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Humans Are Insects

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"You call us parasites, but we are responsible for balancing nature. You humans are the real parasites of nature!"
Mayor Takeshi Hirokawa, Parasyte

Why are so many animal and plant species extinct now? Did humans seek to eradicate them, hunting them to the ends of the Earth until none were left? No. Humans just hunted for meat or furs, or destroyed the forest the creatures lived in to create farmland, or polluted a river as a side effect of making plastics...

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This is humans getting a taste of their own medicine. This villain has no love, respect, hate, or even scorn for human feelings. Well, maybe scorn, but only if he has to. Often he's so godlike that to him, humans are nothing more than animals to be exterminated, manipulated, kept as pets or experimented on. In such cases, it's common to compare humans to insects or worms, because humans don't pay these things even the scant attention that they do to mammals and birds.

Eldritch Abominations often have this attitude, which may even be their defining trait.

Basically Lack of Empathy meets Puny Earthlings. Contrast Humans Are Cthulhu.


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • While demons in the Devilman want to Kill All Humans, God has a complete disregard for them. He wipes out all life on Earth, repeatedly, just to punish Satan for rebelling.
  • Father of Fullmetal Alchemist has this view, exemplified here:
    "Do you look at insects and worms on the ground and think them foolish? No. Your position is so far above theirs that you cannot feel one way or the other about them, right? That is how I see humankind."
    • In the Swedish translation the same statement is even more to the point:
    "Laugh at you? Certainly not. Do you laugh at worms crawling in the dirt next to the sidewalk? Of course not. They're too small, too insignificant. You don't even notice them. That is precisely how I see humanity."
  • Acnologia the Dragon from Fairy Tail doesn't even bother talking with humans when attacking in the same fashion humans don't talk to lower animals when dealing with them. This is especially poignant when you learn that Acnologia Was Once a Man himself.
    • In a similar fashion, the demons of the dark guild Tartaros see themselves as a whole to be superior to humans to varying degrees between each member, with Mard Geer considering them lower than insects and even going so far as to brutally punish one of the Nine Demon Gates, Kyoka, for torturing Erza, not because it wasn't necessary or even because it didn't work, but because it implies to him that she likes humans, even if only as playthings.
  • This is one of the key views held by Mayor Takeshi Hirokawa in Parasyte, as best shown by his Motive Rant right before he is killed in Chapter 55 / Episode 21. Despite being a human himself. Mayor Hirokawa's fundamental belief in the wastefulness of humanity and their lack of care on how this impacts the Earth, causes him to see the Parasites as the solution to preserve the Earth - reducing the human population via preying on them. Thus, he argues humans to be the true parasites infesting the planet Earth, as opposed to the Parasites themselves. His speech provides the page quote above.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica when Madoka asks the Big Bad if they care at all about the Magical Girls who suffered, they respond with "do humans care about cattle and pigs they raise and slaughter?".
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency, the Pillar Men are vampiric superhumans who hold themselves far above humans. Shortly after waking up, one of them bumped into Caesar's friend Mark, absorbing half of his body in the process. The Pillar Men didn't even notice what happened. Speedwagon compares this to humans not noticing when they step on ants.
  • The villains of Dragon Ball Z tends to be of this variety, treating everyone who doesn't have a power level of a god like insects. The biggest offender is probably Frieza, who has spent decades and possibly centuries tormenting the entire galaxy, wiping out planets on a whim, exterminating countless species, or sometimes not even bothering to get his hands dirty and sending his sadistic henchmen to do it for him. Cell and the Androids were much the same, but Cell wasn't around for long, and the Androids only got around to this in the Bad Future.
  • In Overlord, it would be faster to list the inhabitants of Nazarick who DON'T fit this trope.

    Comics 
  • Galactus doesn't think about the people he kills when he eats a planet. He's just hungry. Mind you, he's not HAPPY about it; Galactus himself was once a humanoid alien named Galen. He's a slightly more sympathetic version of this trope than normal as well, as Galactus is actually a Sentient Cosmic Force used to keep the anthropomorphic personification of Entropy imprisoned.
  • Mr Mxyzptlk, a trickster-villain from the Superman comics, belongs to a society of reality-warping imps from the Fifth Dimension who view all species from our dimensions this way. Notably however, they do so in a semi-benevolent way, and have laws against torturing or mistreating us, not because they value our lives but because they believe it's beneath their species' dignity to sink to such base cruelties. As such, Mxyzptlk is considered a criminal by them as well.
  • Nemesis the Warlock: Nemesis views humans as lower than insects—at least they'll still be around when humans are gone! He likens his war against Torquemada as stirring up a termite's nest to see if one of them will bite back. Nemesis is a godlike alien who's simply bored without a formidable enemy to fight.
  • In The Authority, God is an actual physical entity that views humanity (and indeed, all life on Earth) as a pest infestation in His summer cabin, and thus tries to carry out an extermination.
  • Towards the end of Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan derides Ozymandias' attempt to outwit him, telling him that from his nearly-godlike perspective, Ozymandias is no closer to outwitting Manhattan than the world's smartest termite.

