Humans Through Alien Eyes
Koopa Police Radio:
Alien species escaping from police detention. Luigi:
Aliens? We gotta deal with aliens too? Mario:
Luigi, we're the aliens
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 is a heavily literary trope, 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
)?" An Author Avatar
alien can encounter humans and deliver the Author Tract
through what for the alien (in-universe) is innocent questioning but for the author (out-of-universe) is Socratic irony.
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
. It can result in Alien Arts Are Appreciated
See also Xenofiction
, which does not necessarily feature humans, but takes the viewpoint of truly alien
aliens. May be used to highlight Bizarre Alien Psychology
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Anime and Manga
- 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. Apparently the closest they have to a cat in Hell is... xenomorphs.
- Tomoe from Kamisama Kiss doesn't seem to understand human emotions a lot of times. Mizuki is pretty much in the same boat.
- It comes up occasionally in ElfQuest.
- 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."
- An variation occurs in Watchmen. Part of Doctor Manhattan's subplot deals with his humanity slowly fading as a result of his new status as an omnipotent, non-linear entity. As such, he fails to understand why Laurie would be upset by his working in the lab while simultaneously in bed with her and later when he teleports them both to Mars, he's initially confused when she suddenly starts choking, having honestly forgotten that humans can't survive without a suitable atmosphere and need to breathe.
- 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 (1982) 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."
- The "Human in Equestria" concept has become so prolific in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic community, that Fimfiction (the most popular Mlp fanfic website) had to create a "Human" tag just to accommodate it.
- Article2 is about a human spaceship crashing into Equestria. The story is told from the perspective of the Equestrians
- Played straight as well as inverted in the Human in Equestria fanfic Arrow 18 Mission Logs and the two stories that make it up. The first, Lone Ranger, is written from the perspective of the human scientist. The other, Twilight Sparkle's Notes, is this trope, and is written from the perspective of Twilight Sparkle instead.
- An unusual example in The Writing On The Wall, as the humans are all long since dead, but left behind a warning for anything which came afterwards, regardless of what it was. Too bad Daring Do was Wrong Genre Savvy and assumed the eponymous writing was a curse meant to warn away tomb robbers.
- Pink Personal Hell And Altering Fate has Pinkie Pie mention how she finds humans to be weird.
- Kuyou Suou shows this trope when the story is seen from her point of view in Kyon Big Damn Hero: for example, she observes Mikuru baking cookies with childish fascination. It's the first time she has the time to observe anything in detail note so there are lots of first experiences for her.
- In the Lunaverse sidestory Helping... hands?, Lyra ends up turned into a human by a miscast zebra ritual (and unlike her fanonical depiction, she does not enjoy it). Throughout the narrative, her bizarre new anatomy is referred to in equine or otherwise familiar terms ("flank", "dock", "barrel"; her hands are referred to as "paws" or "claws"). Lyra herself is referred to as a hominid or "furless bear-creature". She also spends most time naked or wrapped in a borrowed cloak since she doesn't know she's supposed to cover herself more, but the narrative never turns to fanservice and nopony finds her freakish appearance attractive anyway.
- Mistranslation is an interesting Homestuck piece describing the humans views on love and hatred from the perspective of the Alternian Empire.
- Mass Effect Clash Of Civilizations: The story is often told from the perspective of the Mass Effect races, as they explore a seemingly abandoned UNSC space station, and then later as they get a chance to meet the builders.
- 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").
- Avatar did this subtly by holding the camera at Na'vi height whenever the two species interact to make 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.
- BjŲrk's "Human Behavior".
- The early 20th century comic strip Mr. Skygak, from Mars revolves around the eponymous Martian reporter observing (and humorously misinterpreting) everyday scenes of life on Earth. For example, he once mistook a couple being married as criminals being harangued by a judge for their crimes.
- German game PlŁsch, Power & Plunder features living plushies having to hide from the "tramplers" (us).
- In Traveller the attitude of aliens toward humans is described. Vargr for instance think humans to be spooky because they can organize themselves more ably.
- Warhammer 40,000 gives us a reasonable estimation of how the alien races see humans.
- The Orks think we're fun to fight against, but slightly confusing as they can't tell who's in charge (we're all about the same size).
- The Eldar think we're unsubtle childish thugs with limited intelligence and no appreciation for the dangers of the galaxy we live in (for the record, we totally do).
- The Tau think we're somewhat fanatical, but have promise as a subject species.
- The Tyranids think we're tasty when we happen to get in their way.
- The Necrons think we're dust to be purged along with the rest of the galaxy.
- The Dark Eldar think we're fun playthings.
- 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.
- 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 novel Mass Effect: 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. Conscription on their homeworld, marking the beginning of adulthood as well as citizenship is mandatory for all turians between the ages of 15 and 30. Those who choose to leave active military service at the end of this term, nonetheless remain as part of the reserve forces and can be called to action at anytime. 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 eligible humans of military age, actually choose to serve in the Alliance. Since there is 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 unnecessarily brutal.
