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Can't Argue with Elves

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"Human law and vampyre law are not one and the same. Humans have no jurisdiction over us."
"Why?" I'd asked.
"Because humans and vampyres are not the same. There are, indeed, more of them than us, but we few hold greater wealth and power as individuals than they can ever hope to attain. We are stronger, smarter, more talented, and more beautiful. Without vampyres, their world would be nothing more than a snuffed candle."
The House of Night: Neferet's Curse

This species is better than you — and just about whatever is not them. They are taller, thinner, prettier, more graceful, better-read, more intelligent, more environmentally conscious, more socially progressive, less aggressive or confrontational (while still being fearsome warriors), and better craftspeople, too.

In fact, the only quality this species seem to be lacking is humility. Whenever you have a group that thinks itself as just completely superior to anyone else and ignores all arguments against it, you have this trope.

Even if they are supposed to be humble, they can't resist lecturing humans on their errant ways or pointing out humanity's flaws. If you try to argue or mock them back, they will just sniff disdainfully and proceed to destroy your argument (even if it doesn't make sense), proving them "right" once again.

Not a bad thing if the creator intends for the species in question to be conceited jerks ripe for some much-deserved humbling. However, it's just as common for the species to be treated by the narrative as fully justified despite their frustrating arrogance, particularly if the creator has an axe to grind.

As the trope name suggests, haughtiness is a common trait of elves in particular, and Screw You, Elves! is for humans who do take offense (and make it very clear). In contrast with humans, dwarves are not only allowed but expected to argue with elves.

If the species makes this argument to justify abusing or conquering "lesser" races, they're operating on The Right of a Superior Species.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Outlaw Star, Aisha of the C'tarl C'tarl constantly brags about her species' superiority, and no one calls her out on it (partially because her species is physically superior). Then again, Aisha's the local Butt-Monkey and is obviously immature, so this is most likely a case of "let the baby have the bottle" or acknowledging that she can take the abuse. It helps that Aisha is considered kind of bugnuts, even by C'tarl C'tarl standards, but Aisha tends to be the sign that they let the mask slip by letting her go out in public.
  • This is why the main characters of Those Who Hunt Elves have to chase the elves down and forcefully strip them; asking nicely if any of them had any odd runes on their skin never got them anywhere.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Na'vi of Avatar. The in-story justification is that their planet's ecosystem automatically regulates itself, meaning they don't think they have any need for things like modern technology, roads, clothing, and human education. It turns out the planet's ecosystem is actually sentient.
  • The Hobbit trilogy:
    • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has Thranduil and the Wood-Elves. They're downright hostile, taking the Dwarves as prisoner indefinitely and confiscating all their belongings just for trespassing in Mirkwood. Thorin does get to literally argue with them, though; the Elves treat Goblins/Orcs even more summarily.
    • Then in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Thranduil first tries to force the Dwarves to fork over some treasures he wants. Then after the Orcs attack, he decides to pull out after some fighting, which would mean abandoning the Humans and Dwarves to be slaughtered. And when called on it, his answer boils down to, "And?"
    • Through all of this, however, Thranduil is not necessarily depicted as right. He's right sometimes, but then so is Thorin, and Bard, and Bilbo, and Gandalf, and plenty of other non-elves. His Jerkass tendencies eventually lead to his son Legolas, the last person he cared about, leaving him.
  • Lady in the Water: The prologue establishes that Humans Are Bastards who came to refuse to take counsel from narfs, a fantastic race that lives in the water, and thus succumb to selfish desires and endlessly war among themselves.
  • Seen in the The Lord of the Rings movies, particularly in Elrond, who almost despises humans as foolish and mentally weak. Elrond's problem with humans is more personal than an expression of elven hauteur. He's still angry at humans — in the person of Isildur — for failing to throw the One Ring into Mount Doom when they (he) had the chance. Since that failure led directly to the problems that were being discussed at that very moment, his harsh words may have been more a moment of pique than anything else. His daughter wanting to leave her entire family to stay with a human man probably plays a big part in this. Most other elves seem far more relaxed about it. Elrond tends to be quite a bit more sullen and openly angry than the usual "preeningly superior haughtiness" that this trope usually indicates, however.
    • Elrond is also Half-Elven, part of a sub-race of elves with human ancestry who can choose to become mortals and be counted amongst Men, or to be immortal and counted as Elves. As such, he saw his only brother choose mortality and die, not something elf society is super well geared towards handling. And now, more recently, he's been watching his daughter making gooey eyes at a humannote  and thus likely to choose mortality; suffice to say Elrond specifically might have some emotional baggage regarding humanity.
  • Plan 9 from Outer Space. The aliens do a lot of Cultural Posturing about how enlightened and socially-minded they are, unlike us foolish humans. They come across as Well Intentioned Extremists, and even though the Benevolent Alien Invasion is ultimately thwarted, we're meant to accept that their warning was one worth listening to, and one human character even acknowledges in the final scene that "they're way ahead of us". Ironically, in some ways, they're actually pretty backward. Mostly, though, you can't argue with them because they're really bad at arguing.
    Jeff: Now just hold on a minute.
    Eros: No, you hold on.
  • Star Trek: Insurrection: The Space Amish Ba'ku live in idyllic harmony, and the audience is expected to see them as justified in all their assertions.
  • Star Wars: The Jedi are more than a bit like this — and it's then subverted horribly in Episode III, when their blind adherence to dogma easily allows the Big Bad to drive Anakin Skywalker, The Chosen One, to join The Dark Side and all but exterminate the Jedi and effectively Unperson them.

