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Son of an Ape

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"And then God The little...hairless apes."
Lucifer to Dean Winchester, Supernatural

In many speculative settings, nonhumans characters will often use "ape" or "monkey" as a Fantastic Slur against humans (compare Call a Human a "Meatbag"). This is especially common in settings where humans are depicted as less intelligent or civilised than other sentient races. The Big Bad tends to do this if he's not human himself (or at least not anymore). When used by Starfish Aliens, it can sometimes raise questions if there's no basis for them to know what apes or monkeys are in the first place. Angels meanwhile delight in pointing out less than divine origins for humans.


It's not always a strictly fantastical insult, either. Some humans use this to insult each other, often against ethnic groups they consider primitive and inferior, or simply against individuals they don't like. The insult implies that the human in question is uncivilized and indistinguishable from less advanced primates; compare "Neanderthal". Even in Real Life, primate-related insults are unfortunately used as ethnic slurs, especially by white supremacists against people of African descent. From a biological standpoint, this makes no sense, as all humans are in fact apes (belonging to the family Hominidae, or great apes). This means that humans who consider "ape" insulting sound suspiciously similar to Professor Ratigan in The Great Mouse Detective, who detested being called a rat even though he quite obviously was one.


In fact, primate-conservation advocates have inverted this trope by likening apes to humans instead of the other way around. The argument goes that apes have intelligence similar to that of young children, so if you Wouldn't Hurt a Child, you shouldn't hurt an ape either.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The majority of the Floor Guardians in Overlord (2012) absolutely detest humans, seeing them as lesser vermin that have no use other than to be killed and subjugated. While some such as Sebas view them with more respect, he still cares little for them in the grand scheme of things, and will instantly slaughter them by the thousands if commanded. A notable stand-out is Narberal Gamma, who throws out so many insect/worm/parasite/other insults at humans when she's fighting them that you would swear she has an insult thesaurus tucked under her outfit.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Freeza is very adamant about the Saiyans being "mere monkeys" even when he's getting his ass kicked by one. Indeed, having tails even when not transformed, they are technically monkeys rather than apes. Not that it reduces the Fantastic Racism any. And Freeza isn't particular. He uses all variations of "ape" and "monkey" to insult the Saiyans.
  • In Love Pistols, zoomans (humans developed from other animals than apes) use the word "monkey" sometimes neutrally, and sometimes as a slur.
  • In episode 5 of FLCL, Haruko insults Amarao by calling him a "primitive monkey!", to which Amarao responds that it's a derogatory term used to refer to "underdeveloped planets" that way. Haruko could care less.
  • In the first half of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Viral consistently refers to the human heroes as "naked apes", as do Generals Adaine and Cytomander. (Thymilph isn't around long enough to do itnote  and Guame presumedly knows better.)
  • In Getter Robo, the Dinosaur Empire refers to humans as "arrogant apes."
  • In the climatic fight between Dio Brando and Jonathan Joestar, Dio asks "how can a monkey defeat a man" as he believes that he's better than Jonathan because he's now a vampire.
  • In 3×3 Eyes, the Sanzhiyan Umkara often refers to humans as "monkeys" or "apes" in a derogatory way. With some justification, as Shiva revealed that modern homo sapiens were the result of interbreeding between humanized Sanzhiyan and apeish hominids. Played for Laughs when Parvati compares Gupta's newborn daughter to a monkey, a baboon, a macacque and then to a prehistoric hominid in short order.

    Comic Books 
  • From New X-Men 130: Then again, this could just as easily be an insult directed at politicians, if not more so considering Xavier's beliefs on human-mutant relations and the fact that mutant humans are just as much ape as the regular sort of humans.
    Xavier: [addressing human troops] The X-Men have this deliberately engineered "emergency" under control. We've just lost one of our rescue team, do you understand? We're in no mood to play chimpanzee politics...
  • In V for Vendetta, as V announces on TV that they are "firing" humanity, they reminisce fondly on humanity's "first day on the job", dropping from a tree and smashing eggs for food. The image of a chimpanzee appears behind them.
  • In the Marvel Universe, the Kree sometimes refer to humans as "pink apes".

