During a recent viewing of Gokaiger, the child suddenly realized that all the main characters were meant to be aliens, and moreover, aliens from FIVE DIFFERENT WORLDS! The idea that there would be creatures that look exactly like humans from Japan, much less multiple planets full of them, suddenly struck her as questionable for the first time. As a fan of Star Trek, I have long since taken it for granted that all the aliens will be bipedal with rubbery foreheads and I’m kind of fine with that, given the scarcity of non-humanoids with SAG cards. Strangely, though, even in comics where casting issues shouldn’t apply, we don’t see many truly alien aliens. Tellus counts, but Shadow Lass is essentially a powder blue version of Kirk’s Orion dancing girl (costume and all.)

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) thinks that Farscape had it closest to actual non-humanoid diversity, asking:  Does it ever bother you that aliens overwhelmingly look human?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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24 Comments

  1. Ricco
    September 19, 2012 at 4:29 pm — Reply

    Yes, they are deal breakers, if I don’t have them alongside the original voice actors I don’t watch it. This is specially true of anime.

  2. September 19, 2012 at 5:22 pm — Reply

    As someone who fancies himself an artists, I like to sketch while I watch TV and movies. Subtitles make it hard. I certainly don’t mind them and will watch a show one way or the other, but if I can’t sketch I lose interest quickly. I’ve never watched Naruto because of the lack of dubbing.

  3. Michael
    September 19, 2012 at 10:18 pm — Reply

    While I don’t have problems with subtitles, there are exceptions. The movie Iron Monkey for example. GREAT movie with GREAT fight scenes! Unfortunately they talk during the fight scenes. And anyone who saw the theatrical release of IM knows that they used subtitles. Try reading subs during a long fight scene. Not fun. Good thing I’d already had a dubbed version on videotape!

  4. September 20, 2012 at 12:26 am — Reply

    I almost always prefer watching movies/TV shows in their original languages, so I prefer subtitles. I’m a big Godzilla fan, and one of the “cheesy” elements that non-fans point to about the movies is that they have horrible dubbing (not understanding that, in their nation of origin, they don’t have that problem). I find vocals that don’t match the mouth movements (or, in the case of anime, vocals that sound stiff and stilted because they’re trying to make them match the lip movements) to be much more distracting than reading subtitles.

    One weird exception for me is Gundam. I know it’s because I originally starting watching the series before subtitled versions were available, and it’s stuck with me, even though I watch pretty much all other anime subtitled (I’m dreading the “Tiger & Bunny” dub. The voice acting on that show was perfect, and anime has a pretty poor track record of dub quality).

    Also, in the original article, the writer’s daughter seems to be watching Goseiger, the predecessor of Gokaiger. Goseiger’s the show that featured the angel motif, Gokaiger’s theme is pirates.

  5. September 20, 2012 at 3:14 am — Reply

    I’m deaf, so I actually need captions when I watch TV. So I’m quite happy to watch a subtitled series because it isn’t any different than having the captions turned on.

    I’m also grateful to have friends that are more than willing to suffer through captions when I’m watching something with them. I know at least two who really hate them, but they turn them on without me even having to ask them to.

  6. Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
    January 7, 2013 at 3:45 pm — Reply

    YES. I, too, understand the limitations of network TV. But animation, big-budget films, and comics all follow the same basic morphology. I suppose a big part of it is the ability to empathize with someone who looks as different as Tellus (one of my five fave Legionnaires, btw), but comics should be willing to push the envelope far more than they do, especially in titles like LSH, Invincible, and others that have an interplanetary scope.

  7. Rob
    January 7, 2013 at 3:50 pm — Reply

    Yes it does mostly because writers then feel they have to force a ridiculous contrived explanation. Also B5 should never have got rid of N’grath.

  8. January 7, 2013 at 4:34 pm — Reply

    One of the reasons why I found District 9 such a revelatory piece of sci-fi was how unique and interesting its alien race was. They were quite, well, alien, but still relatable. Compare it to the simply elongated cat people of Avatar, and it was quite apparent how much more compelling District 9 really was.

  9. L1701E
    January 7, 2013 at 5:25 pm — Reply

    It never really bothered me, to be honest with you. I never even thought about it until I saw an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that explained why so many species in that story were humanoid. I still didn’t think much of it because hey, it was a series that had teleporters and holodecks.

    • January 7, 2013 at 5:57 pm — Reply

      Yeah, that particular episode was problematic in that it answered a question that most people weren’t asking in such a way that only raised MORE questions, and brought the issue to the forefront.

      See also: The origin of Tyroc in Legion of Super-Heroes.

      • Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
        January 7, 2013 at 6:23 pm — Reply

        And this probably leads to a whole different don’t-tell-if-nobody-asks QOTD. The awful LSH story with the youth serum and Imsk as a shrinking planet both belong here.

  10. Ian
    January 7, 2013 at 6:10 pm — Reply

    It’s funny because I almost posted this same gripe when you reviewed Death of Captain Marvel. His original costume wasn’t bad but his later costume just screamed “look at my blonde hair and blue eyes!”

    That being said, I’m sure there is a psychological mechanism that allows us to identify better with humanoid characters. Martian Manhunter is probably a good example of a character that is obviously alien but still humanoid enough to identify with.

  11. Christina
    January 7, 2013 at 6:15 pm — Reply

    The whole human-like alien thing bothers me the most in Legion of Superheroes- the only way I get around this problem in my head is so DC can have more “marketable” characters (which is basically bull). Vulcans and Romulans in Star Trek also bug me for similar reasons

    • January 7, 2013 at 7:52 pm — Reply

      But Romulans are technically an offshoot of Vulcans. From what I understand, it was Vulcans who rejected the whole suppression of emotions thing and leaving that became the first Romulans (I could be wrong, but I think that was how it was explained).

  12. January 7, 2013 at 7:47 pm — Reply

    It only bothers me when it is almost the only option of aliens in a series. In things like Stargate SG-1 where they explained the reasoning for it I could understand, but when 99 out of 100 aliens look like they could be from Earth rather than some alien world it bugs me a bit.

    One of the reasons I loved Farscape so much was the creative aliens (such as Pilot and Rygel). Sure, they looked puppet-y, but at least they tried to be a bit different.

  13. gary
    January 7, 2013 at 8:31 pm — Reply

    YES. Partly why I still remember that first time I saw the Cantina in Star Wars. It actually looked alien.

  14. SmarkingOut Adam
    January 7, 2013 at 8:40 pm — Reply

    Not in the least, though I appear to be in the minority. The villains can be whatever crazy creatures the writer wants, but I like to relate to my heroes and if they look like a monstrous squid robot, I’m moving on to something else.

  15. Oldcomicfan
    January 7, 2013 at 8:52 pm — Reply

    It bothered me watching Star Trek back in 1967, but not as much as the aliens in Lost in Space, which were usually whatever rubber costumes they found in the studio garbage bin, which often had been used in many earlier movies or TV shows. It was revolutionary in ST Voyager when they finally gave us the three-legged (computer generated) alien race from fluidic space. It didn’t bother me in shows like Stargate or Firefly, because there weren’t any aliens – it was various offshoots of humanity which had branched out into space. The cantina scene in Star Wars was revolutionary because it had so many alien alien races. That’s why it was so painful in the newer Star Wars movies when Lucas forgot about it and started making references to Earth animals etc., like the infamous “Sitting Ducks” line, when in the early movies he’d successfully invented his own alien cliches like “strong enough to pull the ears off a gondark”. We didn’t know what, exactly, a gondark was, but it worked.

    • January 8, 2013 at 2:00 pm — Reply

      Lost In Space’s carrot-headed aliens were perfectly wonderful in their absurdity…

  16. Arbor Day
    January 7, 2013 at 10:57 pm — Reply

    The limitations of the human perspective prevent us from ever visualizing things truly alien to our own corner of the universe. So until something out there shows up and expands our perception of life, things will always be a few degrees off of human.

  17. DarkSidhe
    January 8, 2013 at 7:04 am — Reply

    While there is some argument for advantages of certain physiological traits (in particular, some kind of hands or other extremities capable of fine manipulation of objects) in an alien race on a similar footing to humans, it does often bother me how much aliens are made to resemble humans in makeup. It would be less egregious if there were some that were like humans and some that were not. I would like to see some more varied representations, myself.

  18. Frank
    January 8, 2013 at 9:56 am — Reply

    It does bother me to have 99% of the aliens to are just a guy with a rubber prosthetic on his face ,though I think I would rather have a rubber brow than really cheesy looking fake limbs.
    In TNG, I think they had less than 5 races that were not humanoid. One memorable species was a snake being.

    Personally, I would like to see more shows use puppets or SOMETHING to have a non-human as a regular character.

    As for comics, I really liked the Sinestro Corp Wars were so many aliens (in the background) were not bipedal.

  19. January 9, 2013 at 5:18 am — Reply

    That is because most comic books and movies are not science fiction, they are simply updated fantasy and legend, with aliens filling the roles of elves, dwarves, ogres and such, all of whom were basically humanoid..

  20. April 3, 2013 at 9:04 pm — Reply

    Only when they also speak perfect, colloquial English.

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