Top 5 Examples of Alien Bigotry

Quote of the Day: “I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.” – Ronald Reagan

Science fiction stories have used extra-terrestrial aliens to explore very human social issues, particularly racism and xenophobia. When we eventually come face to face with an alien species (assuming they have faces), will the dark side of mankind’s bigotry rear its ugly head?

Here are some examples of slurs that fictional humans have used toward their alien brethren. (Warning: Adult language ahead.)

I didn’t include “damn dirty ape” from Planet of the Apes because the apes were evolved primates from our own world, not technically aliens from another planet. I also didn’t include “green-blooded son of a bitch” from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, because I don’t think Dr. McCoy used that phrase in a racist manner – deep down inside, he loves Mr. Spock.
So here are the most popular derogatory phrases used as insults and words of hatred toward intelligent species from other planets in movies and television shows.

“Prawn” in District 9 – The movie is obviously a big metaphor for human racism and class warfare. In the film, the aliens’ appearance doesn’t fit human ideals of beauty, and the word “prawn” is used in a negative connotation. Not only is it a reference to the aliens’ resemblance to Earth crustaceans (like calling them an ugly shrimp or a slug), but in Australian slang it also denotes someone who is a burden or someone who is deceptive, which totally fits the way the aliens are perceived in the movie, directed by South African Neill Blomkamp and produced by New Zealander Peter Jackson.

“Toaster” in Battlestar Galactica – Calling a killer Cylon robot a kitchen appliance might not seem like a terribly harsh word, but when it’s used against the more human-looking versions of the Cylon species, the sting becomes all the greater. Rebelling against their human creators after reaching self-awareness, the evolved Cylons look, feel, and often act very human. They can bleed and it’s later discovered that they can reproduce. Their human opponents, however, continue to lump them with their metallic predecessors, failing to recognize them on equal terms, denying that they can be anything more than machines.

“Skin-jobs” in Blade Runner – The Ridley Scott masterpiece, adapting Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is another great example of how science fiction delves into the concept of what makes us human. The villainous androids called Replicants look just like us, and in some ways are superior to their human makers, which might be one reason why they were made with a limited life span and given false memories, some of them not even knowing that they were man-made. So when the Replicants fight back and seek a way to be immortal, hunters are dispatched to track them down and terminate them. The Replicants end up being sympathetic characters, searching for the meaning of their existence and not wanting to surrender what they’ve experienced as their short lives. The humans, of course, deny the Replicants’ claims that they have souls, calling them “skin-jobs,” nothing more than objects built in their master’s image.

“Klingon bastard” in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – The Klingons are arguably the best villains of the Star Trek universe. Ferocious, primal, and powerful, they managed to kick ass in the Original Series and in the Star Trek movies. (They gained bumpy foreheads when they were redesigned for the movies and then later became our allies in The Next Generation). Hero Captain Kirk always had a dislike for the Klingons, and eventually uttered the infamous “Klingon bastard” line when Kruge (played to villainous perfection by Christopher Lloyd) ordered the murder of David Marcus, not knowing he was Kirk’s son. The idea of whether James Tiberius Kirk holds any prejudicial views against the Klingon species as a whole, or whether he’s just a soldier facing a military opponent, is explored in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It’s a good movie that paints the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire as synonymous with the United States and the Soviet Union coming out of the Cold War, trying to put aside their propaganda and mutual hatred for each other, with people like Kirk standing on the sidelines, trying to deal with all the emotional baggage they’ve obtained from years of brutal warfare, now having to put aside those harsh memories and shake hands with the enemy.

“You are one ugly motherfucker” in Predator – The alien Predator hunts down species from around the galaxy, adding their skeletons to a prized collection of conquests, like a big game hunter on Earth. He meets his match in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character Dutch, and in the end, in what I viewed as almost a sign of respect, he takes off his mask and reveals his face. Dutch is disgusted by the visage he sees, and hurls the slanderous epithet at him. There is no knowing if the Predator understood or not, but it came as no surprise to me when the alien sets off a thermonuclear device to blow himself and his prey to smithereens. Maybe if Dutch had shown a little love, a little “well played, ol’ chap” gamesmanship instead of insulting the guy, who knows what the outcome might have been. The Predators, I think, are a vain species after all– just look at their braids.

There are more, but those are the ones that quickly come to mind.


Vinny said…
Does C3PO calling R2D2 "an overweight glob grease" qualify?
Nick said…
Maybe. And when Princess Leia calls Chewbacca a walking carpet, that definitely counts. :)