  • The elves in 8-Bit Theater parody this aspect of elves, making them so obsessed with their own superiority that they believe all other races, and even some of the gods, exist as leftover genetic material that wasn't good enough for elves. This may also go some way towards explaining why they're on technological par with humans in spite of a 9,000-year head start. Maybe Fighter wasn't the one who needed the trial of sloth.
    Another way they parodied this trope was by having being human be illegal in the elven lands and if you bother asking why or pointing out how unfair and stupid that law is, then you'd better have an argument about round ears being better than pointy ones or they won't take your claim/question seriously.
  • In Errant Story, the elves' belief in their own superiority has led to multiple instances of genocide. Considering the trolls to be flawed and mistaken creations of their gods, they made a pretty good effort at exterminating them but did not succeed. They nearly did the same thing to humans before deciding to instead "uplift" the humans by using them as servants. Then after a few human–elf hybrids went violently insane they decided to kill all half-elves. This backfired as the resulting racial and civil war nearly exterminated the elves and they spent the next thousand years hiding from the rest of the world in an underground city.
  • Deconstructed by the fae (drow, dark elves, light elves, etc.) of Drowtales who love to think of themselves as such, and while it is true that they possess Game-Breaker powers that significantly put them above the humans, dwarves and orcs of the setting, they're also responsible for turning the surface into the Hell-hole it is thanks to their screwing around with demonic magic. Through the story, it becomes increasingly obvious that the fae rule through brute force and that they really aren't that much better than the "savage" humans and orcs.
  • Existential Comics: You most certainly can when you are Foucault, Chomsky, and Fanon. Chomsky, in a parody of his usual style of criticizing America's foreign policy, notes how in a poll conducted (by Sindar no less) the greatest threat to Middle-Earth's peace in the eyes of Hobbits, Dwarves, Humans, Trolls, Orcs was the Elves.
  • In place of Elves, The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! has the Nemesites, an alien empire that has legally owned the Earth since before humanity evolved, but considers us wildlife and generally ignores us. Having made a few friends on Earth, Princess Voluptua has become fond of us and wants the Empire to do right by us, but even she tends to talk about humans in a patronizing manner, calling us "little critters" and the like. Jean is always quick to tell her where to stick that kind of talk.
  • The Order of the Stick. Try arguing with Vaarsuvius. In On the Origin of PCs, Haley basically smacked V on top of the head after one too many "And the problem with that would be...?" replies to her reasons why elves can't be allowed to be inherently superior to the other races.
  • Most elves in Sluggy Freelance avoid this trope, being more on the cookie and/or toy making side of the elf spectrum. However, the "Years of Yarncraft" storyline does reference elves as "mythological hotties who wouldn't give humanity the time of day."

