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Absurd Phobia

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Varla: You afraid of milk? How old are you, man? I got a two-year-old nephew who's not afraid of milk!
Monk: You must be very proud of him.
Varla: For what? Not bein' afraid of milk? That just means he's normal!
Monk, "Mr. Monk and the Girl Who Cried Wolf"

Everyone is afraid of something. While phobias are defined as irrational fears, most of the time they still make perfect sense. Fears of things that can hurt you like spiders, heights, needles, and snakes are perfectly understandable.

A crippling fear of grass, on the other hand, not so much.

Sometimes, in a work, a character has a phobia of something that is so ridiculous that people have a hard time comprehending it. Often comes in one of three flavors:

A Comedy Trope, this kind of phobia is usually Played for Laughs. In the rare instance that this phobia is Played for Drama or characters sympathize with the phobiac because of it, such as if the said phobia is a result of childhood trauma, then it is considered a subversion. Justified if a logical reason is given for said fear.

Remember, however, that Reality Is Unrealistic. While an Absurd Phobia is played for humor in fiction, people in real life can have phobias and trauma triggers that seem ridiculous to others but have very logical origins — for instance, a person who has repressed memories of being abused by a man in a red cap could develop a phobia of red hats without knowing where it comes from. Ignoring or deliberately poking at the phobia because "it's silly" is cruelty, and helping someone get over a phobia requires psychiatric training and should not be attempted by nonprofessionals.

Compare Faux Horrific, Nightmare Retardant, and Weaksauce Weakness. An Ironic Fear can be considered one of these. If one of these phobias is a recurring plot point, then it is Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?.


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     Anime and Manga  
  • Mio Akiyama in K-On! (mostly the anime) has a fear of barnacles, mold, cray fish, other people's blisters, the covers of horror films and pretty much any string of scary words involving blood, injury, or ghosts. In The Movie, she gains a fear of things that turn (including conveyor belt sushi and The London Eye of all things).
  • Tohru of Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid is afraid of the shopping mall, due to it resembling a castle to her. The white color in particular reminds her of the fortresses of the crusaders who'd try to kill her on a regular basis.
  • My Balls. Elyse has a literal fear of penises, picturing a horrifying monster whenever she looks at one.
  • One Piece: Sugar, a member of Donquixote Pirates, developed a phobia to long noses or anything that resembles them, due to the long-nosed Usopp accidentally scaring her with a Nightmare Face (after being unknowingly fed with a spicy pepper) that made her faint.
  • Ranma of Ranma ½ has a crippling phobia of cats. It's often played for laughs for being a Weaksauce Weakness. But then it's revealed that this was the result of learning a particularly brutal martial art that activates his Berserk Mode whenever said fear reaches its limit. And, of course, the brutal martial art training, which entails being repeatedly thrown to the mercy of hungry cats by his asshole father as a child whilst wrapped in fish-meat, kind of makes it very understandable why he is afraid of cats.
  • Soul Eater. Death The Kid has Asymmetriphobia (a fear or strong disgust towards asymmetrical things) due to being extremely obsessive-compulsive. Because of this, anything slightly out of place will cause him to freak out. And don't remind him that he only has stripes on one side of his hair.
  • When Momoko of Sumomo Mo Momo Mo was six years old, her father tried to increase her protein by putting her on a diet of hardboiled eggs. Momoko has since developed a trauma-induced phobia of them, to the point she won't even use eggs in the food she cooks. She can handle it if they're normal hardboiled eggs, but the trauma kicks in to full gear if faces are drawn on them since her well-meaning father did that to all of the eggs to try and make it more enjoyable for her.
  • Josuke Higashikata from Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Diamond Is Unbreakable has the fear of reptiles - including turtles.

