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Humans Are Smelly

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I hate this place. This zoo. This prison. This reality, whatever you want to call it, I can't stand it any longer. It's the smell, if there is such a thing. I feel saturated by it. I can taste your stink and every time I do, I fear that I've somehow been infected by it.
Agent Smith, The Matrix

Humans are filthy creatures full of sweat and bodily secretions, this is true, and regular maintenance and cleanup in the form of bathing is required to avoid foul odours. But to those species that consider themselves higher than some lowly earthling, humans always smell bad. You'll often find other races like elves, The Fair Folk and especially aliens talking about the stink of human, especially amongst more arrogant species. To them, a stinky creature is an inferior one and you, you foul hairless ape, are on the lowest rung. Due to the nature of this trope requiring the response of a non-human party, this trope is normally reserved for fantasy or sci-fi genres and possibly verge on being an inverted Fantastic Racism.

In many fantasy and mythology examples, this trope may be justified by the concept of ritual purity, which is a near physiological concern for supernatural beings in many worldviews that feature it, like toxicity for humans. Some myths feature supernaturals who describe ritual pollution as stinking; many ritual purifications involve physical bathing.

Note that for this trope to apply, it applies to all humans and not just The Pigpen. Compare Call a Human a "Meatbag", another example of humans' biological processes being the basis of an insult.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Arlong complains about how humans smell in the 4Kids dub of One Piece, prompting him to coin the derogatory term "PU-mans".

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • After Calvin turns himself into an owl with his transmogrification gun, Hobbes says he might be better off, and when Calvin asks why, Hobbes replies, "Well, I never knew quite how to say this, but little boys don't smell very good..." This may have less to do with Calvin's species than his aversion to bathing.
    • And in another two strips, Hobbes tells him that he has unique words for different smells, such as "snippid" for burning leaves. When Calvin asks what the word for his smell is, Hobbes can't resist saying "terrible", causing Calvin to chase after him.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Spirited Away, several bathhouse workers complain about Chihiro's "human smell".
  • In Princess Mononoke, San expresses disgust at smelling "like a human" after interacting with Ashitaka. The gods and spirits refer to human scent as a "stink" or "stench".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Matrix, Agent Smith tells Morpheus that to him (and presumably to other agents and machine programs), humans stink.
  • The infamous "Backstroke of the West" version of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith has General Grievous refer to Anakin as a "smelly boy".
  • In Green Lantern Kilowog sniffs Hal Jordan, loud and long, before remarking: "You smell funny."

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Angel, we have one of Illyria's crazy rants in the middle of danger:
    Illyria: Do you know what you were when I was young? You were the muck at our feet. We called you the Ooze That Eats Itself. You were pretty at night. You sparkled, and you stank. You still stink of it!
    Angel: Will you just shut up for once?!
  • Mako Mermaids: An H2O Adventure: One of the mermaids says that land people are quite bearable, once you get used to the strange smell.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: Humans smell really bad to the Voth, a reptilian species descended from dinosaurs, with highly advanced olfactory faculties.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise reveals that humans smell bad to Vulcans, and that T'Pol has had to take medications to desensitize her, though this may be justified as it is specifically the females who think humans stink, while the other Vulcan main characters have been male.
  • In Wilfred, Wilfred the dog complains about Wilfred and others constantly smelling like "human shit" even after showering.

