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"I think we're all mentally ill; those of us outside the asylums only hide it a little better (and maybe not that much better after all)."—Stephen King, Danse Macabre
A thread sometimes seen in Sci-fi, is that humans - all of us - are several cans short of a six pack. It could be the emotional drive that overrides logic, or more of a "What were they thinking" when aliens watch us go about our day, but when looked at compared to all the races in space, Humanity is bonkers. This can be to our advantage, as a sane race would never even consider trying to sneak into the fortress dressed up as pizza delivery men. What really drives other races crazy is that it sometimes works.
Anime And Manga
- Death Note: This is pretty much the conclusion of Ryuk's Human Observation Journal (which he finds highly amusing.)
- In Macross Frontier, this was in fact the entire cause of the show's central conflict. The Vajra, being Bee People, didn't quite get humanity's whole 'individuality' thing, and assumed our lack of clear, unifying purpose and direction to be the result of a catastrophic breakdown of our Hive Mind. Being nice, altruistic types, they decided to rescue the being they believed to be the human Hive Queen, Ranka, and the rest was history. To their credit, though, they eventually realised their mistake, and even went as far as to sacrifice millions of their own to prevent the Frontier fleet from being obliterated by the Big Bad before offering them a place to stay on their homeworld.
- In Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro, this trait subverts Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: the (arguably) main character came to the human world because if he'd stayed in the underworld he'd have died of starvation. Basically, he feeds on the energy that makes people do crazy and wrong things like premeditated murder, and there's plenty of that. In the early manga, he's focused on trying to find food, but then the really crazy people put their plans in motion and he basically has to save humanity to protect his food source. He specifically states that he's not capable of understanding humans because Humans Are Insane, too.
- Semi-example in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. At one point Kyubey says that in his culture, emotions are considered a mental disorder. Although he never comes out and says this, the implication is that he and his kind view all humans as insane for having emotion. There is also an implication of Power Born of Madness from their perspective, as they are trying to turn emotions into energy.
The Joker: Faced with the inescapable fact that human existence is mad, random and pointless, one in eight of them crack up and go stark slavering buggo! Who can blame them? In a world as psychotic as this... any other response would be crazy!
- Several of the Joker's more notorious schemes are attempts to prove this is true to everybody else -- and maybe to himself. Otherwise, he'd have to face the possibility that maybe the world isn't crazy... that maybe it's just him.
- Men in Black: This could be why human thought is viewed as an infectious disease by some aliens. No wonder they don't want us to get our hands on a Universal Translator.
- In the direct-to-DVD sequel, Starship Troopers: Hero of the Federation, the Arachnids (or Bugs) use this as a justification for attacking and taking over humanity.
Lieutenant Jack Gordon Shepherd (whose brain has been taken over by a Control Bug): "Poor creatures. Why must we destroy you? I'll tell you why. Order is the tide of creation. But yours is a species that worships...the one over the many. You glorify your intelligence... Because it allows you to believe anything. That you have a destiny. That you have a right. That you have a cause. That you are special. That you are great. But in truth, you are born insane . And such misery...cannot be allowed...to spread!"
- In Avatar, when telling Jake he will be taught the ways of the Na'vi, Mo'at says, "We will see if your insanity can be cured."
Live Action TV
- In Star Trek: The Original Series Spock often feels this way about humans. Particularly emphasized in the Leonard Nimoy song "Highly Illogical".
- The other aliens in Farscape only have Crichton as their example, so they try to imagine a whole world full of Crichtons. He usually comes off as bizarre and insane to them due to his incessant pop culture references that nobody but he understands. Given the sort of mind raping and... more that Crichton goes through over the years, he truly does genuinely become a little insane (inasmuch as it is possible to be a 'little' insane), so their assuming this of humanity as a whole likely goes up.
- This seems to be a common view by the vast majority of Stargate's aliens, granted even the transplanted humans seem to think this of the Tau'ri. Though this may reflect mostly on SG-1... okay, mostly on Jack.