     Comic Books  
  • There is a Mickey Mouse comic that shows Minnie being afraid of mice.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Super-Villianess Titania had a crippling fear of Spider-Man, despite the fact that she was far stronger than him and routinely took on stronger heroes (She-Hulk in particular) with gusto. Her debut story in Secret Wars (1984) had her get defeated in embarrassing fashion by Spidey, and she fears he'll do it again every time she sees him. She gets over it when she realizes she's been in a battle with a disguised Spidey.
      Titania: S-S-Spider-Man? I can't fight you!
      Spider-Man: Really? You've been doing a pretty good job so far!
      Titania: [beat] You know, you're right! [goes on the attack]
      Spidey: Me and my big mouth.
    • Doctor Octopus also had, at one point, a fear of spiders. He needed psychiatric counseling to overcome it.
  • Minor villain Dementoid develops one towards buttocks and anuses after Venom turns his rear end into a set of jaws and nearly eats him in reverse.

     Comic Strips  
  • The Far Side had several cartoons describing implausibly detailed phobias, including:
    • Anatidaephobia: The fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you.
    • Luposlipophobia: The fear of being pursued by timber wolves around a kitchen table while wearing socks on a newly waxed floor.
  • Peanuts.
    • Snoopy suffers from Weed Claustrophobia — a fear of standing in tall grass.
    • Lucy once admitted to being afraid of small pieces of fuzz.
    • One strip (later adapted for a scene in A Charlie Brown Christmas) has Lucy trying to assign various phobias to Charlie Brown. Eventually she arrives at pantophobia.
      Charlie Brown: What's pantophobia?
      Lucy: The fear of everything.
      Charlie Brown: (so loud that Lucy face faults) THAT'S IT!!
  • Walter the Softy from Dennis the Menace (UK) had a few of those, among others from things like butterflies as part of his extra-wimpy characterisation from the late '70s to the '90s. He'd run in tears to his mother for shelter whenever he encountered one of these.
  • Wade the Duck of U.S. Acres suffers from paranoia and Pantophobia (Fear of Everything). Both of which are almost always Played for Laughs.

  • Returning gives us Scorpius Malfoy, a wizard who is afraid of flying.

  • Our RoboCop Remake hilariously gives Murph a fear of clowns.
  • One segment in The ABCs of Death features a child who is literally afraid of the toilet, to the point of having nightmares about it turning into a monster and killing his parents. Justified at the end, when the toilet ends up falling apart and crushing him to death.
  • Dan Mott in Without a Paddle divulges to his friends that he's terrified of (among other more mundane things) Saran Wrap.
    Dan: I won't even keep it in the house anymore, because I'm afraid that somehow it'll get draped over my head and stick to my mouth and nose and I'll suffocate. How pathetic is that?
    Tom: Very.

  • Aunt Josephine from A Series of Unfortunate Events suffers from phobias of everything, tripping over the door mat, getting electrocuted by using a telephone, and finally, realtors. In The Film of the Book, her fears of them prove amusingly rational for just one evening, when a hurricane strikes her house and causes all her appliances to malfunction in exactly the way she claimed they would.
  • The Nomes from the Land of Oz series are terrified of eggs. They claim they're toxic to them, but it's heavily implied that's not true.
  • In The Savannah Reid Mysteries, the tough, manly-man cop Dirk is terrified of chickens. Savannah finds this amusing.

