Gabriel: Damn right, they're flawed! But a lot of them try... to do better... to forgive.
Humans suck, don't they? Their narcissism knows no bounds, their moral sense is hazy at best, they've been known to kill each other over the littlest slight, their physical prowess seems like a joke to some, they're often paradoxically too stupid to handle their vast intelligence, and to top it all off, they don't tend to look or smell too good, either. This gets worse if there are other races or superpowered people in the setting, compared to them we apparently must really suck, and there's no arguing about it.
Except... being flawed isn't necessarily a bad thing. To be human is said to be flawed, limited, and finite; but to be a good human is to nonetheless struggle through and work against or despite these limitations. That we live what many consider short lives and die gives the time in our lives meaning and fuel for art, science, and creativity. That we lack vast magical and psychic powers is countered because we can harness The Power of Love, Friendship, and all those lovely pink emotions.
So what if Rousseau isn't right and people are fundamentally mean, nasty and brutish? What merit is there in being good if you can't choose to do otherwise? Despite the inherent moral flaws of humanity, enough people are putting the effort into being nice and kind that it does make a difference. Even if seemed that Being Good Sucks, humanity as a whole realizes deep down that Being Evil Sucks more.
This is a typical fantasy/sci-fi aesop that gets referenced in other genres. Essentially, the aesop is we are Cursed With Awesome. If the story has a Fantastic Aesop against removing one of the above human flaws to better mankind, this trope is usually invoked as the reason why it's wrong.
Compare/contrast Humans Are Bastards when human beings in general are depicted as being inherently Jerkasses to each other, and Hobbes Was Right when humans play nicely with each other only because they are forced to do so. These human flaws may lead to other races considering that Humans Are the Real Monsters.
- Dragon Ball Super: During the Future Trunks Saga, this turns out to be the core of Zamasu's beliefs; he views mortals as Always Chaotic Evil since despite possessing the knowledge of the gods, they repeatedly go to war and keep making the same mistakes again and again. At first, he simply views this as making them not worth the gods' protection, but after a sparring match with Goku and discovering that mortals can grow powerful enough to challenge the gods, this spirals into a desire to wipe them all out.
- Zamasu's master, Gowasu, agrees that mortals are flawed beings, but insists that they can learn and grow from their mistakes and that it's the Kais' duty to protect and nurture them, while also making it a point that the gods themselves are not infallible and must also learn from their mistakes; Zamasu vehemently disagrees.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood devotes a whole Mind Screw of an episode to it in "Interlude Party". Human strength comes from the drive to overcome human weakness.
We will change. Because we can change, I know it. We may be weak, but we just have to be; if not, then we wouldnt have any reason to grow, to get strong. I know that it may seem futile to you, but its not, because we are getting stronger with every step we take. You see, Im sure we can change! Because were weak, and because we die. We have to fight in order to live, and thats what will make us strong.
- This seems to be the best way to sum up the philosophies of the main characters in the 2003 anime version. They've all done things they aren't proud of, but seem to take a "humans are inherently flawed, but all we can do is the best we can" approach to their struggles.
- Monster is largely about this. Tenma and Johan come to different conclusions from this premise.
- While Sound of the Sky ends on a fairly ambiguous note, Rio's ending narration works toward this trope.
Rio: Yeah...even if the world is going to end someday, until then, all that we have here with us is our future.
- This is discussed in Black Butler, by Ciel and Sebastian shortly after Ciel has ordered the murder of a large number of children. Ciel degrades humans for being weak and fundamentally evil and curses himself for being one, but Sebastian notes that it is this constant struggle and their lofty goals that makes them interesting.
- A central theme in Neon Genesis Evangelion, and what inspires the villains to pursue their Assimilation Plot.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica is filled with flawed humans. One of the driving forces of the plot is when the characters don't think out their decisions and act on impulse.
- This is Scheherazade's belief in Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic to contrast Mogammet's Humans Are the Real Monsters and What Measure Is a Non-Super?. Scheherazade knows that humans' flaws can take them to make mistakes and lose their paths but if they're brave enough, they can learn of their errors to be better and even invent great things that can be equal to magic.
- Berserk really blurs the line between this and Humans Are Bastards. On one hand, immorality, debauchery, violence, and corruption are a common occurrence, to the point where humans are easily capable of transforming into hideous demons by sacrificing those they care for the most (and nearly all have taken the deal when it was offered). However, there are points where one can also see the goodness of humanity at work.
- A good example is Guts himself. Early chapters painted him as a very dark and cynical character who is driven by anger and Revenge. However, Character Development has instilled in him a strong desire to protect those he cares about, and he's proven time and again that he will never abandon or betray them. Despite everything the guy has gone through, he's still able to find reason to trust those close to him.
- A major theme of Attack on Titan, exploring how humanity deals with extreme circumstances like famine, land shortages, floods of refugees, and of course giant monsters that want to eat them.
- Even though Black Bullet highlights the Humans Are Bastards trope a lot, Rentaro Satomi and Enju Aihara holds this viewpoint in regards to humanity. They both acknowledge that humanity has done very horrible things towards cursed children, but they still hold faith on humanity believing that there is a good side of being human and hoping society will accept cursed children as humans, which is why they continue fighting against the Gastrea.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V has this final viewpoint on humanity. While the show doesn't shy away from how vicious and cruel humanity can be, the Big Bad was revealed to ultimately be someone that desired for everyone to be happy until he was driven insane trying to listen to the general public's sadism and bloodlust. In the end, the show shows that nearly everyone can change for the better if someone is willing to show them the way.
