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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. It's repulsive!"
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.

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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. (In fact, it makes a little sense, and it's been done often enough, to introduce a subversion where an alien finds the Pigpen's smell of decay to be more pleasant than the smell of an average human.) Compare Call a Human a "Meatbag", another example of humans' biological processes being the basis of an insult, and Humans Are Ugly, which is based on humans' appearance rather than smell. In literal cases, may cross with Stink Snub.

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Examples:

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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 Books 

    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.
    • Ironically, owls are noteworthy for being very insensitive to certain bad smells, especially that of the notorious skunk.
    • 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.
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    Films — Animation 
  • In Spirited Away, several bathhouse workers complain about Chihiro's "human smell." Haku defends that Chihiro only needs 3 days of eating spiritual food for the smell to go away.
  • 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 films, Agent Smith is repulsed by the smell of humans. He admits this to Morpheus in The Matrix just before trying to physically torture him for Zion's access codes, and in The Matrix Revolutions, during his final encounter with Neo while downloaded into Bane:
    Bane/Agent Smith: I admit it is difficult to even think encased in this rotting piece of meat. The stink of it filling every breath, a suffocating cloud you can't escape. Disgusting.
  • In Green Lantern Kilowog sniffs Hal Jordan, loud and long, before remarking: "You smell funny."
  • Megatron in Transformers uses his nose to figure out where Sam is.
  • General Thade in Planet of the Apes tells the orangutan Limbo (a human pet/slave trader) that he stinks of humans. Off-screen, an ape child commented that humans smell.

    Literature 
  • Animorphs:
    • In 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.
  • The Witches: Human children, though not adults, smell just like dog droppings to witches (it's noted that, unlike many examples of this trope, dirt actually blocks the smell). 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 José 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.
  • Furgul in Doglands says that most dogs hate how humans smell (which is saying something because Furgul loves the smell of dog poop). Pets get used to it over time, but humans still stink to them.

    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.
  • The Outer Limits (1963): In "Controlled Experiment", the Martian Phobos One comments on humans' smell shortly after his arrival on Earth. Deimos tells him that he has gotten used to it.
  • Planet of the Apes: In "The Good Seeds", Anto says that Virdon and Burke have a smell about them.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In "Distant Origin", 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 Wizards vs. Aliens: "The humans are disgusting. They smell of sweat and meat."
  • Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor once referred to the "ripe old smell of humans".

    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.
  • 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.
    • The Elder Scrolls Online: The Dremora Lycanth opines that all mortal races have an unpleasant smell of "warm blood and quiet desperation".
  • 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.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • This trope is Truth in Television, as humans do smell bad compared to some 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. There are exceptions to this general rule, however.

Alternative Title(s): Humans Are Stinky

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