     Live Action TV  
  • Monk. Adrian Monk has a VERY long list of these, including milk, glaciers, clouds, chalk, bees, blenders, bees in blenders, soccer riots, round things, dryer lint, underwear, harmonicas, mixed vegetables, "the miracle of birth", and fear itself.
  • Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory has a fear of birds. The guys often tease him for it, particularly about the time he was chased up a tree by a chicken. Amy and Penny help him get over his fear when a bird flies into the apartment.
  • Anya from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is afraid of bunnies.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: In the Barber Shop Sketch the barber has a fear of cutting hair, which makes him murder every client he gets. As it turns out he would have rather been a lumberjack...
  • In the Friends episode, "The One with the Embryos", it comes out that Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance scares the bejeezus out of Chandler.
    Joey: The Irish jig guy?
    Chandler: His legs flail about as if independent from his body!
  • In the Happy Days episode "Fearless Malph", Ralph admits to having literally every phobia in the book. The episode centers on Ralph becoming fearless through hypnotic suggestion. The episode "The Muckrakers" also has Richie potentially exposing the Fonz's fear and disgust for liver. Fonzie eventually chokes down the fear and eats some.
  • Kenan & Kel. Until seeing a hypnotist for a cure, Chris had an irrational fear of sandwiches; Kenan thought it was ridiculous.
    Chris: If it wasn't for hypnotism, I would have never gotten over my fear of sandwiches.
    Kenan: You were afraid of a sandwich?!
    Chris: Not anymore!
  • In A.N.T. Farm, Olive Doyle claims she has many phobias, including "ghosts, vampires, witches, zombies, leprechauns, giraffes, double decker buses, balloons and...(shudders) curly fries." Cue Fletcher sitting next to her with a tray of curly fries.
  • In the Murdoch Mysteries episode "Murdochophobia", Murdoch admits he's phobic of butterflies. At first Dr. Ogden believes he's rather patronisingly attempting to connect with her phobic patients, but starts laughing when she realises he's serious.
    Murdoch: I hope you don't react to your patients like that.
  • Israeli comedic education show Ronen and Renana featured a skit where a librarian blackmails someone by threatening to splash water on him. She figured out his fear of water based on his aversion towards the book Three Men in a Boat and that he once ran screaming at the sight of a glass of water.
  • Guenièvre in Kaamelott is afraid of birds because they don't have arms. Later, it's revealed that Arthur is afraid of snakes. While it's a reasonable fear, his reason isn't:
    "They walk on their belly, it's creepy!"
  • In Full House "The House Meets the Mouse, Part 2", as Joey freaks out over seeing a shark swimming around their underwater radio station, he says this:
    Joey: Some people are afraid of the dark. Some people are afraid of heights. Some people are afraid of eggs.
    Jesse: Don't worry, Joey. We're safe in here-- Eggs?
    [Joey shrugs]
  • In Smallville, Clark Kent had a crippling fear of heights, despite his invulnerability. He eventually got over it.
  • In Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt one of the lasting effects of Kimmy's fifteen years in the bunker is an unexplained fear of Velcro.
  • Big Train did a sketch where one new office manager had a phobia of spoons and was explaining to his new co-workers about this by passing a piece of paper with the word "spoons" written on it so as not to even mention spoons himself. Sadly, one of the employees is late to the meeting and enters the room stirring a cup of tea. Cue the office manager diving out the three-storey window to get away from the spoon.
  • In Community, Abed has a bizarre fear of Daylight Saving Time, claiming that it "makes no sense". He finds the change back to Mountain Standard Time even more frightening.
  • The Maury show will have episodes focusing on people with weird fears, such as pickles and cotton balls. First they talk about the fear, then Maury has the thing that the guest fears brought out, guest freaks out and runs backstage. Somehow, they're all cured by the end of the show.
  • George Costanza refuses to carry a pen around with him because he's afraid that it might accidentally puncture his scrotum.
  • A "What Do They Fear?" Episode of Corner Gas is sparked by the other characters learning that Lacey is globophobic (afraid of balloons), which is treated as a ridiculous fear. Although Hank seems to think the name is even more ridiculous than the actual fear.
    Hank: Shouldn't it be called "balloonophobia"? I mean, what if you're afraid of globes? What, your phobia doesn't get a name because the balloon people took it already? How's that fair?
  • In Zoey 101, Lola reveals during a psychology class that she has a fear of people in mascot costumes due to a man in a hot dog costume falling over and nearly trampling her when she was five.
  • The Slammer has a Tyrant Takes the Helm episode where the Governor is replaced by Mr. Beltsem, who suffers from 'show-biz phobia': a crippling affliction for someone running a prison for show-biz offenders.
  • In For The People, Jay claims to have a legitimate fear of fluorescent colours because of Kate's propensity for neon tabs on her paperwork.
    Jay:Do you realize I have an actual fear of fluorescent colours because of her? Because of the tabs! A clinically verifiable phobia. I have been treated for this. Unsuccessfully!