    Film 
  • Harry Lime reveals his thoughts on humanity to Holly from atop the Vienna Ferris wheel while looking down upon the park visitors in The Third Man: "Look down there. Would you really feel any pity if one of those...dots...stopped living forever?" Seems Harry's got a touch of Nazi genocide fever. Class A Chaotic Evil—a calculating and intelligent villain with a wistful smile that marks the musings of a psychopath.
  • The Decepticons in the Transformers film series refer to humans as insects. Even Frenzy, who's smaller than the humans, refers to them as "stupid insects".
  • In The Matrix, Agent Smith tells Morpheus that in his opinion, human beings are a virus that need to be wiped out.
  • Discussed in The Mothman Prophecies, where the strange beings do deliberately interact with humans, but their purposes are never clear.
    John: Clearly these beings are a lot more advanced than we are. Why don't they come right out and say what's on their minds?
    Leek: You're more advanced than a cockroach. Have you ever tried explaining yourself to one of them?
  • Discussed in The Avengers (2012).
    Nick Fury: We have no quarrel with your people.
    Loki: An ant has no quarrel with a boot.
  • The Stone Giants in Peter Jackson's film version of The Hobbit. They are occupied with fighting each other, pretty much ignoring the dwarves who are in deadly danger thanks to them.
  • Godzilla (2014):
    • Averted with Godzilla. He takes notice of humans and is careful to avoid killing them when possible, like an elephant does with mice.
    • The MUTO are mostly indifferent to humans, although they will brush them away if they start stinging them with gunfire or roast a nest full of MUTO eggs.
  • The Witch Queen in The Last Witch Hunter considers humans vermin, believing they should be eradicated to make place for witches.
    Witch Queen: You breed like rats. You put stone on top of stone and then live in your own filth! You are trespassers on our world. This is why I created the plague...it's why every one of you must perish!
  • At the end of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Criminologist says "And crawling on the planet's face, some insects called the human race, lost in time, and lost in space, and meaning." as his closing monologue.