- A major theme in Devilman is that humans can be just as cruel and bloodthirsty as the nearly Always Chaotic Evil demons that serve as the villains of the show, especially when driven mad with fear and paranoia.
- Transmetropolitan. A lot. Especially towards the end, where Spider constantly drops that, despite being a bastard and some sort of weird figure for the masses, he's still human like everyone else, along with all the great and the extra-evil that humanity does on a daily basis.
- This is one possible message of Watchmen: Because humans are flawed, our heroes will be as well, and thus our longing for perfect messianic figures to 'save us' is naive.
- In Supergod, Morrigan Lugus claims that the very concept of "God" is flawed because it was formed by "stupid monkeys" who need religion like junkies need their stash.
- Clive Barker's Next Testament: After Wick launches the apocalypse, his two divine brothers Unan and Filt counter Wick's diatribe that Humans Are Bastards by pointing out what that says about them as creators. Humans are necessarily flawed because that is all three of them managed to create.
- Second Coming: While years of trying reign humanity in and failing gives God a Humans Are Bastards stance and Jesus thinks that Humans Are Good and just needs encouragement, the comic itself veers more into this. By the end, God is less cynical about humans in his friendship with Sunstar and Sheila, while discovering just how twisted his followers have become teaches him that humans aren't exactly perfect either.
- Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Discussed by Dr. Chen in Chapter 12. Indeed, after the Mass Awakening, the majority of the public have grown accepting of the Titans' power and natural authority and their ecological importance, though there's still a minority that advocates attempting to kill Titans such as the Ghidorah-like Monster X out of paranoia. Vivienne Graham and human characters also deride the sheer reckless hubris of the military who deployed the Oxygen Destroyer, and the Mega-Corps who are utilizing Titan DNA.
- In Perfection is Overrated, a large part of the plot involves the characters of My-HiME dealing with their personal problems, with the point being that by being imperfect and having to struggle against their flaws and improve themselves, they are stronger people than the "perfect" SUEs, who remain complacent.
- The main reason SPEAR and its predecessors maintain the Masquerade in the Heroes of the Storm fanfic Heroes of the Desk. It remains unexplained precisely why The World Is Not Ready, but we get a Cryptic Background Reference to the fall of the Roman Empire due to The Unmasqued World.
- This is a central theme in the Yellowstone continuity of The Conversion Bureau. Before the start of the adventure, Celestia warns Twilight Sparkle that humans are savage creatures. By the end, Twilight does admit that humans can be harsh, but only because Earth is far more unforgiving than Equestria. It's for this reason that she comes to the conclusion that while humans most certainly aren't perfect, they generally try to do good more often than not, and that the humans who are just plain evil are the exception. Celestia turns out to agree with her.
- A similar theme comes up in The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum - humanity's sheer savagery in the ways of war is extensively explored, and it's clear that there are some legitimately bad people out there...however, much like Yellowstone above, it's also made very clear that humans Had to Be Sharp to survive a much harsher world, and the great tragedy underlying the story is that it's very clear humanity and ponykind could accomplish so many amazing things together (and have), but some adamantly refuse to believe it's possible. At the same time though, it's also made clear that the majority of the ponies (including TCB Celestia herself) were brainwashed into hating humanity because The Man Behind the Man is engineering a plot to punish the whole human race as revenge for being beaten by one single human in the distant past.
- In Sonic X: Dark Chaos Episode 75, Shadow the Hedgehog (of all people) uses this as his Kirk Summation when Maledict gives him a We Can Rule Together speech. When Maledict tells him that the "monkeys" are nothing but mongrels who corrupted his perfect design, Shadow retorts in a very neat Continuity Nod to the show's Sonic Adventure 2 arc:
Shadow: I made a promise to a girl I loved named Maria. I forgot that promise and I nearly wiped out an entire race because of it. You despise humans... and yet a human taught me the most valuable lesson of all; there are still things worth fighting for.
- This District 9 fanfic, explores the relationship between Christopher and Wikus. Christopher Johnson, despite having to endure humanity's cruelty and affronts, is also aware of humanity's capacity for good, which is why he is willing to tolerate Wikus.
Christopher's thoughts: The man was most certainly not the nicest of his kind. If it wasn't because Christopher knew better, he would give him away to the MNU right away. But the prawn had seen, on his first weeks on this planet, the softer, more generous side of this race. Had they not given them food and shelter instead of killing them all? Had they not provided a home once they knew they would never be able to leave, granted that home was not as cozy or as welcoming as one could hope? Maybe this human could still prove his worth. And gazing at the human's new arm he got the feeling the human would at least give it a try, since now he had no choice but to adapt, like he himself, along with all his people, had had to learn to adapt once on a strange new world. Christopher understood the man because he knew well what it was like to be trapped in a world in which you don't seem to belong.