  • Liam Payne of the band One Direction has a phobia of spoons, exaggerated for comedic effect in the fanvid series The Adventurous Adventures of One Direction.
  • "Bang" ("Frightened") by Doe Maar from their album Virus is about somebody who feels anxious and frightened of all kinds of things but is unsure why.


     Video Games  
  • Guybrush Threepwood of Monkey Island has a crippling fear of porcelain that is never explained.
  • The Lilim in VA-11 Hall-A have their fears programmed completely at random. Dorothy, in particular, has a fear of dogs and chinchillas.
  • Buddy of MySims Agents is afraid of pudding, and casually mentions Pudding War I. Justified, as he's allergic to it.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, Exdeath is stated to have a fear of turtles, a reference to Ghido the tortoise sage from Final Fantasy V.
  • One of the Toads you lead on an Escort Mission in Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon has a fear of clocks and gears, which even he admits is irrational. So, naturally, that takes place in the Old Clockworks mansion. And you've gotta carry him past that which scares him.
  • In "The Champions' Ballad" DLC for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Daruk is revealed to have a phobia of dogs. It stems from an incident in his childhood where he angered a dog by stepping on its tail. It's especially comedic when he curls up in fear upon seeing a dog less than a tenth his size that he had just saved from a pack of Bokoblins he fearlessly attacked right beforehand.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Sasami's route of Little Busters!, Masato develops a fear of cats after Sasami knocks him out in her cat form twice. No one except Riki (who knows the context behind it) takes his fear seriously.

  • Manly Guys Doing Manly Things. These three comics talk about Commander's irrational millipede phobia.
    Commander: Look, unless you done two tours 'a duty on th' Millipede Planet in Millipede Season you don' get t' judge.
  • Yuki of Ménage à 3 has her fear of phalluses, due to inadvertently reading a hentai doujinshi when she was very young. Not especially comic in itself, but played for (rather cruel) laughs in that she hallucinates tentacles whenever she sees a penis, and then goes into a berserk fugue state. Which is kind of rough on Gary, the Loser Protagonist who wants to date her.
  • Laser Pony of The League of Super Redundant Heroes is extremely arachnophobic. Made absurd by the fact that whenever he's made aware of the presence of spiders, he freaks out and lasers everything around him until it's dead. Considering the fact that he's blind...
    • His friend and fellow hero Arachno-Dude points out that he's a spider-themed hero. The results aren't pretty.
    • Good Girl is secretly afraid of being electrocuted whenever she vacuums.
  • Scott of Basic Instructions once mentioned a fear of birds. The "absurd" part was that it included pigeons and Big Bird. According to later commentary, the real Scott apparently developed a dislike of birds from having been around raised peacocks in his youth.
  • The Order of the Stick: Durkon, like all other dwarves, is terrified of trees. In dwarf culture, destroying a tree is an act of heroism.

     Web Original  
  • A guy in ASDF Movie 8 has a fear of backstories. When he consults a doctor who asks how said phobia began, he starts screaming in terror.
  • This College Humor sketch features the Scarecrow using his fear gas to fight Batman. The results are... unexpected.
  • The Necro Critic has an admitted fear of babies that is Played for Laughs in his Baby Geniuses review.
  • Ultra Fast Pony: In "The Nightmoon Mare Zone":
    Narrator: What are you afraid of? Is it death? Perhaps spiders? Why not be afraid of something original for once? You know what, from now on, you're afraid of farts. [fart sound] Did I scare you?
  • The Evil Overlord List recommends faking one of these, so that during the climactic moment when The Hero pulls out the thing you supposedly fear, he'll be completely thrown by your non-terrified reaction.
  • SuperMarioLogan's version of Bowser becomes afraid of bananas after his son Junior forces him to watch a scary movie with him. On the 3rd time, Bowser gets afraid of milk.
    • A justified example in "Bowser Junior's Biggest Fear". Junior is paranoid that cotton balls would kill him due to Bowser shoving cotton balls in his mouth when he was a baby in an attempt to substitute a pacifier.
  • In a season 3 episode of Wolf 359 that Jacobi has an "inexplicable, nearly pathological fear of ducks."