    Comic Strips 
  • In Sherman's Lagoon, the characters refer to humans as "hairless beach apes".
  • In one Calvin and Hobbes strip, Calvin asks whether Hobbes believes that humans evolved from apes. Hobbes' response: "I sure don't see any difference."

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Jacq in Automata mentions to a robot that he's with that it is just that, a machine. It retorts by saying that saying it's just a machine would be like saying Jacq's just an ape.
  • The Black Hole aliens from Godzilla films Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and Terror of Mechagodzilla refer to earthlings as primitive apes, despite the fact that they themselves look like gorillas. Perhaps they see themselves as civilized apes, rather than primitive ones?
  • In The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, the Red Lectroids insultingly refer to human beings as "monkey boys".
  • Men in Black: The Bug calls humans "monkey boys", which is almost certainly a Shout-Out to Buckaroo Banzai.
  • The angels in the The Prophecy series constantly refer to humans as "talking monkeys".
  • Alluded to in an inversion of sorts in Planet of the Apes quite a few times—"human" is the insult. Notably verbalized in Zira's comments like "You know what they say, human say, human do," and "to apes, all men look alike." Also, the apes have their own version — they hate to be called 'monkeys'.
  • Inherit the Wind has a version said by another human, played for cynicism. "Darwin was wrong. Man's still an ape."
  • Howard the Duck. After Howard learns about evolution, he calls humans "hairless apes."
  • Super Mario Bros.: Koopa and his minion (both descendants of dinosaurs) has this exchange regarding humans:
    Koopa: What is it that they come from? I keep forgetting. It's mice or something.
    Minion: Apes, sir. Monkeys.
    Koopa: Disgusting mammals.

  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, there are several pointed references to humans being descended from apes, and more than one character addresses or refers to Arthur with some variation of "monkey man". What they're descended from isn't mentioned. This even extends to Betelgeuse natives, who look exactly like humans. By the end of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe we find out that humans didn't evolve from apes. They evolved from telephone sanitizers and security guards that got banished from Golgafrinchum to primitive Earth for being useless, meaning this trope is played with. Unless some of the Golgafrinchums mated with the cavemen, that is.
  • Mendoza, an immortal human in The Company Novels, refers to normal humans as monkeys.
  • During the Man-Kzin War period of Larry Niven's Known Space series, the Kzinti constantly referred to humans as "monkeys". By the Ringworld period, they have stopped doing that, having had their collective asses handed to them too many times by the humans to casually dismiss them anymore. The monkey comparison is occasionally presented by the narrative as being a positive one, in that as monkeys we have curiosity, which leads to learning potentially valuable things that the feline Kzin do not. Clearly they never heard that cats are curious too.
  • In Starship Troopers, the Drill Sergeant Nasty frequently refers to his recruits as apes to motivate them. This is not unknown in Earth's military history.
  • Used frequently by Mudge in reference to Jon-Tom in Spellsinger. Also on one occasion by Dorcas the hinny.
    • Given that monkeys in Mudge and Dorcas's world are fully sentient and civilized, the implication may have been that Jon-Tom is foolish or frivolous rather than primitive.
  • In Codex Alera, one of the Canim insults the human protagonist with a phrase that roughly translates to "monkey-boy". The spirit of this trope when turned on another species is also seen in that the worst insults you can offer a Cane are "dog" and especially "jackal".
  • In The Dresden Files, Ferrovax the dragon sneeringly refers to all the humanoids at Bianca's party, human or vampire, as "monkeys".
  • Played with in the Discworld series: the Librarian at Unseen University, a human transformed into an orangutan, actually prefers being an ape (well, a different kind of ape), but, as in the Planet of the Apes example, call him a "monkey" (or even say "monkey" around him) at your peril.
    • At one point in Going Postal, a bird has a malicious expression that is explained as it "remembering the days it was a giant reptile that could have taken these sons of monkeys to the cleaners." Apparently, Discworld once had dinosaurs, and they weren't dragons.
    • Death himself refers to humans as being "WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE" in Hogfather, implying that humans would be simply apes if not for their capacity to aspire to greater things.
  • In the Paradox Trilogy, Basil, the bird-alien navigator of the Glorious Fool, insults a couple of his human shipmates (Devi and Nova) by calling them "monkeys".
  • In The Dinosaur Lords, Raguel calls humans "apes", though the context makes it seem more like an Insult of Endearment.
  • In Vladimir Vasilyev's Death or Glory, The Alliance races will occasionally refer to the humans (whom they normally call "homo" from homo sapiens) as "apes", claiming that humans are an evolutionary dead-end. As far as they're concerned, any intelligent being that spent millions of years enhancing the body instead of the mind can't be called truly intelligent (the aliens tend to have evolved from simpler animals/organisms, such as lizards, birds, or insects). Of course, they tend to ignore that we need such complicated bodies to support our big craniums. Also, in later novels, humans are the only ones who are able to put up a decent fight against the Shat-Tsurs, especially in ground engagements. So it looks like those well-developed bodies do have an advantage, huh?