- A Brighter Dark: In this Alternate Universe retelling of Fire Emblem Fates, the majority of the cast has pretty good intentions. Even characters who were previously utterly evil in the canon series are altered to have more believable ideals: the fighters on both sides of the war between Nohr and Hoshido are just trying to do what's right for their people. However their personal flaws and inability to communicate make finding peaceful resolutions impossible and is the primary cause of all the bloodshed that happens, despite both sides being made up of primarily decent individuals.
- Pokémon Reset Bloodlines has this as a subtle theme across the universe. For all of humanity's faults it is capable of, and has, improved.
- A Rabbit Among Wolves: The ghost of Adam, surprisingly enough, takes this view. He sees most of humanity, not as malicious, but naïve about what faunus experience. Largely because they don't know what it is like to be seen as subhuman.
- The Amazing Spider-Man: The starting point of Dr. Connors' research; he longs to create a world in which everyone is equal, a world in which illness and weakness don't exist. At the height of his insanity, he comes to the conclusion that humans are so imperfect that it's not right to leave them unevolved.
The Lizard: I sought to create a stronger human being, but there's no such thing! Human beings are weak, pathetic, feeble-minded creatures... why be human at all, when we can be so much more?
- This is one of the main themes (arguably the main theme) of the movie. Even if the Pax had worked perfectly, it still would've been wrong to stifle the human emotional range for the sake of peace.
- Also Mal points out our flaws (Sins) are what keeps humans from just laying down and dying.
- Equilibrium takes a similar approach. The entire reason for the plot was because human emotions were a flaw and the cause of 'man's inhumanity to man.' The ending, while portrayed positively, never exactly comes clear on whether restoring human emotion is a good thing.
- Played very oddly and combined with Humans Are Special in Green Lantern; what makes humans so special is that we're willing to admit that we're flawed.
- Deconstructed in The World's End. It turns out that humanity is the least civilized species in the galaxy, and the Network is trying to bring humanity to a level where it could be brought into the galactic community. However, to do so they have to remove anyone who doesn't want to be part of the Network; and because humanity doesn't like being told what to do, the Network need to replace a lot of people in an attempt to make them more acceptable to the galactic community. Arguably, the point of Gary, Andrew, and Steven's rebuttal is that "Humans are special because they are flawed".
- In The Giver, all emotions have been evolved out of humanity in order for it to overcome its flaws, and from a totalitarian standpoint it works-but as Jonas and the Giver show the Community, emotions are what make life worth it and are part of what makes us special.
- In Wonder Woman (2017), Amazon myth tells that humanity is good and noble and just. However, since the movie takes place in World War One, Diana eventually comes to this conclusion; that there are humans that are violent and evil and cruel...but just as many that are what she was told about in her youth.
- At the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Bruce acknowledges that humans are flawed, that they fight, kill, and betray one another, but they're still good and can rebuild and do better.
- In SHAZAM! (2019), the Wizard spends decades searching for a truly good person to fight as his champion, and brings dozens of people into the Rock of Ages to test them, only for each of them to fail. You'd think that Billy Batson, who takes on the eponymous hero's powers, would be that person, right? Wrong. The only reason the Wizard chose Billy was because he had no other choice after Dr. Sivana(who'd failed many years ago) invaded the Rock of Ages and freed the Seven Deadly Sins, and Billy spends much of the movie fooling around with his new powers, only truly becoming a hero when his foster family is endangered. The implication that no one could ever pass the test says a lot about humanity.
- Vision: Humans are odd. They think order and chaos are somehow opposites, and try to control what won't be. But there is grace in their failings. I think you missed that.Ultron: They're doomed.Vision: Yes. But a thing isn't beautiful because it lasts. It's a privilege to be among them.
- Used in Stranger in a Strange Land. Compared to Martians, Humans are less intelligent, more violent, and less powerful. However, with a little wisdom from Mars courtesy of Michael, Humans can become immortal, psychic, spiritually peaceful, and sexually polyamorous. It's a bit of an Author Tract, but not an unpleasant one.
- This trope is one of the underlying themes of Good Omens. Crowley and Aziraphale are constantly dealing with the paradox that humans are not only capable of vile cruelty and heavenly virtue, these things can exist within one person.
- In the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, the Crippled God uses this as a premise for his cults of salvation. Unfortunately, rather than delivering the message that mortals can overcome their flaws to do good, the religion is a worship of suffering and degradation.
- Robert J. Sawyer's The Neanderthal Parallax trilogy describes a parallel world in which Neanderthal man became the dominant species, and in almost every way homo sapiens compares badly. The Neanderthals live in harmony with nature, having a lower population and no pollution. Further they have no crime, violence or war, and (possible Author Tract) no religion. The effect is to highlight all of humanity's flaws by describing alternate-world humans that have none of them.
- This is lampshaded by the Neanderthals literally having bred out of their own population all the negative traits by a program of enforced sterilizations over thousands of years (there is also one example involving domestic violence wherein this system is shown to utterly and totally fail).
- A theme of the series as a whole. Summed up in one book that says that to be human is to be "the place where the fallen angel meets the rising ape."
- Lords and Ladies uses this to contrast with Can't Argue with Elves. The elves end up losing because humans are flawed in comparison. Because humans die and change, they learn.
- In Alan Dean Foster's The Damned trilogy, humanity is discovered by an alliance of super-civilized alien species who are being forced to fight a war against their will. Compared to them we are portrayed as barely civilized, warlike, violence-crazed, and brutish, and indeed our love for inflicting death and destruction makes us the perfect soldiers. However we're also capable of great things, and many humans try to control their instincts and strive for more than just being the alliance's grunts.