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    Literature 
  • Cthulhu Mythos: Most of the entities these stories revolve around are basically uninterested in humans as a matter of scale: They exist at least as far above us in the cosmos as we do above ants. Humanity's primary defense against them is being completely beneath notice. Nyarlathotep, however, has plans for which humans happen to be ideal. Or he just likes having sentient beings to torment for his own amusement, it's difficult to tell with him. Yog-Sothoth is kind of back and forth with; he couldn't care less about human life, but he does have uses for us, mainly to create Half-Human Hybrid offspring, which are footholds into our physical universe for him.
  • The original The War of the Worlds novel speaks of how humans have acquired a newfound empathy for wild animals in the wake of the Martian attacks, having learned what it's like to be exterminated as vermin by a vastly more powerful species.
  • Roadside Picnic: The title is a reference to exactly this kind of thoughtless evil: the bizarre, frequently lethal anomalies within the Zone are compared to how forest animals might view the trash left by thoughtless people after a roadside picnic.
  • The Magus Bayaz in The First Law is human, but has magical powers, is very long lived, and has delusions of godhood, and reveals his belief in this trope when he shows his true colors:
    • When being called out for using a Magic Nuke which killed scores of people and desolated a city, Bayaz gives this as his justification:
    "Every man seems a child to me. When you reach my age you see that history moves in circles. So many times I have guided this nation back from the brink of destruction, and on to ever greater glory. And what do I ask in return? A few little sacrifices? If you only understood the sacrifices that I have made on behalf of you cattle!"
    • Shortly afterward, Bayaz threatens to kill Jezal (the one calling him out) if Jezal doesn't act as his totally subservient puppet:
    "But if you insist on being difficult… there are other options... Thrown by a horse. Choked on an olive-pit. Long falls to the hard, hard cobblestones. Or simply found dead in the morning. Life is always short for you insects. But it can be very short for those who are not useful..."
  • The True Knot from Doctor Sleep CLAIMS this is why they're justified in their lifestyle of torturing psychic children to death to rejuvenate themselves, but it's implied they still get a sadistic thrill out of it.
  • Played with in The Three-Body Problem. At the end of the first book, the Trisolarians' last message to humanity is a snide "You are bugs!" In the epilogue, the human characters note that humanity has spent its entire history at war with the bugs that infest its crops, and yet those bugs are still around.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Bewitched, a number of the witches and warlocks think of humans in this way, usually ending up with something being done to Darrin or the people around him and necessitating Samantha explaining just exactly why what they are doing is wrong. The most common reaction to her explanation being confusion as to why it matters.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In the episode "The Ensigns of Command", an alien civilization plans to exterminate a human colony of 15,000 from a planet they regard as their property. The aliens are courteous enough to warn the humans three days in advance, but since they do not regard humans as anything of value, after the deadline arrives they plan to simply destroy the colony and any remaining colonists who haven't been evacuated.
    • Q certainly has this attitude towards humans. While he holds some respect towards a few of them, and he feels they have potential to someday transcend beyond their current limitations, his primary view of them is that they are lesser beings for him to toy with for his amusement. Captain Picard even once compared Q's actions towards humanity to those of a bored child playing with a bunch of ants.
  • In Haven, Mara and William are two villainous members of a race who resemble humans but are The Ageless and have powers. They have absolute contempt for humanity and think nothing of killing and toying with them. When an imprisoned Mara is confronted about her atrocities, she claims what she does is no different from a person pulling the wings off a dragonfly or setting a cat on fire just because she can and she boasts to the heroes, "You're less than insects to me." Other members of their race like Mara's mother Charlotte are more sympathetic to humans and consider Mara and William to be criminals.
  • Supernatural: Death has this opinion on humanity. As a timeless force of nature he simply operates on such a different level from the protagonists and the enemies they fight (including The Devil, who forced Death into his service) that he honestly doesn't care if the world gets incinerated, and views humans as microbes - barely noticeable and utterly insignificant. Although the "annoying protozoa" do manage to inconvenience him eventually, and he has to give them repeated lectures not to mess with cosmic principles.
  • In Doctor Who, when they get some sense of just how old the Doctor is, and the vastness of his experience of time and space, companions have assumed that the Doctor must think this way about humanity. He denies it, though it's also made clear that the reason he takes on companions in the first place is so he won't end up thinking like this.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • SHODAN, the antagonist of the System Shock series considers all humans to be weak, worthless creatures and even refers to the main character, a human by the way, as an insect. Multiple times.
  • Played with in Virtue's Last Reward. Zero compares humans to termites at one point, but the comparison isn't negative. Zero sees termites as natural architects, capable of creating beautiful things without even realising it and claims that humans might be similar and be creating beautiful thing that only someone more intelligent than average human can admire. It's implied to be a metaphor for the nature of the morphogenetic field; a normal human cannot see multiple timelines in physical space but a higher being that could surpass three dimensional space might.

    Webcomics 
  • Kubera: Maruna holds this attitude, though he considers halves and quarters to be sura, and treats them accordingly.
  • A Redtail's Dream: Moose explains that from Puppy-fox's perspective, human (and doggy) lives are like that of a fly in length so he doesn't understand what the fuss is if they die a little early.

    Western Animation 
  • Most Homeworld Gems from Steven Universe see humans and most organic life in general as curiosities at best and pests to be eradicated at worst. The civil war with the Crystal Gems in the backstory was essentially what happened when several Gems decided that Humans Are Special and fought to keep the Earth from being harvested for resources. Though it should be noted many of them were in it for their own mistreatment rather than humanity, and even to the present day they still have a bit of condescension to the humans they swore to protect. Even Rose Quartz saw humans for most of her life as more like amusing animals than persons until she met and fell in love with Greg Universe.

    Real Life 
  • "Unfriendly AI" is a subject often discussed by singularitarians. Actually, there are many ways for AI to be unfriendly, and this isn't the worst one, but it's one of the simplest and most straightforward (outside of Crush. Kill. Destroy!). A transhuman robot could be programmed to make paperclips or whatever - and it would proceed to make as many as possible, not caring that some of the iron it needs is inside human blood.
    Eliezer Yudkowsky: The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made out of atoms which it can use for something else.
  • Nathan Leopold said this about him and and his friend murdering a teenage neighbor to try and commit The Perfect Crime.
    "The killing was an experiment. It is just as easy to justify such a death as it is to justify an entomologist killing a beetle on a pin."
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