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Humanity Is Insane

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"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)."
Stephen King, Danse Macabre

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).


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     Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • 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!
    • Humanity is also shown to be one of the very, very few races to not pay homage to the Winslow, an immortal, indestructible plush lizardy thingy. This generally makes perfect sense to those readers who happen to be humans, as it's not only rather goofy-looking, it also displays all the intelligence of a cheese sandwich. ("Hi!") For those vast majority of aliens who do treat the Winslow as some kind of religious figure, this is completely incomprehensible.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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 MegaCorp 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 are not only viable, but preferable.
  • 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.
  • Harry Potter explains in A Discordant Note that humans are inherently unreasonable which is both their strongest and weakest trait. Because humans "refuse to accept things the way they are", they tend to cause a lot of unnecessary suffering, but every so often they create something extraordinary. As Harry sees it, humanity is full of madmen and dreamers in equal numbers.
  • In First Contact, humans are described by the Citadel races as illogical and irrational which is also why humans often fail but when they succeed, they tend to do so in unexpected waysnote . Humanity managed to jump from reaching space for the first time to landing on the moon in half the time as the next fastest race but did so by performing several steps at once rather than mastering each step before moving on. According to the salarians, humanity often takes far longer to reach the "logical answer" to a problem but occasionally they arrive at said answer much faster than anyone could predict.
  • No stars in sight: Indilic is a Psion (telepathic alien cyclops) who concludes that humans are "woefully short of reason" after seeing Ikharos kill a Nïdhwal by charging into its mouth armed with only his glaive.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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."
  • Men in Black: This is the reason 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.
  • 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?
  • In the direct-to-DVD sequel, Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation the Arachnids are a Hive Mind, so humanity's individuality is abhorrent to them. Speaking through its host body, one makes it clear why they're fighting a Guilt-Free Extermination War.
    "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!"

  • George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four plays this in the worst possible way. The entire planet (or, at least, Airstrip One) 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.
  • Animorphs:
    • In the companion book Visser, Edriss comes to this conclusion after infesting her first human. Specifically, she was shocked at his 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. 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.
    • 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.
  • Isaac Asimov
    Williams grinned, "we have a certain amount of rule-of-thumb knowledge about the workings of the uncivilized mind. You see — we come from a world where most people, in a manner of speaking, are still uncivilized. So we have to know!"
  • 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.
  • There are several ways to interpret The Damned Trilogy 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.
  • 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.
    • This is 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.
  • The Jenkinsverse: This is the consensus of most alien species. 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. In "Humans Don't Make Good Pets," a Corti claims that humans are insane savages who would consider every alien civilization to be an impossible utopia. Dude, the nameless human protagonist, shuts him up by pointing out that he has witnessed the Corti using legal loopholes to perform unethical experiments, intervened in a pirate attack, thwarted the creation of a galactic bioweapon, and is currently fighting in a war that is only still going on because the corporations find it profitable — none of which has anything to do with humanity.
    Dude: You're no less savage than any human, you just suck at effectively executing it.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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 and 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • In "Rescue Party", by Arthur C. Clarke, the aliens who come across the fleet carrying humanity away from the Solar System after the Sun goes nova remark on the mad audacity required to embark on an interstellar voyage with rockets powering your ships.
  • 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.
  • 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:'s not crazy. You humans are the only sophonts in this galactic region to have that saying. Most people just go "that's crazy."
  • 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!"

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the backstory of Babylon 5 Earth Alliance had this reputation for a while due how they reacted to privateers from the far more powerful Centauri ended: when Earth Alliance met the Centauri the latters' House Jaddo, having established first contact, obtained a monopoly of Earth-Centauri trade, resulting in the other Houses sending privateers after Earth ships knowing nobody would risk war with the Centauri Republic, only to see EarthForce patrols chasing the privateers across the border with overwhelming numbers and shooting down anything short of a naval base with its battlefleet that tried to get in their way, and eventually nuking one such base and its fleet when the commander of an Earth squadron took exception at the usual fake claim the privateers had been arrested and would be executed. This actually improved Earth-Centauri relations and prevented the Centauri conquest of Earth, as the Centauri emperor realized conquering these madmen would not be worth the losses but they were more than willing to trade fairly as long as their ships weren't attacked due to Centauri internal politics.
  • 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.
  • 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"

  • 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, 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, which is ironically true for both in a hilarious way when you think about it. Though, said "unpleasant" alien species causes walls to bleed and color to scream in its presence and even Tau aren't immune to the sheer horror of its impossible existence raping reality).

    Video Games 

  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Coyote thinks that the ability of humans to imagine and believe, creating mythical spirits (like Coyote himself) and giving them power through their beliefs, is indicative of insanity. And yet, he also admires the human ability to see beauty in everything, "even a flame!"
  • Humanity's solution for overpopulation in Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is randomly-targeted laser blasts. The constant dread made unprotected sex more common, which resulted in more kids, which necessitated even more laser blasts. Then humans became comfortable with that, and no alien should have any interest at all in invading Earth now.
    Aliens: What the f**k humans?! What the f**k!
    • Visited again in "Humans 2". The aliens demand 100,000 sex slaves on threat of destroying Earth, but it's a Secret Test of Character to see if humanity will enslave their own or resist them anyway. Instead, the U.N. recruits willing volunteers from a fetish site and very quickly exceeds the quota, to the confusion of the aliens.
      Aliens: You split the difference in a way that challenges our understanding of intelligent life.
      U.N. Secretary General: Would you mind taking some overflow? People were pretty enthusiastic.
  • Unsounded: One of Ilganyag's few unambiguous positions on humanity.
    There is no more broken, irrational, and piteous an animal than man! Skulls full of hornets! A biting spider at the end of every wrist. Abandoned here with sweet ideas and screaming, unattainable desires. Again and again they see gods in themselves and capture them on paper. Across millennia I've watched these palimpsests scab and scar; they pick at them until they bleed.

    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 ever last one of them eventually succumbed to some sort of madness and committed mass suicide. Humanity only found one alien race still alive, an insectoid one still in its Stone Age. They too had succumbed to the same madness, and the entire race was psychotically violent, murdering each other over any minor slight and spontaneously committing suicide on a whim if there was nobody else around to kill. The only reason they hadn't gone extinct like the rest was because their birth rate was so high, and their young were able to defend themselves almost immediately after hatching. It's not until humanity has its first disastrous encounter with sane aliens 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". Anyone who spends enough time in it, be they natives of the Veil or outsiders coming into colonize the place, is 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". The reason we tell the other aliens for why we can live in the Veil is that we were already a little crazy to begin with. It's just something we made up to go with the whole Terrifying Psycho Alien act, of course, but the narrator muses that, since we're pretty much playing a giant practical joke on the entire galaxy, it might be true after all.
  • The Creepypasta "We Know You Are Out There" 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 the attack. Then the trope is double subverted. The aliens receive a message from the remaining humans: "We know you're out there, and we're coming for you."
  • This is a common theme in the "Humans are space orcs/elves/fae/australians" on Tumblr. Human are often depicted as treating absurd things as utterly normal, such as turning dangerous predators into pets or increasing the flavor of their food with poisonous plants. Other posts suggest that, while aliens often have hats like logic or economics or war, humanity's hat is being batshit crazy and willing to throw random bullshit at the wall until something sticks. Humanity are the species that would dump a warpdrive into the sun to see if it would perform fusion faster.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Humans Are Insane