     Western Animation  
  • American Dad!:
    • Stan has an unexplained phobia of seagulls.
      Stan: A SEAGULL? WHERE? Don't let it touch me with its feet!
    • And his son Steve is shown to be afraid of moths.
  • In the episode of Arthur titled "The Squirrels" the kids in Elwood City all develop a temporary phobia of squirrels after seeing a movie called "The Squirrels" a la The Birds.
  • Bob of Bob's Burgers had a fear of pigeons stemming from him being attacked by a flock of them in the attic of an old house. He got over it after he realized that he was describing a scene from The Birds. Apparently he watched it as a kid and it freaked him out.
  • Camp Lakebottom "Cheeks of Dread": After much needling, McGee finds out that Gretchen has a phobia of chipmunks. The episode's monster turns out to be a vicious chipmunk that keeps a giant pile of skulls from the people it has devoured.
  • Ed from Ed, Edd n Eddy is shown to be afraid of soap in "Run For Your Ed" despite no negative reactions in prior episodes. He also has a more consistent fear of wigs and hairpieces as shown in "X Marks the Ed" note .
    Ed: ATTACK THE WIG! (does so)
    Edd: Ed, you're violating a hairpiece!
    Ed: (frowns, in earnest) Wigs scare me, Double-D.
  • The Fairly OddParents!:
    • The Yugopotamians have a species wide phobia of such innocent things as candy, flowers, small children, displays of affection, and anything cute, safe, or fun. Justified in that, biologically, these things can actually hurt and/or kill them.
    • In "Deja Vu", Francis appears to have a phobia of getting wet.
      [Timmy throws a water balloon at him]
    • In "A Bad Case of Diary-Uh!", one of the embarrassing secrets revealed in Vicky's journal is her fear of cows. In the same episode, Timmy is revealed to have a fear of both clowns and feet. Vicky manages to use both (along with his allergy to oranges) against him by going to his school and declaring "Barefoot Orange-Juggling Clown Day".
    • Super Toilet.
      Cosmo: SO! MUCH! CLOGGING! [enters fetal position, starts sucking his thumb]
  • The plot of many Invader Zim episodes revolve around him developing an insane phobia of a random mundane Earth object/group/action, and taking drastic measures to be rid of them.
  • King of the Hill:
    • There is an episode of where Hank develops a serious crippling fear of propane, the thing he sells for a living. Justified, in that he had survived a gas leak explosion in the previous episode.
    • Played straight in another episode where the entire cast treats Hank's fear of bats like this.
      Hank: You know, we've all got fears. What about Bill's fear of balloons?
      Bill: [alarmed] Where!?
  • Littlest Pet Shop (2012):
    • Russell apparently has a phobia of marshmallows, justifying it by claiming they're "soft and... squishy..."
    • Sunil in "Heart of Parkness":
      Sunil: I am scared of creatures with six or more legs, loud noises, curtains, avocados, and quiet jazz music, but no, not cobras.
    • In the episode "Game of Groans,'' Youngmee reveals that she has a fear of jester hats.
  • Norman of Mighty Max has arachnophobia so extreme that he once jumped through a ceiling in response to a tiny spider landing on his shoulder. Justified when you learn that he is destined to die by being eaten by a giant spider.
  • Milo Murphy's Law plays with this - while Melissa's fear of roller coasters is perfectly commonplace, the reason WHY she's afraid of them (one fell out of the sky on the first day of summer and crushed her science project) is what's absurd. Zack's fear of fish (especially bagged ones) and Milo's fear of Chinese finger traps, however, play the trope straight.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
  • Nicky's fear of swans is a running gag in Pepper Ann. This fear, which her older sister secretly shared, is revealed to have a specific cause: they both had the same exceedingly creepy toy swan when they were kids.
  • Phineas and Ferb
    • Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz has many fears, including heights, bats, and... shellfish.
      • His fantasy counterpart, Malefishmirtz admits that he's afraid of unicorns, whales, octopus, pegasi, scorpions, barnacles and girls. Then a few seconds later a uni-whale-scorpio-Pega-squid-icorn Candace appears behind him, though he admits that when combined it's more ridiculous then scary.