    Web Original 
  • In Mahu in "Second Chance" several of the galaxy's races and empires think themselves superior to everybody else. The thadrakos, almost elf-like in their appearance, share this trait too except when dealing with humans, who they see as valuable allies and friends. The human Commonwealth on the other hand is not so comfortable with the thadrakos use of slaves, their expanding realm...or the fact that they are cannibals.
  • Played straight when several elves explain to the main characters of MDWS about how superior they are compared to humans. Then immediately subverted when the tank of the group punches the leader in the face while saying "But we're meaner."
  • The transapients of Orion's Arm aren't elves, per se, but they are better than you and quite aware of it. In fact, the only reason you'd ever argue with them would be because they want you to. This is actually an explicit rule of the setting: any transapient of a higher tier is superior to an intelligence of a lower tier, end of discussion. Not in a moral sense (there are plenty of examples of very amoral or even evil transapients), but intelligence-wise. The only way to get on their level is to become a transapient yourself.
  • Discouraged in a Springhole post on elitism. It says that portraying "higher" beings (such as eleves) as always being right or more noble than humans is likely to make those characters come off as pretentious jerks.
  • Hilariously subverted in Tales of MU. The elves are immortal, wise, good at EVERYTHING and generally peaceful, but also arrogant as all get out and often absolutely batshit insane, especially when it comes to sexual matters (it is considered fairly rational elven behavior for a young elf to castrate the lover of a rival just to spite them, for example). They resent the weariness of their too-perfect lives and usually end up killing themselves. The major half-elf character in the story hates her heritage and everything to do with it.
    • It should be noted with Steff that she views herself as being an ugly talentless clod who looks about as much like a real woman (she's trans) as Sailor Bubba does, while Mack and her friends all see her as impossibly graceful and artistically talented and it takes Mack and several other characters a long time to actually figure out that Steff isn't biologically female. This is explicitly stated to be caused by Steff being raised by elves, by whose standards she IS a clumsy talentless drag queen.
    • It should also be noted that most elves we see in the series are in the elven equivalent to their twenties, which are noted as being abnormally sociopathic in their dealings with everyone.
    • The main character Mackenzie Blaise has this viewpoint about some of her friends (Dee and Amaranth), seeing them as being inherently purer because of their species (dark elf and nymph, in this case), although that probably has something to do with how Mack thinks of herself as being inherently corrupted because of her half-demon heritage (which has some support in the story). Whether or not the reader is supposed to feel that any one race is supposed to be inherently better than others is hard to tell—we certainly see faults with all of them as the story goes on.
    • Merfolk in the MUniverse feel themselves to be inherently superior to all land species, although they don't really advertise this. However, as Mack discovers, it is rather hard to argue with them about this belief, as they on principle dismiss arguments from prey. To them, any land creature in water is food and no longer has a right to be considered a sentient being.

    Western Animation 
  • A human example occurs in Doug in the form of Chalky Studebaker. He's The Ace of Bluffington Jr. High, and in one episode, it's discovered that he and Doug both got identical answers on a test. Everyone automatically assumes that Chalky is incapable of cheating, because he's so perfect and outstanding, so Doug naturally must have copied him — except Doug didn't. Doug spends the rest of the episode trying to track Chalky down to talk to him, and when he finally confronts him, Chalky admits that he did cheat — he's so busy trying to be good at everything that he didn't have time to study. It also shows us where this attitude came from —his father. Thankfully, Chalky owns up to his mistake and agrees to do a retest, even if it means missing an important football game, so it's ultimately a deconstruction of the trope.
  • This, and the character types associated with it, are deconstructed with Aresia in Justice League. Stories like Amazons Attack! notwithstanding, the Amazons are typically portrayed as a superior people, with superior morality, strength, and wisdom to those of "man's world." The bulk of Amazons act like this: dismissive of non-Amazons and appealing to man's world's obvious inferiority when anyone challenges them on it. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, tends more towards "yeah, they're inferior, but it's our duty to protect them from themselves." After a few arcs where both of these are called out, Aresia — a non-Amazon who's been raised under the Amazons' Can't Argue With Elves mentality, takes it to its logical conclusion and attempts to kill all men on the planet and taking this stance with everyone who tried to stop her — even Wonder Woman herself.
    • Even WW is Not So Above It All sometimes; a particularly infamous example is an incident where she is confronted by an angry mob, the leader of which is an angry heavyset man holding an effigy of her, calling her out for her callous behavior towards the collateral damage supers like her can inflict. Wonder Woman's response? Rope the man with her Lasso of Truth so that he spills about secretly being a crossdresser, publicly humiliating him and causing the crowd to disperse. While the man was using some rather crass language to describe WW, his point about her carelessness towards innocents was nonetheless valid but Wonder Woman is depicted as being in the right.


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Alternative Title(s): Cant Argue With An Elf



When writing Fantasy Races, make sure that your elves are perfect in every way and clearly know it.

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