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Ironic Fear

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So much for taking like a duck to water.

"A pegasus who's afraid of heights. Huh. What's up with that?"

This is when a character has an overwhelming fear of something that someone of their kind just shouldn't be afraid of. For example, a bird who's afraid of heights or a mermaid who's afraid of water.

Often, they get an episode or subplot dedicated to resolving this fear. Almost always Played for Laughs, although there will often be a dramatic moment where they are forced to confront said fear.

These can often be considered Absurd Phobias. May be part of a "What Do They Fear?" Episode. Compare Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?, in which the thing that the character fears pops up at an unexpected and inconvenient moment, rather than being something that constantly confronts them. If a character is afraid of something they are, they're a Boomerang Bigot. If they become the thing that they fear, it's a Karmic Transformation.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Played for drama and justified in +Anima. Husky and Nana both have phobias that seem to go against their +Anima abilities — Husky is a fish +Anima and afraid of drowning, Nana's a bat +Anima and afraid of the dark. This is because they gained their +Anima powers when their lives were being threatened in those exact positions (Husky was being drowned by a spiteful relative and Nana was being chased by her murderously abusive father through a dark forest).
  • ˝ Prince: Among the protagonists, Doll is a necrophobic necromancer. That is, a cute little girl who tends to panic at the sight of the very undead she summons.
  • In Beastars a Giraffe girl is said to not be able to look at herself because her own coat triggers her severe trypophobia.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Touma saved the clones of the Sisters Network from being brutally killed in an experiment. Later, a new type of clone was created: WORST, who runs on the negative emotions of the Network. Apparently, none of the nearly ten thousand clones have any negative feelings for Touma at all, so WORST is genuinely freaked out by him. The real irony is that this is probably one of the only emotions she can truly call her own.
  • The titular character from Doraemon is a robotic cat, however he is deathly afraid of mice. Justified because a mouse chewed his ears off when he was younger.
  • Fire Force: Takeru Noto a.k.a. Juggernaut, like most characters in the series, is a firefighter with pyrokinetic powers. He's also deathly afraid of fire. Paradoxically, he joined the Fire Force precisely to be surrounded by people who could put out fires, including his own.
  • Sound Stage M4 of the Lyrical Nanoha franchise reveals that Shamal, the Knight of the Lake, is afraid of swimming (though her powers don't actually have anything to do with water).
  • Curie from Monster Musume is a vampire with a crippling fear of dark, cramped places (like coffins), heights (despite having wings), bats and, of course, blood. Is it any wonder why her father considered her an utter failure?
  • In My Hero Academia, Koji Koda, who has the power of speaking with animals, is scared of bugs. This makes the scene where he uses his power to send bugs at Present Mic (who also has entomophobia) during the end-of-term exams especially powerful — doing it when he sees his teammate Kyouka Jirou bleeding from her ears.
  • Tsunade from Naruto, a legendary ninja who is said to be the world's most talented healer, is afraid of blood. In this case, her experiences as a medic are what gave her that fear.
  • Chika from Neko Musume Michikusa Nikki is terrified of ghosts and spirits. Not only is one of her friends a cat yokai, but a kitsune is in love with her, and she winds up being pestered by the town's yokai who want help.
  • Brook in One Piece is an undead skeleton who is afraid of ghosts and zombies. Humorously enough, the Thriller Bark zombies are afraid of him in turn, due to his tendency to hum ominously before exorcising them, a habit Brook only picked up as a distraction from his fear.
  • Ouran High School Host Club: As explained by the president of the Dark Magic Club, Umehito Nekozawa, their whole family has always worshipped cats. The guy even carries a hand puppet of a cat (named Beelzenef) everywhere. Despite this, his little sister Kirimi is afraid of actual, living cats.
  • An episode of Overlord's Pure Pure Pleiades Spin-Off reveals that Cocytus, an insectoid-shaped Guardian, is apparently afraid of cockroaches.
    Ainz: [at Cocytus's panicked screaming] Isn't that reaction weird for someone who looks like that?
  • Pokémon:
    • In one of the Johto episodes, Misty is excited to meet the Nurse Joy who comes from a line of Joys who specialize in treating Water Pokémon... only to discover that this Joy is afraid to even touch Water Pokémon because she hates them so much. Needless to say, as Misty is a Water type specialist, she is not happy in the least.
    • Misty herself used to be afraid of Gyarados until she retook her Gym Leader position — normally justified, but given she tends to love all Water Types (notably Tentacruel)...
  • Kotori of Sweetness & Lightning is afraid of knives. Considering her love of food, it's significant given that this fear prevents her from cooking.
  • Tokyo Mew Mew features the hydrophobic character with water (and swimming) related powers variant.
  • One segment of Yo-Kai Watch involves Nate getting a cavity and having to see a dentist. The dentist inexplicably is afraid of teeth and simply complains about how he's too afraid to do anything. Naturally though a youkai is to blame. Nate luckily is able to summon a youkai who makes people Hot-Blooded.
  • Water-elemental user Yako of Yurara is afraid of water. Specifically, bodies of water large enough to swim (and drown) in.