- Values Dissonance can leave modern readers with the interpretation that it is the humans portrayed in the works of H.P. Lovecraft who are insane, being so fixated on a ridiculously dull, narrow-minded view of the universe that any exposure to the fact that they don't know everything there is to know about the universe and/or are not inherently gifted above even other branches of the human race causes them to end up going mad.
- This is particularly noticable when one compares straight up Lovecraft-authored protagonists to those of more "Sword and Sorcery branches" of the Cthulhu Mythos, such as Conan the Barbarian, where the protagonist, whilst still finding the Eldritch Abominations to be scary, manages to take a stand at them and comes out ultimately mentally unscathed.
- Arthur C. Clarke's "Rescue Party" comes to mind. "Are they trying to make an interstellar voyage with rockets?!"
- Explanation: the Sun is about to go nova so humans ALL got on rocket ships to find a new sun, knowing how crazy that would be. Aliens find us mid-journey. They might regret that.
- Stephen King is fond of this trope, as the quote shows. Cell discusses it - Clay theorizes the phone didn't drive the humans insane - it simply wiped everything out, and the psychos everywhere are simply base humans doing human things. Like stabbing everything. Another character puts it simply:
"We didn't survive as a species because we were the toughest, or the smartest. We survived because we were the most murderous, craziest fuckers in the jungle."
- In the Animorphs companion book Visser, Edriss comes to this conclusion after infesting her first human. Several other books suggest that when the Yeerks jumped at the thought of a Class Five species (lots of useful bodies that didn't have the tech level to fight back), they had no idea what they were getting into.
- In The Visser Chronicles, Visser One was shocked when she first entered a human mind, because it had the ability to doubt itself, seeing this as insanity at best. She stated that living with our own traitor in our heads was something completely alien to her, and was why we went to war with other members of our species, even committed suicide - another unfathomable concept.
- However, she also recognized the major advantage of self-doubt: decisions made when you can question your own thoughts tend to be wiser and more useful in the long run. This may be why humanity gains technology so quickly compared to other races.
- There are several ways to interpret The Damned by Allan Dean Foster, but in terms of tropes on this site this might be the best way to describe its portrayal of humanity. Humans evolved on a planet that shouldn't have been able to support life, in a way that shouldn't have produced a sentient species, and while as individuals we're usually decent, we display disturbing tendencies in our speech patterns and our art that are magnified when we're in large groups. We're also immune to Mind Reading, with spectacular results any time it's tried.
- The Lepar, normally considered the least intelligent of the fully sentient species in the Weave, are immune to the countereffect resulting from using mind reading on humans. Because the Lepar can counterbalance the negative influence of humans, humanity is finally fully integrated into the Weave.
- This is the conclusion drawn by Wonko The Sane in So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, who decides the world has gone mad after seeing detailed instructions on a package of toothpicks. He then creates the Asylum, which contains the entire world except for his house, which he turns inside-out and declares "Outside the Asylum". He spends much of his time patiently waiting for the world to end, unaware that the world already ended three books ago.
- The Race of Worldwar`s reaction to half of what humanity does is "Madness!"
- Similarly the Hegemony in Out of the Dark dismisses the human race as "insane, bloodthirsty barbarians" after witnessing the battle of Agincourt. And then the Shongairi invade and discover that humans lack a "submission instinct"
- Letter to a Phoenix ends thusly: "Only the insane destroy themselves. And only the phoenix lives forever." All other sapient species in the galaxy grow moribund and die out, but humanity survives because it periodically comes within a hair of wiping itself out. (The near-immortal narrator still hopes we never again get as far as the civilization that planet-busted the world between Mars and Jupiter, though.)
- Codex Alera: Kitai is a Marat -- basically a Proud Warrior Race of neolithic wood elves. She makes no secret that she thinks humans are insane. Of course, her companion and ultimately lover Tavi is human, so at least some human craziness is the kind she can get behind.
- The Canim consider humanity to be insane as well, but not in a good way. When Tavi is attempting to negotiate with Nasaug to have the Canim leave Alera peacefully, he points out that the both sides are going to suffer needlessly if they fight, as the Alerans want the Canim gone and the Canim want to leave. Nasaug agrees, pointing out that in a rational world, this would happen. However, he says, they are in Alera.