- Another look at the Values Dissonance between acceptable military tactics is highlighted in the third game. During the Tuchanka arc, Shepard can react aghast that after the blatant warcrime of releasing the genophage against the krogan, the turian military compounded it by having no problem with leaving a giant bomb buried on Tuchanka, while Garrus admits that while he thinks it went too far, it made sense to have an insurance policy in case the krogan decided to get "uppity" again. Similarly, during the Rannoch arc, Tali is shocked when Garrus cavalierly suggests orbital bombardment to flush out the geth groundside, pointing out that he wants to help recover her homeworld by rendering part of it uninhabitable.
- 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 weaker end of the scale.
- According to Wrex, the only reason a krogan will follow another krogan is because he thinks the other would win if they fought. He is therefore somewhat mystified that not only do Kaidan and Ashley not want to comment on fighting with Shepard, but actively deny having ever thought about it.
- 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.
- Though it's interesting to note that Legion seems unable to understand why the Heretics, (a rogue faction of Geth that worship the Reapers), would do such a thing as implant spies in their networks, since among the Geth there is no such thing as deceit. When the Heretics chose to leave the Geth Consensus, the others freely let them go, since they believed that all life should self-determinate, even if they did not agree with their decision. The fact that the Heretics are capable of subterfuge and actively seek to undermine them was something they never considered.
- 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."
- In Persona 3, Velvet Room residents Elizabeth and Theodore look human, but have some very odd ideas about the human world, as the protagonist discovers in the course of helping to satisfy their intense curiosity about it. Elizabeth assumes that you have to run up the escalator the wrong way as a "test of strength" and that the jungle gym in the playground is a house. Theo thinks the circular running track at school is a metaphor, and when the protagonist answers his request for oil by bringing him a can of machine oil, he assumes this means you deep-fat fry machines in it: "I'll use it on Mech Fries next time!" Both of them interpret the police station's Missing Persons board as a list of bounty heads, comparing it to their own regular requests for the protagonist to go kill a certain type of Shadow and bring back Twenty Bear Asses as proof of their strength, and so on.
- One riddle in Professor Layton and the Curious Village involves identifying a thing based on how an alien might describe its use.
- 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!")
- Just how ugly are humans? Their necks move, meaning that humans all look as if they are casually suffering from grotesquely broken necks.
- Shin Megami Tensei: 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 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 attacking 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 (Hivers because of their sense of smell, Liir because they're Hermaphrodites and any dimorphism looks obvious).
- In League of Legends the champion Cho'Gath the Terror of the Void considers humans to be "hideous creatures" and "a scourge upon the world" despite being an immense, chitinous, 6-limbed horror from the nightmare space between the dimensions.
- Nocturne, a similarly eldritch being with the equally cheery title the Eternal Nightmare, finds life as we know it - including humans, and especially summoners - to be disgusting and offensive, and goes out of his way to annihilate as much of it as possible.
- Vel'Koz, yet another monster from the void, sees humanoid creatures as something that just doesn't make sense, but rather than approach them with disgust like Cho'Gath, he approaches them with curiosity and wants to learn more about them. Unfortunately for his subjects, he imposes his own eldritch resilience onto humans, and seems surprised that they can't regrow limbs, or survive without their dermis.
- The explorers in the Pikmin series give their own, often humorous names to whatever objects they find on the planet Earth (which they christen "PNF-404").
- Played straight out in Invader Zim when Dib's guidance counselor asks some aliens, "So you guys are real aliens from outer space?", to which one answers, "Well to us, YOU'RE the aliens."
- In Transformers Animated, Optimus Prime makes the mistake of asking how new humans are manufactured. We don't actually hear the answer Sari whispers into Prime's ear, but judging from his shocked expression, it seems safe to assume she told him the truth◊. Bulkhead and Bumblebee also saw Sari with a robot dog and thought she was the pet.
- Transformers Rescue Bots gets a lot of mileage from this trope. Optimus tells the Rescue Bots that they have to learn more about humanity by living among them. They deal with a lot of confusion on Earth. They don't grasp the concept of Earth seasons. Blades describes birthdays as "setting the dessert on fire and reassembling a donkey", and the holiday with the lit-up tree is Arbor Day. Blades also says that a lot of human things don't make sense, like hot dogs, which aren't pets.
- Planet Roswell in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is a planet whose culture, technology level, and understanding of astronomy roughly reflect the United States in the 1950s. When Buzz (an Earthling) and his crew crash land there, the locals treat them with a combination of fear, fascination, and curiosity, having never seen a lifeform not from their planet before—especially fear in the case of the government.
- In the Ben 10: Omniverse episode "Rad Monster Party", Ben is considered the monster on a planet populated by aliens who resemble classical Hollywood movie monsters. Humorously, Ben stubbornly refuses to see things this way despite Rook's best efforts.