- British statesman Lord Chesterfield in Letters to His Son: "In the mass of mankind, I fear, there is too great a majority of fools and, knaves; who, singly from their number, must to a certain degree be respected, though they are by no means respectable. And a man who will show every knave or fool that he thinks him such, will engage in a most ruinous war, against numbers much superior to those that he and his allies can bring into the field. Abhor a knave, and pity a fool in your heart; but let neither of them, unnecessarily, see that you do so." (letter 60)
- An underlying theme on all J. R. R. Tolkien 's books, but especially The Silmarillion. Zig-zagged with Humans Are the Real Monsters, as Men are behind all the catastrophes befalling on Elves and themselves. Men are also the only race willingly turn unto Evil.
- James Herbert's The Rats subverts expectations by not letting a hero-figure arise to save the day. Without exception, all the human characters in the book are flawed, limited, rather depressingly seedy, and completely out of their depth.
- The Wheel of Time is an almost textbook example, to the point where this trope is built into the cosmology of the series. Eliminating the Dark One would lead to a soporifically dull world in which all humans are mindless automatons, and as the Dark One himself points out, this in itself would be a victory for him. Ultimately the protagonist is forced to leave the world's cosmology in balance, and it is implied this is all anyone will ever be able to do.
- Harry Potter wrestles with this for the better part of a year in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when it comes to Dumbledore's full backstory. Harry had viewed him until his death with a large degree of hero worship and it's not until after the fact that he began to realize that he was far from perfect. Harry spends most of the book mad at him for never telling him important things like the fact that he had a sister who died or that he had a brief "friendship" with the previous Big Bad Grindelwald as a teen and the fact that he left Harry very vague instructions about how to defeat Voldemort. It's not until the very end of the book that Harry realizes that the former two things are very closely related and it was a very catastrophic example of a My Greatest Failure that he'd never brought up because he still hated himself for all of it. He also realizes the latter is more out of protection for him than everything. So after getting a chance to hear the full story from his brother and talking to "him" in the limbo between life and death, Harry comes to realize that Dumbledore did love him and was a good man. He'd made one particular huge mistake in his life but at the end of the day he was a person and people make mistakes. He ultimately forgives him, so much that he names his younger son after him.
- In Pact, Alexis, one of a community of starving artists based out of Toronto, takes this as her view of humanity. People, she argues, are fundamentally damaged—by life and by their own individual traumas. She takes this belief as her inspiration for helping others since she wants to be one of the ones that does a net value of good for the rest instead of a net evil.
- Vampirocracy: The laundry list of human flaws (being moronic divided bastards, mostly) drives vampires to take over the world for their own safety.
- The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ: The Stranger tells Christ that this trope is the reason why Jesus' mission is doomed to fail - not because he's wrong, but because he demands more of people than they will ever be capable of delivering.
The Stranger: People are capable of great things, but only when great circumstances call on them. They cant live at that pitch all the time, and most circumstances are not great. In daily life people are tempted by comfort and peace; they are a little lazy, a little greedy, a little cowardly, a little lustful, a little vain, a little irritable, a little envious.
- In Paladin of Souls, when Ista is trying to unravel demons from the human souls they're possessing, she's worried that she's not getting them perfectly sorted out. Her god chimes in with some reassurance.
Ista: It is imperfect.The Bastard: So are all things trapped in time. You are brilliant, nonetheless. How fortunate for Us that We thirst for glorious souls rather than faultless ones, or We should be parched indeed, and most lonely in Our perfect righteousness. Carry on imperfectly, shining Ista.
- Lilith's Brood: According to the Cthulhumanoid Oankali geneticists who rescue a remnant of humanity After the End, the "Human Contradiction" is that they possess both advanced intelligence and an animalistic drive to form social hierarchies, which will inevitably lead humanity to destroy itself again.
- In Kane story "Two Suns Setting" that is the main point of the discussion between Kane and last king of dwarves Dwassllir. Dwassllir argues that humans are weak and would be nothing without their civilisation, which is like crutches to a cripple, while Kane points out that's exactly the point and that thanks to their inherent weakness and need for civilisations humans have become the fastest-growing race.
- Despite shouting "Humanity Is Superior!" humans are most certainly not. One episode has aliens use Crichton's memory to simulate the possible outcome of revealing themselves to humanity in order to seek asylum. It doesn't end well. However, Crichton does become one of the most useful shipmates on Moya because of his ignorance and scientific training. It helps he was stir crazy at appropriate times.
- Even more than that, it's Crichton's (and humanity's) persistence in the face of the toughest odds that set them apart from other species. It is viewed as a flaw by many, that humans are so ignorant they don't know when they're beat, but that characteristic is what kept Crichton and his shipmates alive for so long.
- This is the whole reason for the Q's "prosecution" of humanity in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Of course, the reaction to this is where the Patrick Stewart Speech got its name.