- Interestingly, Kitai says in the third book that she also thinks the Canim are insane, if not quite so insane as the Alerans. It's the convoluted internal politicking both groups engage in that she finds so irrational.
- Bruce Coville's My Teacher Is an Alien series uses this trope, which is rare for a children's story. Humans are potentially the smartest creatures in the galaxy (due to 90% of Your Brain), but also the only ones stupid enough to have war and poverty. Turns out that all that extra brain matter was there to grant us telepathy long in the past. When there were too many humans, there was too much "noise", and we instinctively suppressed this ability to protect ourselves. Losing that power left us traumatized as a species, with both an inherent desire to come together and a need to stay apart, and resulted in us being somewhat sociopathic.
- Discworld approaches this at times. It's most explicit in Thief of Time, which portrays a "dangerously sane" character as effectively inhuman.
- Night Watch uses the same recipe; Carcer Dun is not, technically, insane. It's merely that he's realized that all those little rules that keep society ticking over nicely only apply to you if you let them, and therefore the only thing between him and murdering a coach full of accordion players for shits and giggles is his own inhibitions. He is, in fact, more in tune with objective reality than the average man on the street; a sort of inverse psychosis if you will.
- In David Weber's Out of the Dark, the invading alien Shongairi are confused and flabbergasted by humanity's continuing resistance against them even after they've killed half of Earth's population. They eventually realize that, by their own standards, humans are clinically insane. The Shongairi, being a pack-based carnivorous species, have a psychology focused on pack-mentality, with the rest of the pack submitting instinctively to the strongest "alpha" once s/he has demonstrated superiority. All other species they've encountered are herd-based omnivores or herbivores, who will submit to deflect violence away from the herd as a whole. However, humans are family-oriented instead of pack- or herd-oriented, and as a result the act of bombarding entire cities off the map and killing half the population just pisses them off. Since the need to protect family overrides submission, and pure, undiluted hate due to harming or killing family drives humans to keep fighting regardless, the humans come off as completely insane to the Shongairi.
- In The Darkness FPS it's stated at one point that the Darkness, (cosmic horror, demonic force of chaos and destruction) wasn't originally evil and crazy but that Humanity drove it insane. (However, this is learned in the Darkness's own realm, so odds of Mind Screw are high).
- The Bioshock franchise is stock full of these. No matter how good the intentions of its creator, Andrew Ryan, the city of Rapture delved into unethical human experimentation and chaos not long afterward (part of it caused by Ryan abusing his power). Later, Sophia Lamb and her cult following came along, hoping to eradicate the ego or self that is responsible for human evil... by forcibly experimenting on her own daughter in hopes of creating the ultimate altruistic being, deprived of free will. And in the upcoming Bioshock Infinite, where the setting takes place in a fantastic city floating in the sky constructed by the U.S. government as an icon of hope to American ideals, everything goes to shit when the city loses contact and disappears for a decade. Ironically, probably the only sane people you ever encounter is the forcibly brainwashed protagonists.
- The Reapers believe that anyone that knows of their existence and power but still opposes them to be completely outside the bounds of logic. Paragon Shepard tells Harbinger to shut it in the Arrival DLC for Mass Effect 2.
Shepard: Maybe you're right. Maybe we can't win. But I'll tell you this: we will never give up. We will fight you to the last. Because that's what humans do!
- Humanity is described in Buck Godot
"When Humanity joined the Gallimaufry, the first impressions of established idea sifters were rather disappointing. Yes, they were entertainingly crazy, but their quirks were mere amplifications of other neuroses and psychoses that had been in and out of vogue for millennia."
- In the Veil of Madness stories from 4chan's /tg/, this is explicitly the reason why humans have free run of a good chunk of the galaxy - Part of it drives anyone in it insane, but humans are all a little crazy already.
- In Galaxy Rangers, humans are considered either uniquely wonderful fuel for the Queen's Psychocrypt, or utterly insane. The Series 5 Rangers do virtually nothing to counteract the reputation, aside from adding Crazy Awesome to the list.
As quoted above, a quick visit to a resonably decent insane asylum while playing the game of "Spot the Nut" is not easy unless the patients wear uniforms.