    Comic Books 
  • In his earliest appearances, Aquaman's sidekick Aqualad had a fear of fish.
  • The French comic book Aslak, a Viking-themed heroic fantasy, features fierce warrior Almarik, a Berserker who's... hemophobic. As in, he faints at the sight of blood.
  • On-again off-again Avengers member Wonder Man spent much of his career being horribly afraid of his own death — despite the fact that he's an ageless Energy Being who's in the same tier as Thor or Hercules in terms of raw strength and invulnerability. In fairness to him, this wasn't an unfounded fear, as he was mortally wounded and rendered comatose in his first appearance.
  • In "The Man Who Ended Batman's Career!" (Detective Comics #247, 1957), Batman is exposed to a chemical that makes him pathologically afraid of bats, including his bat symbol. The Caped Crusader temporarily assumes the secret identity of Starman until he finds a way to conquer his phobia.
  • In the Justice League of America: "Tower of Babel" story arc, Aquaman is exposed to a dose of Scarecrow's fear toxin, giving him aquaphobia.
  • In the first issue of PS238, Ron has the same powers as his Superman Substitute father, but he's afraid of flying. Specifically, he's afraid that he'll be sucked into an airplane engine, though as Zordon points out, that would destroy the plane, not him. He seems to get over this fear after it actually happens and he saves the plane full of civilians.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • In Back to Zero, Butch grew up in the aquatic-themed Celadon City... yet he fears water.
  • In the The Dark Eye fanfic Fünfzig Schattierungen ... ("Fifty Shades ..."), one of the characters is a necromancer who is afraid of the dead. Talk about irony. He's scared in the dark, to the point that he can't go outside alone at night. And yes, it's a parody on Fifty Shades of Grey, and makes about as much sense.
  • Penny Polendina in The RWBY Loops has a Trauma Button in the form of Pyrrha Nikos, the warrior who (accidentally) killed her in baseline. Given that she herself was designed to replace front-line warriors, this has quite the effect on her psyche and identity, and is Played for Drama.
    GLaDOS: A war machine with PTSD? What will they think of next?
  • Roy, the Flame Alchemist, admits to Winry in The Planets that he has a fear of fire. When he isn't in control of it, it frightens him.

    Films — Animation 
  • The polar bears Muk and Luk in Balto are afraid to go in the water. They mention that it's the reason they are shunned by the other polar bears.
  • Dusty from Planes has a fear of heights, despite being, well, a plane.
  • Blu from Rio is a macaw with a fear of flying.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Movie of The A-Team explains B.A. Baracus's fear of flying using this. After his first experience with Murdock's piloting skills, he was so scared he could not stand flying anymore, despite being in a occupation where jumping from a plane is an occasional must. He is not happy about it.
  • In The Dark Knight Trilogy, Bruce Wayne is afraid of bats. Which is actually the whole reason he decided to pick Batman as his superhero identity in the first place: he wanted to look scary to bad guys, so he went with the scariest thing he could think of.
    Alfred: Why bats, Master Wayne?
    Bruce: Bats frighten me. It's time my enemies shared my dread.
  • Jason Voorhees in Freddy vs. Jason is revealed to be deathly terrified of water, due to him drowning as a child. A fair enough reason in-and-of itself, if not for the fact that his murders often involve him having to wade through/being thrown in large bodies of water. Supplementary material dealt with this by saying it was a deeply buried fear, so buried only Freddy could reach it. Otherwise, he sees water as something to kill people with.
  • In Hook, protagonist Peter is afraid of heights and flying. The irony, of course, is that he's Peter Pan, though he doesn't remember that.
  • The Kamen Rider movie Kamen Rider × Kamen Rider Fourze & OOO: Movie War Mega Max introduces Michal Minato, who was supposed to become the water-themed and -powered Kamen Rider Aqua 40 years in the future but was held back by his crippling hydrophobia. The cast of Kamen Rider OOO helps him get over his fears — as well as the more pressing matter of his Superpowered Evil Side, the fish-themed Kamen Rider Poseidon.
  • In Murders in the Zoo, Peter Yates takes a job as press agent for the zoo despite being afraid of animals.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street: Although Freddy Krueger enjoys his living in Hell and often sets fire to various victims, it's often shown that fire is something he's truly afraid of following his physical death, and is one of few things that can truly harm him, even in the dream world.
  • Dr Leonard McCoy in Star Trek initially suffers from aviophoba, what he calls a "fear of dying in something that flies". When Jim Kirk calls him out for signing on to Starfleet, he comments that his ex-wife took everything in their divorce and he had nothing left because of it.
    McCoy: All I've got left is my bones.
  • Ultraman Ginga S The Movie: Showdown! The 10 Ultra Warriors! has the main characters facing physical manifestations of their worst fears when attempting to infiltrate Etelgar's fortress. For some reason, Sakuya is shown to be afraid of stag beetles — despite being born and raised in an underground kingdom, and would've encountered bugs and insects on a regular basis.