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Doctor Who, the Ninth Doctor refers to humans as "stupid apes" on a couple of occasions. So do the new series' Silurians, some of whom want to wipe humanity out. Less hostile Silurians like Vastra, who's in an Interspecies Romance with a lesbian human, also consider humans apes, but purely in the taxonomic sense and not as an insult. Vastra does use "monkey" as a male-specific insult, which could also function (whether or not intentionally) as a sexual innuendo: the usual telltale difference between monkeys and apes is that most monkeys have tails while apes don't, and "tail" works well as a Double Entendre for... something else.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise:
    • The Xindi refer to the humans as being "ape-like". In this case it is generally intended as more descriptive than insulting, and the same term is also used for Primate Xindi.
    • Silik beat them to it, however. In the pilot, he says that human DNA "is almost identical to that of an ape" in comparison to the enhanced DNA of those Suliban (such as himself) who have joined the Cabal.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" the alien "Bad Cop" Bele sneers that "They tell me that some people on your world believe that you are descended from...apessssssss".
  • A few arrogant angels on Supernatural look down on humans. Uriel refers to humans as "mud monkeys." Former archangel Lucifer condemns humans for being "hairless apes" that were "flawed...murderous".
  • The Cat on Red Dwarf calls Lister, Rimmer, and Kochanski "monkeys" on a regular basis.
  • Kamen Rider Gaim: Helheim Overlord Deemushu refers to humans as apes or monkeys (depends on whose subs you're reading). This attitude is so ingrained, he keeps it up even while getting his ass kicked by Gaim's Super Mode.
  • On Angel, one of the insectoid demons from Jasmine's dimension refers to humans as "filthy little mice" rather than monkeys. The reason it makes sense, presumably, is that for a bug creature, all mammals seem equally alien, and probably this demon is familiar with some kind of mouselike creatures that inhabit his home dimension, but he knows nothing about monkeys.
  • An Idiot Abroad has Ricky refer to Karl as a "round-headed, chimp-like man". Often with a clip of Karl staring at a tree in the background.
  • Root on Person of Interest has referred to Reese as a 'helper monkey' and an 'Australopithecine' because she regards him as mere Dumb Muscle for Harold Finch.
  • On Rookie Blue, Shaw once referred to firefighters as 'hose monkeys'.

  • Crash Test Dummies' "Superman's Song" contains the line "dumb as an ape".
  • The Tool song "Right In Two", which is sung from the perspective of angels, refers to humans as monkeys.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer 40,000, the Eldar derisively refer to humans and other species they deem inferior as "mon-keigh". It only sounds like "monkey," though; the meaning is "those which have to be exterminated."
  • In the Shadowrun setting, a trideo program out of Tir Tairngire had an elvish title that translated as "Keeper of the Monkey House". It's a flagrantly-racist comedy about an elven landholder's dealings with idiotic, destructive, irresponsible human tenants.
  • Subverted in the Ravenloft setting's Wildlands, where the natives refer to humans as "hairless apes". The subversion is that the natives are all sentient animals, so actually approve of the "ape" part: it's the hairlessness they find objectionable.

  • In Princess Ida, Lady Psyche teaches that men, as opposed to women, descended from apes and so remain apes at heart:
    For the Maiden fair, whom the monkey craved,
    Was a radiant Being,
    With a brain far-seeing—
    While a Darwinian Man, though well-behaved,
    At best is only a monkey shaved!
  • In The Hairy Ape by Eugene O'Neill, the Anti-Hero "Yank" takes being called an ape so seriously that, by the play's final scene, he wholeheartedly believes he is one.

