eat a vegetarian diet for several days to clean all the meat (and its smell) out of their systems.
- In Portal 2, Wheatley tells a story about how he was landed with the job of "tending to all the smelly humans". He quickly remembers that Chell is human and corrects himself.
- In the Justice League episode "The Brave and the Bold", part of Grodd's speech claims that "Humans are slow, ugly, immoral, and have an unpleasant body odor!" Everyone listening is human, but they're all Brainwashed and under his control; he's doing it to feed his ego.
- In an Origins Episode of The Legend of Korra, the Aye-Aye spirit who agrees to take Wan (the future first Avatar) in dubs him "Stinky" after earlier commenting that humans are disgusting.
- This trope is Truth in Television as humans do smell bad compared to other animals as do some animals to us, wet dog anyone?
- Some fastidious pet animals, such as cats or fancy rats, tend to groom their fur thoroughly after being stroked by humans, as if they enjoy the affection but don't want the smell to linger on their coats. Housecats will also sometimes rub themselves up against people who've just taken a bath or shower to get their smell back on them.
- It happens between widely separated civilizations on this planet. Initially the first European visitors to Japan were considered filthy and repugnant. The Native Americans felt this way about the Europeans when they arrived. Considering (Renaissance) Europeans bathed relatively infrequently and consumed much more meat, alcohol, and coffee (all of which make sweat smell stronger) than Native Americans (who primarily lived on beans and corn), this is not surprising. Europeans (and Sub-Saharan Africans) also have genetic predispositions to stronger body-odor than Asians and Native Americans (the genes are linked to the texture of one's earwax).
- As mentioned in a Cracked articles.
- 300 years earlier the Japan example would've happened in reverse—from at least the Heian era (794-1185) until some time in the 14th or 15th century, the Japanese, even courtiers, bathed about once a month. High Medieval (c. 1100-1300, or from about the First Crusade to the Black Plague) Western Europeans bathed an average of three times a week (i.e. about every other day). 13th-century Paris is often estimated to have had about 110,000 people, and they were served by 1300 bathhouses—not even counting the private baths in the homes of the well-to-do.
- Humans, like most mammals, have anal scent glands. We leave scent trails which tell other predators to stay away.