  • In Animorphs book #7, the Animorphs are wandering around in cockroach morphs as Ax says he smells humans. Someone objects that humans don't smell, but Ax insists they do—not that it's a bad smell, of course.
    • However, he denies vehemently that Andalites have ever been known to stink.
    • #35: The Extreme'' has a Inverted Trope. Cassie, in fly morph, says that Visser Three would stink to a human, but her fly brain thinks he smells pretty good.
    • Upon meeting the Ishkoort, one tries to swindle them by yelling "You stink horribly! Let me cleanse you!" He doesn't make the sale.
  • The Truce at Bakura: The Ssi-ruuk have a strong sense of smell and find the scent of species like humans to be sickening. Dev Sibwarra, the Force-sensitive human that they Brainwashed to serve them, drinks and bathes in special deodorising solvents four times a day along with shaving off all of his hair so that the Ssi-ruuk can stand to be around him.
  • In Warrior Cats, the feline characters believe that humans smell, and even once the main character earns his place in the Clan (since he was born as a house cat), other cats still occasionally insult him by saying he smells like humans.
  • In Runt by Marion Dane Bauer, after Runt is healed by humans, his mother keeps washing him over and over, trying to get the human scent off him, even when he thinks it's gone.
  • In Nor Crystal Tears, one of the things the thranx find objectionable about the weird bipedal creatures they've taken prisoner is their musky mammalian body odor. Inverted with the thranx, as many humans observe that they have quite a pleasant citrus smell for a species of giant bugs.
  • The Witches: Human children, though not adults, smell just like dog droppings to witches. They use this trait to help them track down children to destroy them.
  • Half-elf Morley in the Garrett, P.I. series taunts Garrett about how his meat-eating habits make him smell funny, although he may be just kidding about that.
  • In Venus on the Half-Shell, a science fiction novel attributed to the fictional author Kilgore Trout but actually written by Philip Josť Farmer, among the hundreds of alien races in the galaxy, humans are known as the smelly ones. Wondering why humans smell so bad to other races, some of whom smell like a sewer, it is pointed out that human morals stink, so that makes our smell stink.
  • In Codex Alera, the Canim Varg complains that the ship he's on smells of wet human. In a later book, another character is trying to teach a different Canim how to speak the human language, and has to explain the difference between "humans smell bad" and "humans have a weak sense of smell", and while doing so acknowledges that, from a Canim's perspective, both things might well be true.
  • In the Discworld, it is taken as given, among humans, that goblins smell foul and repugnant. In Raising Steam, Moist von Lipwig realises that from a goblin's point of view, humans smell pretty ripely too.
  • In Protector, the Pak maintain their racial purity by smell, and humans just smell wrong. Very wrong...
  • In the Humanx Commonwealth prequel novels, this trope complicates First Contact between humans and the Insectoid Alien Thranx: not only do humans have flesh-draped internal skeletons, they smell unpleasantly musky to Thranx noses. Conversely, almost every human thinks Thranx smell fresh and floral, despite being phobia-inducing Big Creepy-Crawlies.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Classic Traveller, The Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society issue 10, article "Contact! Centaurs". The alien race called the K'Kree (AKA Centaurs) were vegetarians who couldn't stand the smell of humans who had recently eaten meat. Before meeting a Centaur, humans had to eat a vegetarian diet for several days to clean all the meat (and its smell) out of their systems.

    Video Games 
  • In Portal 2, Wheatley tells a story about how he was landed with the job of "tending to all the smelly humans". He quickly remembers that Chell is human and corrects himself.
  • In The Elder Scrolls, the Imga, a minor race of intelligent "ape men," consider the races of Men to be beneath them, copying their Altmeri (High Elf) idols, and pretend to find their smell offensive. They wear Pimped Out Capes at all times, with one perfumed corner which they hold over their noses when humans are around.
  • An exchange between Dorian and Iron Bull in Dragon Age: Inquisition gives us the Qunari perspective.
    Dorian: Vishante kaffas! Don't you ever bathe?
    Iron Bull: Sometimes. You want to watch, don't you?
    Dorian: I'd rather stand upwind.
    Iron Bull: Human sweat smells like pork that's been sitting in the sun. Just saying.
  • Ferals in Sands of Destruction repeatedly claim that humans stink (and that half-humans like Naja stink just as bad). This is yet another reason humans are considered second-class citizens.

    Web Comics 
  • One frequent running gag in The Order of the Stick is for the halfling Belkar (who is also a gourmet chef and thus has a honed sense of smell) to state that humans stink horribly to the point of causing him misery every day. In one particular case, the scent he smells that strip is unusual, but since he comments that this distress is a daily occurrence the example works.
    Roy: Excuse me? Humans don't smell that bad!
    Belkar: The fact that you think that makes my life miserable on a near-daily basis.
  • In the webcomic of Flintlocke's Guide to Azeroth, the elf Kathrena describes humans (to the fellow human Schweitzer) as all smelling as sweat and barbecue sauce and to which the dwarf Flintlocke shows up and ask if someone is cooking barbecue.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • This trope is Truth in Television, as humans do smell bad compared to other animals as do some animals to us. Wet dog anyone?
  • Related, humans aren't very tasty to most predators (smell does play a part in taste). One of the more famous examples is that of the Great White Shark which has been known to attack humans because they resemble seals when swimming. Great Whites first go for a "nibble" to inflict a serious (often fatal) wound before a more violent kill. When nibbling a human, the shark realizes that we are not seal and do not continue with the follow up attack because it hates the way we taste. Part of the reason why there are so few deaths from shark attacks is the "nibble" is usually quite treatable and with prompt medical attention, one can live a normal healthy life (though missing limbs are not uncommon). In fact, most apex predators do not hunt humans and will stay away from them. Most animal attacks are the result of animals feeling threatened by humans or humans provoking the animal. A human that was attacked for food normally means that the animal in question was really desperate.
  • There are many species where the mother will abandon her young if they smell a human has touched them. Though this may be a general foreign animal, as these tend to be prey species. If the predator left the young, it usually means it will come back or is watching them right now. As prey tends to be Explosive Breeders, the mother's interest is in preserving an adult specimen for further procreation, rather than helpless young who were not all going to live to adulthood anyway.

Alternative Title(s): Humans Are Stinky