  • The picture book Can I Tell You a Secret?, written by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher Weyant, is about a young frog who can't swim, is afraid of the water, and is embarrassed to tell his parents about it. As it turns out, they already knew.
  • In Island of the Aunts one of the titular aunts can't swim, and is afraid of water. She also lives on a tiny island. Somewhere in the middle of the book, another character points out the irony of this, and tries to teach her how to swim.
  • Lord El-Melloi II Case Files: Gray is terrified of ghosts even though she is a gravekeeper and her powers specialize in fighting ghosts. She is not scared of anything else.
  • The Mermaid Chronicles: Cordelia is a mermaid raised as a human. She would have discovered her ability to transform into a mermaid around age thirteen, but after the shark attack that kills her mother and causes her brother to be presumed dead, she becomes deathly afraid of water, and spends five years as an aquaphobic mermaid before she overcomes her fear enough to take a bath and sees her legs turn into a tail.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians:
    • Thalia Grace has a deathly fear of heights. Her father also happens to be Zeus, lord of the sky. She got lightning powers from him, and by the looks of the sequel series, she actually does also have air/wind powers and flight too, but her mental block is so strong the idea she might have them does not even occur to her.
    • In its sequel series, The Heroes of Olympus, Percy himself develops a fear of drowning in spite of being a son of Poseidon with the ability to breathe underwater. It's brought on by nearly suffocating in muskeg and "drowning" metaphorically in expectations and responsibilities.
    • This is just based on a comment of how Bianca di Angelo says she finds immortality relaxing, but it’s likely she’s afraid of death. Her brother spent weeks starving in a dark jar, and likely developed a phobia. Their father is Hades, lord of the dead and shadows.
  • Toklo from Seeker Bears has a fear of swimming in rivers despite being a grizzly bear. As it turns out, he's not actually afraid of the water itself. Grizzlies believe that spirits go into the rivers and get washed away downstream when they're forgotten. Toklo was afraid of swimming with the spirits, and especially that his deceased mother and brother might try to drown him as revenge.
  • Spy School: Spyder Agent Murray Hill is afraid of.... you guessed it Spiders. This gets used to frighten him into making a confession at one point.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doc Martin: Dr. Martin Ellingham, a top surgeon, is forced to leave his job and become a humble GP after developing a crippling fear of blood.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Woman Who Fell to Earth", Karl, who operates a tower crane for a living, is — by his own admission — "not very good with heights".
  • In Fun at the Funeral Parlour, undertaker Ivor Thomas has a crippling fear of dead bodies, which is why most of the time he leaves the handling of them to his three sons.
  • The resident Drill Sergeant Nasty in Get Some In!, Corporal Marsh, is almost paralytically afraid of flying - which is unfortunate for an NCO in the Royal Air Force.note  When he is forced to accompany the National Servicemen on a flight, he remains rigid with panic throughout, and begins babbling to one of the recruits that the pilot, a World War II veteran, has shrapnel in his head and is planning to fly straight into the Sun.
  • Played for Laughs in Gilmore Girls, when Paris pawns her ill boyfriend off on her old nanny despite his protests rather than help him herself. She tells him she's uncomfortable around sick people, and he incredulously points out she's a pre-med student. Becomes a Brick Joke later in the episode with a Gag Echo.
    Paris: Sick people freak me out.
    Rory: You're pre-med!
    Paris: I'm really tired of having that constantly thrown in my face.
  • The title character of Horatio Hornblower is prone to sea-sickness and he is really afraid of heights. Excellent material for an officer in the Navy, isn't it? His fear of heights is referenced quite often, and he has to climb in the riggings or onto the fighting top several times when he has to deal with shortening sails and similar things. He's also shown trying to fight and overcome his fear voluntarily.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus has a barber who hates hair, which explains why he only pretends to do his job. He never wanted to be a barber, anyway; he wanted to be a lumberjack!
  • In Smallville, Clark Kent is afraid of heights.
  • Supernatural, Lifelong professional monster hunters, Sam and Dean Winchester, have surprisingly mundane phobias, including: flying, snakes, rats, spiders, claustrophobia, and clowns.