    • "Monster From the Id" shows that Baljeet is afraid of contractions (the Frankenstein monster of grammer) and Irving is afraid of the color lavender.
    • Candace, for reasons unknown, fears the number seven.
  • Ludo from Star vs. the Forces of Evil appears to have a phobia of hair stemming from an early birthday party when he was assaulted by the Tickle-Monster.
  • Chuckie from Rugrats has a long list of these. The most famous being his unexplained fear of "that guy on the oatmeal box." Taken Up to Eleven in another episode where Chuckie meets a kid who has even more ridiculous fears than he does, including the fear of being eaten by oatmeal.
  • The title character of Jimmy Two-Shoes is afraid of pickles. No particular explanation, just Rule of Funny.
  • The Simpsons: In "Fear of Flying" it is revealed that Homer has a fear of sock puppets.
  • The Total Drama Island episode "Phobia Factor" shows the castmates' worst fears. While some of them are common, like Owen and Izzy's fear of flying and DJ's fear of snakes, others are very absurd. Examples include Tyler's fear of chickens, Duncan's fear of Celine Dion music store cardboard standees and Courtney's fear of green jello. Lindsay and Sadie both share the same fear, bad haircuts (Lindsay originally said her fear was walking though a minefield in heels before changing it). There are also some that are dangerous things but also rather odd, like Heather's (sumo wrestlers), Harold (ninjas) and Cody (having to defuse a time bomb).
  • In an episode of Ultimate Spider-Man the villain Nightmare puts all of New York, except for Spider-Man and Iron Fist, to sleep and traps them in their worst fear. What is Nova afraid of? Rabbits!
  • Omi of Xiaolin Showdown is afraid of squirrels. Even Jack Spicer thought that was incredibly lame.
  • Something of a subversion in Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!, in that the gang takes it seriously when he's confronted by it, but they aren't above mocking him when he isn't. Fred isn't afraid of heights. He's afraid of widths. He believes it's more rational than Velma's more traditional fear of water because:
    Fred: The human body is 85% water. But how wide are we? Hmm?
  • Kim Possible: Played with in the half-episode "Roachie", which begins with Kim chiding Ron for being scared of ordinary bugs and then had Kim totally freaked out by giant roaches (which are actually harmless and friendly when separated from the influence of the story's villain, as shown by one that Ron develops a rapport with).
  • Family Guy plays with the Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism by having Brian, an erudite talking dog, freak out when Lois turns on the vacuum and chases him around the room with it.
    "Stop it, you're scaring me!"
  • On Rick and Morty, Rick mentions that he had a fear of wicker furniture before he transferred his consciousness into a Federation agent. He also has a fear of pirates.
  • Elliot in The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie has an ever-increasing list of phobias, ranging from the mundane to the absurd.
    Sedgewick: He's scared of everything; spiders, snakes... wicker furniture!

     Real Life  
  • There are a wide variety of real-life phobias that can come across as this to normal people. Including fear of clowns, ducks, babies, hair, colors, numbers, words, etc...
  • Probably the single most generally known absurd phobia is a fear of firecrackers and fireworks, a common side effect of war-induced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This one, at least, is well-publicized enough not to be used for comedy.
  • According to interviews, Alfred Hitchcock was extremely afraid of eggs.
  • The myths of elephants having a phobia to mice has an element of truth. Elephants' eyesights are not keen enough to clearly see small creatures on the ground, and so they react with fear when they detect unexpected movement from below, not because they hate mice, but because they can't tell the difference between a harmless mouse and a dangerous threat like a snake. Thus their phobia reacts with equal fear, to both harmless creatures and genuine threats. When a mouse is brought up close to the elephant's face, elephants do not tend to fear them at all.
  • The Little Albert experiment where scientists proved classical conditioning in humans by conditioning a baby to fear white lab rats. Eventually they found he feared all white, fluffy things.