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Son of an Ape

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Nobody calls them "humans".

"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.

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 sub-Saharan African descent.


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 
  • 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 physiologically more like monkeys 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.
  • FLCL: In episode 5, 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 Getter Robo, the Dinosaur Empire refers to humans as "arrogant apes."
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: 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 Love Pistols, zoomans (humans developed from other animals than apes) use the word "monkey" sometimes neutrally, and sometimes as a slur.
  • Overlord (2012): The majority of the Floor Guardians 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 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.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: In the first half, 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.)

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Comics:
  • X-Men: In [New X-Men 130, Xavier describes dealing with unmutated humans as "chimpanzee politics". 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.

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

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, the Red Lectroids insultingly refer to human beings as "monkey boys".
  • Automata: Jacq 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.
  • Men in Black: The Bug calls humans "monkey boys", which is almost certainly a Shout-Out to Buckaroo Banzai.
  • Godzilla: The Black Hole aliens from 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?
  • Howard the Duck. After Howard learns about evolution, he calls humans "hairless apes".
  • Inherit the Wind has a version said by another human, played for cynicism. "Darwin was wrong. Man's still an ape."
  • Planet of the Apes (1968): Alluded to in an inversion of sorts 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".
  • The Prophecy: The angels constantly refer to humans as "talking monkeys".
  • Super Mario Bros.: Koopa and his minion (both descendants of dinosaurs) has this exchange regarding humans when they discuss what humans evolved from, and Koopa expresses disgust over it being apes.
    Koopa: What is it that they come from? I keep forgetting. It's mice or something.
    Minion: Apes, sir. Monkeys.
    Koopa: Disgusting mammals.
  • Used by a human character in Forbidden Planet to show his hubris. Morbius has used Krell technology to enhance his intellect, and believes this makes him uniquely qualified to judge if The World Is Not Ready to receive the knowledge he's discovered. When Lieutenant Ostrow dies using the same technology to get to the bottom of what's going on, Morbius has No Sympathy (which finally turns his own daughter against him).
    Morbius: The fool, the meddling idiot. As though his ape's brain could contain the secrets of the Krell.

  • 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".
  • The Company Novels: Mendoza, an immortal human, refers to normal humans as monkeys.
  • 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.
  • In Death or Glory, by Vladimir Vasilyev, 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?
  • In The Dinosaur Lords, Raguel calls humans "apes", though the context makes it seem more like an Insult of Endearment.
  • Discworld: Played with; 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" — the Discworld did indeed have dinosaurs once.
    • Death 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 Dresden Files, Ferrovax the dragon sneeringly refers to all the humanoids at Bianca's party, human or vampire, as "monkeys".
  • Known Space: During the Man-Kzin Wars, 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 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".
  • Spellsinger: Used frequently by Mudge in reference to Jon-Tom, and on one occasion by Dorcas the hinny. Given that monkeys in Mudge and Dorcas's world are fully sapient and civilized, the implication may have been that Jon-Tom is foolish or frivolous rather than primitive.
  • 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.
  • Implied in Have Space Suit – Will Travel. We have Humanity on Trial with the protagonists unable to think up any good counterarguments. Then an alien who looks like a green ape takes the floor and says he doesn't think that Humanity Is Special, in fact he finds us quite primitive and unpleasant really, but so was his own species once and we deserve a chance to grow up.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon has called geologists "gravel monkeys".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Person of Interest: Root has referred to Reese as a 'helper monkey' and an 'Australopithecine' because she regards him as mere Dumb Muscle for Harold Finch.
  • Red Dwarf: The Cat calls Lister, Rimmer, and Kochanski "monkeys" on a regular basis.
  • Rookie Blue: Shaw once referred to firefighters as "hose monkeys".
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series: In "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".
    • Star Trek: Enterprise:
      • The Xindi refer to the humans as being "ape-like". In this case it's 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.
  • Supernatural: A few arrogant angels look down on humans. Uriel refers to humans as "mud monkeys." Former archangel Lucifer condemns humans for being "hairless apes" that were "flawed...murderous".

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

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ravenloft: Subverted in the setting's Wildlands, where the natives refer to humans as "hairless apes". The subversion is that the natives are all sapient animals, so actually approve of the "ape" part: it's the hairlessness they find objectionable.
  • Shadowrun: 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.
  • 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".

  • 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.
  • 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!

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • In Chrono Trigger, Azala refers to humans as apes. 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.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend: Sakuya does this a few times to the heroine. She 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.
  • 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'.
  • 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.

    Web Comics 
  • Deep Rise: "Plains apes" are a favorite food and component in servitors for the Nobles. Occasional glimpses into the tortured minds of servitors makes it very clear they're talking about humans.
  • The Gutters: The shark refers to humans as "hairless monkeys".
  • In Homestuck, unusually, it's 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".
  • 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.
  • Narbonic: Artie the uplifted gerbil occasionally refers to humans as "plains apes". This has been taken up by many of the transgenic community in Skin Horse.
  • 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.

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

    Western Animation 
  • In Dogstar, the Sirrians always refer to humans as "hairless monkeys", and have great trouble telling humans apart.
  • The Fairly OddParents: On Crash Nebula, the Show Within a Show, 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".
  • Futurama:
    • Nibbler describes Earth as being ruled by "psychotic apes".
    • Not a direct example, but in "The Problem With Popplers", Lrrr is seen having trouble telling an orangutan apart from Leela. He only comes around when a hippie points out that he's being tricked.
  • Megas XLR: Gorrath calls humans "monkey men".
  • The Simpsons: 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 Tick': El Seed, a botanical villain, refers to humans as "monkeys" and human superheroes as "supermonkeys".


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