- The Ancients (despite being humanity's progenitors) and the Nox, super-advanced alien races in the Stargate-verse, seemed to hold the fact that humanity was flawed against the SG-C, seizing on the slightest issue to deliver some moralizing message or condemnation (sometimes appropriate to the situation, but often not). Made worse by the Ancients being a bunch of expletives anyway. By way of contrast, the Asgard were both friendly and helpful despite knowing humanity was flawed, likely because unlike the other two they admitted they too had flaws. O'Neill once gave a heartfelt speech to the effect of 'we will mess up a lot as a species, but we are out here with you now and we are trying our best'. As he made it to the Asgard they were very approving.
- Seems to be the Doctor's view of humanity in Doctor Who, as Earth is his "favorite/pet planet" so to speak, but will turn around and ridicule humans about their shortcomings should the situation be extreme enough.
The Doctor: Human beings. You are amazing. Hah! Thank you.
Zachary Cross Flane: Not at all.
The Doctor: But apart from that you're completely mad. You should pack your bags, get back in that ship, and fly for your lives.
- This is how Jor-El views humans, and his spirit bemoans that Clark Kent was raised by humans and thus, thinks like one. One of the only reasons why he did not give up on humanity completely, was because Jonathan Kent's father offered him food and shelter when he visited Earth in the 1960s (even super-powered Kryptonians need to eat and sleep). The message on Kal-El's ship:
On this third planet from this star Sol, you will be a god among men. They are a flawed race. Rule them with strength, my son. That is where your greatness lies.
- It should be noted that the A.I. of Jor-El believes this, not the real Jor-El. Reason being is that he created the A.I. version of himself without any of his own flaws - which, in this case, meant emotions. Considering how he later warms up to humanity as a whole, displays emotion, and states that Clark's destiny is to be a hero, not a conqueror, suggests that this might have been manipulation on the A.I.'s part.
- For a while Brainiac masquerades as Clark's history professor. In one episode he goes into a spiel in class that lists various examples of humans' willingness to betray their friends. At the end of the episode, Clark admits humans aren't perfect and are certainly capable of greed and treachery. We're also capable of honor and compassion.
- This is how Jor-El views humans, and his spirit bemoans that Clark Kent was raised by humans and thus, thinks like one. One of the only reasons why he did not give up on humanity completely, was because Jonathan Kent's father offered him food and shelter when he visited Earth in the 1960s (even super-powered Kryptonians need to eat and sleep). The message on Kal-El's ship:
- Lucifer believes this, calling humans "broken, flawed abortions." When God asked all of his angels to bow down before humans, Lucifer refused. "Father, I can't! These human beings are flawed! Murderous!" Naturally, Lucifer is a bit of a Hypocrite in that regard.
- Gabriel subverts this somewhat, since while he does state that humans are flawed, he also finds them better than most angels, since "a lot of them try... to do better... To forgive."
- Metatron also subverts it when talking to God, as he says that while humanity cheats and steals and destroys, they also give and create and sing and dance, and above all, they never give up.
- A theme in the Merlin (1998) series, best shown when the Lady of the Lake tells Merlin, "It's human to make mistakes, Merlin, and part of you is human . . . the best part."
- Discussed in an episode of Red Dwarf, referring to John F. Kennedy:
- In Babylon 5, all the races are flawed. Discovering how truly flawed even the "superior" races are is a major element of the myth arc.
- Person of Interest: Root believes this without believing there's anything redeemable about humans.
- The Sopranos, in which selfishness, myopia, and dysfunction are portrayed as the constants of the human condition.
- As in the movie "sequel" Serenity, in Firefly the flawed nature of humanity is one of the central themes of the series.
Mal: Mercy is the mark of a great man. [pokes Atherton Wing with sword] Guess I'm just a good man. [pokes him again] Well, I'm all right.
- The central conflict of The Good Place is how rigid and overly strict the system used for judging humans is, as it runs on a Black-and-White Morality line with no room for Grey-and-Grey Morality nuance. The four main humans aren't horrible people but they have deep character flaws due in large part by being victims of circumstance (Eleanor's Abusive Parents and Jason's sucky environment, for example), and all of them show their capacity for growth and becoming better over time.
- Kids Praise: It's not uncommon for characters (even Psalty himself!) to display flaws, such as selfishness, lack of empathy, or not having their priorities straight. How they and those around them deal with those flaws is a common recurring theme.
- "Dark Side" by Kelly Clarkson:
Everybody's got a dark side
Do you love me?
Can you love mine?
Nobody's a picture perfect
But we're worth it
You know that we're worth it
- "Savages" by Marina & the Diamonds is the contemplation of Humans Are Bastards vs. Humans Are Flawed. She leans more towards the former but still asks, "Is it a human trait, or is it learned behaviour?" and says, "we can be bad as we can be good."
- Christianity teaches that humans exist in a fallen state, with Jesus stating in the Gospel of Matthew that "...out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." (NKJV) At the same time, the faith teaches that every human being is made in the Image of God, and as such, has infinite inherent worth.
- This is the basis for the Jewish tradition of the Lamed Vavniks, or "Thirty Six": it's believed that there have never been fewer than thirty-six righteous men and women, and they're the ones who justify the whole of humanity before the eyes of God. That's it: Yahweh tolerates His flawed children because there are always at least 36 of them who are "good enough"; the implication being that, if the righteous were ever to fall below this number, He would give up on humanity and destroy everyone. (Yay!)
- This is the general feeling of New Horizon. Humans did some terrible things and had to leave Earth, but now that they're on a new planet they have a grand future!
- Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000: The Chaos gods are usually agreed to be the worst of Mankind's enemies. Unfortunately, since they are basically made of emotion (rage, love, desire, and hope), humanity keeps fueling them even when defeating their agents in the material plane.
- In every iteration of Dungeons & Dragons before Third Edition, the distinguishing feature of Humans was that they had no distinguishing features. Every other race had a laundry list of special abilities. The tradeoff for this was that humans were the only race that could be any class (in fact, they were the only race that could be paladins at all) and could reach the maximum level in every class. The explanation generally given for this was that being generally unexceptional and shorter-lived than other races caused humans to be more ambitious and faster learners. In Third through Fourth Edition, humans have been given special racial abilities, but they tend to make humans more versatile instead of more powerful (for example, in 4E, humans get +2 to any one stat of their choice, while every other race gets +2 to two stats, but one of them is fixed and the other is either also fixed or a choice of two stats).
- 20th-century Playwright Arnold Wesker wrote a trilogy of plays (Chicken Soup and Barley, Roots, I'm Talking About Jerusalem) about a family trying to deal with changing social times. The final play in the trilogy features a young idealistic couple trying to make an independent living for themselves, but eventually fail.
I do the right things, I say the right things, but somewhere, some bloody where I fail as a human being.
- This is a major theme of BioShock. No matter what kind of ideal society a person tries to create — an Objectivist city of laissez-faire capitalism, a culture based on altruism, or even just an attempt at overthrowing institutionalized racism — human flaws inevitably doom it.
- System Shock: Lo-lo-look at you, hacker. A p-p-pathetic creature of meat and bone, panting and sweating as you r-run through my corridors-s. H-h-how can you challenge a perfect, immortal machine?
- In many ways a staple of Shin Megami Tensei games. While the Neutral endings (the ones most heavily focusing on the potential of Humanity, as opposed to delivering ourselves into the easy path promised by the power of the Lord or the temptations of the demons) are presented as the most optimistic of the lot, one must remember that both YHVH and Lucifer were born of Humanity's own Order Versus Chaos conflict - until the race finishes sorting out its messes for good, both will forever be reborn over and over, and their war shall never end.
- In the Persona series, every major divine being is an Anthropomorphic Personification of something within the human heart (be it our good constructive parts (Philemon) or our fear of yet subconscious longing for death (Nyx). The Aesop of the franchise can pretty much be said to be that we humans are flawed but that we can overcome them.
- In Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, Manuela comes to the conclusion that the ability to feel pain (mental/emotional pain at our mistakes, in particular) is what makes a person human, and that's a good thing, at least as opposed to being a super tough (but mindless and destructive) zombie monster.
- While it first appears to set up a Humans Are the Real Monsters message, Eien no Aselia in the end opts for this. You have your instantly nice and understanding characters like Yuuto and Lesteena, your neutralish characters like Kouin and the populace at large, and finally the evil people like Shun and Soma. The populace eventually grows to accept Yuuto and the spirits and see them as heroes, while Shun gets a decent motivation in a New Game+ and a Sympathy for the Devil moment.
- This is very apparent in L.A. Noire, what with the scores of less-than-perfect people Cole encounters. This trope is even invoked by Roy Earle, of all people ("Everyone has their vices, even you, Cole."). Even Cole ends up having an affair and leaving his wife and kids, and even then, his past was hardly spotless.
- This seems to be a major theme in The World Ends with You. Ultimately humans are flawed creatures obsessed with themselves until they clash with other people and their viewpoints, show with Neku's character growth. The act of having to clash itself suggests that only conflict causes humans to grow in any meaningful way.
- In Dm C Devil May Cry, Mundus mocks Dante's desire to free humanity from demons by claiming that humans had freedom before he came, and in his words "They fought. They killed. They starved. I brought order." Vergil also believes this is true, and wishes to rule humanity alongside Dante after Mundus is defeated. He believes humans are like children that need to be protected from themselves. Dante counters this by pointing out that they would never have defeated Mundus without the aid of Kat, a human.
- In Shin Super Robot Wars, Master Asia, who happens to be an agent of the Dug Government in this game, met Domon Kasshu's father Professor Kasshu and Char Aznable and figures the latter was where his problems started, coming short on the heels of the signing of the Luna Treaty that guarantees independence and sovereignty for the Earth, Moon, and space colonies. This treaty was enough to bring peace to the war-weary humans, but could not by itself remove the scars of the war. Char, who loved humanity more than anyone, also hated it more, having sacrificed numerous followers and taken many lives himself. Since he possessed vast influence and resources, Master Asia treated him as a representative of humanity. He was led to believe that humans were unstable, destructive beings, and decided to manipulate Kasshu to help nip any potential for trouble in the bud.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- This is the opinion of the Daedra (both the Daedric Princes and lesser Daedra) toward mortals. They perceive mortals as weak, foolish, and doomed from birth. What they cannot understand is why, despite knowing their lives are finite, mortals do not despair.
- The Magna-Ge, aka "Star Orphans", are et'Ada ("original spirits") who fled during the creation of Mundus (the mortal plane) along with their "father" Magnus after realizing the sacrifices it would take to create. They too have a rather low opinion of mortals, calling them "M-Null", while believing they are "affected by tainted magic" and owe their growth and prosperity to greater beings.