    Video Games 
  • In Wing Commander the felinoid Kilrathi refer to the humans as "hairless apes" and similar terms. The humans return the favor, referring to the Kilrathi as Cats, Furballs, Gatos, etc.
  • In Chrono Trigger, Azala refers to humans as apes.
    • And in the DS version, so do the (much more friendly) Reptites in Dinopolis. They're not trying to be insulting (more confused as to how hairless sentient apes can exist), but the playable characters take offense nonetheless.
  • Sword of the Stars, the nickname for humans is 'ape' or 'monkey'. This nickname was originally used by the Tarka, but was adopted by most major species — including humanity itself. That said, most of the species from Sword of the Stars have similar nicknames: Tarka are 'crocs' or 'lizards', Hivers are 'bugs' and Morrigi are 'crows'. The Liir probably have one too, but it's not mentioned. As for the Zuul, they have no name for themselves. Zuul is just what the other races call them, which is a Liir term derived from the word "Suul'ka", meaning "abominable" (any further epithets would probably be redundant). Although in the Zuul language the word means 'pirate'.
  • Sakuya does this to the heroine a few times in Hatoful Boyfriend. The heroine can return fire with poultry comments. This stops being funny in certain storylines.
  • In The Secret World, Jinn and Angels in particular call humans "Apes" or "monkeys" as an insult. When the Host show up in Tokyo to take away Lilith, one says "That Samael should couple with a talking ape" with obvious disgust.
  • Baldur's Gate
    • Edwin likes to use monkey insults on everyone, often talking to himself where everyone else can hear.
    • Doppelgangers in this game despisingly call more normal humanoids primates.

    Web Comics 
  • In Homestuck, unusually, it is some of the humans who refer to themselves this way when talking to trolls (John calls human babies "little pink monkeys", and Dave refers to the human civilization as growing from the foundations of simian reproductive potency.) Only once Gamzee calls Dave the "pInKeSt oF MoThErFuCkIn sTaR MoNkEyS".
  • "Hairless apes" from TwoKinds
  • In The Gutters the shark refers to humans as "hairless monkeys".
  • Artie the uplifted gerbil in Narbonic occasionally refers to humans as "plains apes". This has been taken up by many of the transgenic community in Skin Horse.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, aliens sometimes call us "primates" or "bald monkeys" or such, but more often they deride us for being vertebrates, since the Nemesites and Ipecacs are arthropods. Riboflavin calls Bob a "verminous little spine thing" at one point.
  • In The Order of the Stick, the kobold Oracle "unambiguously identifies" the recipients of his scrying spell as "disgustingly hairy, mouth-breathing ape-people."
  • In Schlock Mercenary, this gets thrown around all the time by both humans and non-humans. What makes it funny is that some of Tagon's Toughs actually are genetically uplifted apes. For an extra layer of hilarity, the lampshades come out when Kevyn (whose sister is engaged to one of said uplifted apes) uses the phrase "... or I'm a monkey's uncle!"
    Considering who your sister's dating, technically...
    Any offspring of such a union would be apes, not monkeys. I checked.note 

    Web Original 
  • Worm Jeff often refers to humans as apes and monkeys.

    Western Animation 
  • On Futurama, Nibbler describes Earth as being ruled by "psychotic apes".
  • On Crash Nebula, the Show Within a Show from The Fairly OddParents!, the kid who will grow up to be Crash is repeatedly insulted by the other space students calling him one variation or another on "moderately evolved primate".
  • In Megas XLR, Gorrath calls humans "monkey men".
  • "Grab that rope, you hairy ape!"
  • Many times, slow-witted Homer Simpson is compared to an ape. This actually becomes a major plot point in a trial that mirrors the Scopes Trial after Ned Flanders tried to get Creationism taught in Springfield Elementary.
  • The botanical Tick villain, El Seed refers to humans as "monkeys" and human superheroes as "supermonkeys".
  • In Dogstar, the Sirrians always refer to humans as "hairless monkeys", and have great trouble telling humans apart.


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