- In terms of mankind specifically, this is the opinion of the races of Mer (Elves) along with thinking that Humans Are Bastards. To the elves, mankind lives pitifully short lives filled with violence and savagery. Their version of the Creation Myth even states that mankind was specifically created out of the "weakest souls" to be bastards by a Jerkass God.
- One of the biggest themes of the Mother series. Porky symbolizes humanity's sins, while the heroes represent its ability to overcome them and be better. Who wins in the end? Eh... you decide.
- In Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, the Fae are of this opinion to all the mortal races (or "Children of Dust"). Although it's a Broken Base in-universe as some Fae think we are a mistake the gods made but won't remove while others love us for it because they say our lives, while short, are more interesting and meaningful, since we don't live by the enforced "Groundhog Day" Loop they do (also some of them have grown weary of immortality) which means we have to carefully consider HOW we live our lives.
- A major point of the Guilty Gear series, and very evident in some of the character's backstories:
- The main protagonist, Sol Badguy, was once a genius scientist who created the Gears and was against his will turned into one himself. Wracked with enormous guilt note over the destruction his creations caused, he has undertaken a personal mission to hunt down and destroy every last Gear in existence. Over time, his rivalry with Ky Kiske turned into a solid friendship, and he also became close to Ky's wife Dizzy, and his son, Sin, who are both Gears. Much of his Character Development in Xrd is about him trying to overcome his obsession with his past.
- Dr. Baldhead was once a good doctor who never failed to treat the sick. Until one day, when a young girl died on his operating table. His guilt drove him insane and he became a serial killer, killing people with a giant scalpel. One day, the girl appeared to him in a vision and told him that her death wasn't his fault and that she was assassinated. Baldhead had a Freak Out and disappeared. Some time later, rumours of a talented but eccentric healer wearing a paper bag on his head circulated. The man refers to himself simply as Faust, but he's actually a reformed Dr. Baldhead, taking time to atone for his past by using his healing powers and also tracking down the young girl's killers. He grapples with his Ax-Crazy inner-self and admits to still having a fondness for bloodshed, but he manages to keep it under control.
- Millia Rage was orphaned at an early age and coerced by her ex-Bastard Boyfriend to assassinate people, but she has since betrayed her employers and really just wants to be left alone now. She struggles to form relationships with people, she grapples with her past, and she is rather cynical and spiteful towards men. She is a fairly decent person deep down, however.
- Pretty hard to believe that Chipp Zanuff, the idiotic goofball who jumps around shouting Gratuitous Japanese, was once a drug dealer. He believes his ninja master saved him from his tortured life, and so he's a decent guy now. By Xrd, he's become the president of a small country.
- Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light's Big Bad declares that he is the darkness in everyone's heart and that he would never have gained power if humans weren't inclined towards evil in the first place; all of the problems in the game were caused by his servants using Batman Gambits to manipulate people into being greedy, paranoid, hateful, etc. The party's Guest Star Party Members turn up and say that while human beings are sometimes ugly and wicked, they also have a boundless capacity for hope and love, giving the party the boost they need to defeat his final form.
- Mass Effect has this as one of its main themes. Humans, as well as every other race in the galaxy except the Reapers, have both good and bad individuals in them, and while there are many lawless areas in the galaxy, and the Obstructive Bureaucrat tendencies of many politicians, the Citadel species are overall doing their best. Shepard can even say this in Mass Effect 2.
"People are messy, awkward, sometimes selfish and cruel. But they're trying, and I'm going to make sure they have a chance."
- The Pacifist Run in Undertale has the trope shown to the monsters, most of which are trying to kill the human player character for various reasons (some truly hate humans due to a war that occurred many years ago (which was heavily implied to be, at best, a Hopeless Boss Fight for the monsters) that led to the monsters being sealed in the Underground. Others only want the player character's soul so that they can finally escape said Underground and see the sky again). However, thanks to the protagonist sparing monsters, they see that not all humans are bad and some are actually pretty ok and can be good friends in spite of their flaws. The pacifist ending shows the humans making peace with the monsters, despite the bloody history they had, as the two races live side by side once more, flaws be damned.
- Kid Icarus: Uprising has this as its hat, with most of the gods having various negative opinions on humanity. Medusa sees them as playthings and vermin to crush under her heel. Poseidon sees them as prideful, envious, and deceitful beings who need to be put in their place when they get too uppity. Viridi sees them as destructive to both themselves and the planet and wants to wipe them out to protect the world. Hades refers to them as greedy beings who will happily fight and kill each other for their desires and his own entertainment. Even Palutena refers to them as greedy and selfish beings driven by desires, but unlike the other gods is willing to admit that the gods aren't so different and whenever the gods fight, humans are always the innocent bystanders caught in the cross-fire.
- Humans are portrayed as this throughout much of the Mega Man franchise. While are there are undeniably heroic humans such as Dr. Light, Cain and Ciel, every conflict in nearly the entire timeline ultimately stems from Dr. Wily's petty feud with Light, and other villains such as Sigma and Dr. Weil hold unabashed Humans Are Bastards viewpoints even though Weil is a human himself and gleefully indulges in his Card-Carrying Villain status. Humans are also portrayed as becoming increasingly complacent and reliant on machines, to the point that Zero expresses disgust with the citizens of Neo Arcadia for mindlessly tolerating an oppressive dictatorship simply because it fulfills their basic needs. Ultimately, though, X continues to maintain hope for humanity, and Zero tries to help him realize his vision of true peace between humans and reploids out of respect.
- Danganronpa 2 has Monokuma narrate about a fable about tengus living in the forest. It results in the humans building civilization on nature's behalf out of fear of said tengus. Monokuma diverts the story away from the tengus by proposing that humans are the true monsters for destroying the habitat of said tengus.
- Danganronpa V3 has Monkuma and the Monokubs express their profound dislike for the human species. Monotaro begins by announcing that humans call bears "monsters", then elaborates from his point by saying that the Humans Are the Real Monsters because they demolish the habitats of wild animals (bears in particular). Monokuma finds out what Monotaro is implying with this and begins to relay his point, explicitly saying that all humans are self-centred creatures. As this is Danganronpa, Shuichi responds to Monokuma appropriately to his point - all of the cast except for Kokichi continue to question the unfortunate situation of Gonta having to be executed (he wasn't yet executed at that point, but he was condemned to an execution).
- This brought up in Chapter 28 of Gunnerkrigg Court, where Kat the roboticist is depressed due to finding out that the creator of the Court's robots also cooked up a plan to assassinate the fae lover of the woman he obsessed over, then spent the rest of his life regretting that he basically left said woman in a ditch to starve to death, all while his co-conspirators hatched this plan alongside him to protect the technologically-advanced court from the magical denizens of the Giliti Woods. Her irritation is interrupted after she finds a baby pigeon and takes it to her friend Paz, an animal lover who works with lab rats. Kat has a breakdown after learning all the things the Court does, but Paz reminds her that the Court (and indirectly, the robots who are the original roboticist's descendants, who spend every waking moment trying to better themselves or be helpful) is also capable of recognizing its flaws and changing them:
Paz: The Court isn't a big monster that does as it pleases. Es a collection of people, working to do what they think is right.
- The Order of the Stick takes an interesting stance on this — After Roy's death during the Battle of Azure City, he ends up in Mt. Celestia, the afterlife for those of Lawful Good. His record is examined and he explains some of the issues or accepts the mistakes. Throughout it all, it's noted that while some of his pragmatic actions lean him toward Neutral Good, the deva interviewing him notes one major factor: he's trying. As mortals, the Celestial Bureaucracy notes that it would entirely unreasonable to expect him to stay perfectly straight-and-narrow all the time. To them, the fact that he keeps getting up and trying to adhere to Lawful Good rather than switch alignment shows that the effort is more important than results. This is also why he is permitted to enter into Mt. Celestia proper unlike his father (who is barred because of his Blood Oath.) The deva responds that Roy still made a genuine effort in trying to fulfill the Oath that his father Eugene forced onto him while Eugene himself gave up a while back and didn't try since then (this tendency of Eugene to obsess over certain goals and then change is his Fatal Flaw.) Ultimately, the point is that humans or more broadly speaking mortals are flawed, but that's okay as long as they keep trying their best because they're not perfect given the nature of life.
- Kill Six Billion Demons: The vast majority of races in the multiverse were created by the smith-god Koss. They are immortal, reincarnate in various forms, and are all built for a single specific purpose. Humans, however, were simply the result of the goddess Aesma getting jealous and deciding to create her own race to prove she was better than Koss. Humans are short-lived, cannot reincarnate, and have no specific purpose. However, this also means that they have nearly unlimited potential. Notably, of the seven Demiurges who rule the multiverse, six are human. The seventh is a massive dragon, and is by far the physically weakest; most of his power comes from the fact that he maintains the economy for all of Creation.
- Go look up the life of your real-life heroes. They are likely to have a flaw or several. They can still be great men or women. They are also human. Human history is full of this.
- There are some radical schools of thought claiming that all human flaws are only considered such due to societal pressure and should be cultivated rather than suppressed as they are the true and 'natural' traits of humanity.
- This is heavily debated in metaphysical circles. Some religions — for instance, Christianity — argue we are inherently flawed (to various degrees). This position is called Original Sin. But many philosophies and some religions disagree with this premise. Even within Christianity itself, this is debated.
- Of course, it should also be pointed out that despite humanity's flawed and broken nature, all but the most utterly cynical branches of Christianity and other faiths and philosophies still point out that humanity inherently possesses value and virtue as well.
- Of course, one can empirically observe many flaws in many humans. But this is a less strong claim than humans are inherently flawed.
- Within certain forms of Buddhism, this trope, combined with Humans Are Special, is the exact reason for why it is preferable to be reborn as a human: All other possible beings one can be reborn as are either too flawed (ghosts are primarily only driven by their base needs, beasts lack man's intelligence and longevity) or not flawed enough (the Deva can live for millions of years, have all their worldly desires fulfilled with a thought and don't have any reason to improve themselves). Humans, however, are, with their short lives and shortcomings, just flawed enough to strive for improvement and just wise enough to achieve enlightenment during their lives.
- Certain philosophies hold that humans would not be flawed if they would just return to some larger cosmic purpose that our ancestors abandoned. Several sages have even posited that we can progressively lose or overcome our flaws on the way back to said purpose.
- As many writing guides will tell you, flaws are what draws people to fictional characters.