  • Dianne from the Cool Kids Table game Creepy Town is a goth girl who loves the occult, but she's afraid of creepy dolls and that fear trumps her compulsion towards other spooky things. Even more ironically, the monster manifests as a creepy doll version of her to kill Stacey.

  • Tamaru from BIONICLE. He lives in a Tree Top Town and wants to be a pilot, but is afraid of heights. Heights relative to a Le-Matoran, that is; the treetops are 'ground-level' to him, so he can leap and swing through the jungle canopy without fear. But he cannot handle flying on birdback, even though he wants to fly more than anything else in the world.
  • Mixels:
    • Teslo, being an Electroid, makes his home in the high mountains to gather electricity from the highest storms. He's also afraid of heights, while also being completely unaware that the other Electroids know this.
    • Skrubz is a Medix Mixel with defibrillator-holding arms. He is also made incredibly squeamish and scared by medical procedures.
  • Cinko from Uglydolls is afraid of water. This wouldn't be as much as an issue...if he wasn't a cephalopod. And it's not just standard water, either. It's drinking it, watermelons, pool floaties, Ice-Bat on a hot day...anything.
  • Monstrous Maggot from Flush Force, despite being a garbage-living maggot, is Terrified of Germs.

    Video Games 
  • In Fire Emblem: Awakening, Gangrel mocking Emmeryn's Heroic Sacrifice of jumping off a cliff becomes this when his profile reveals he's afraid of heights.
  • Romeo, the sniper of the squad of Halo 3: ODST is implied to be afraid of heights.
  • Mini-Histoire/Histy in Hyperdimension Neptunia V is a fairy who can fly. She's also afraid of heights.
  • In Ittle Dew, the titan de Graphiques is a golem with tiny wings who is afraid of heights, but can't stop flying.
  • Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII reveals that moogles in the Lightning Saga are scared of heights. Lightning uses this to reprimand a moogle who lost his friends in the dangerous woods that surround his village; having earlier in the sidequest shown the arm strength to throw a moogle straight back to the village, she threatens that if it happens again, she'll give him a vantage point by throwing him into the sky.
  • According to Mega Man & Bass, Needle Man, who is not only built around attacking with spikes, but is also a robot that most likely couldn't get shots, is Afraid of Needles.
  • In Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, random Captain generation can sometimes produce a Caragor Tamer with a fear of Caragors.
  • In the various Pokémon games, you occasionally encounter trainers in the Hiker class who are afraid of heights... on mountains.
  • In the Sonic Rush Series, it's shown that Blaze the Cat is afraid of heights. In gameplay, she has an acrobatic playstyle that lets her get lots of air time and Sonic Generations reveals she can outright fly. There is no explanation behind her fear of heights nor her ability to fly.
  • Youmu from Touhou Project is a half-ghost who is afraid of, you guessed it, ghosts. Even more ironic in that her mistress is a ghost, and Youmu has never reacted to that. Youmu is not so much scared of real ghosts as much as she is afraid of ghost stories. Youmu isn't scared of much, but has trouble dealing with scary things. Imaginary horrors are her weakness: in one of the canon manga she fails a test of courage when she keeps fleeing hysterically from people in cheap halloween costumes, even though she was perfectly aware they were false.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • In RWBY, Neptune Vasilias of team SSSN is named after someone water-based, carries a trident weapon that uses electricity, but is deathly afraid of water. Played for Laughs over in RWBY Chibi, and explained in RWBY: Before the Dawn: Neptune has a water-controlling Semblance, and when he first manifested it, he accidentally trapped first himself and then his brother in a ball of water with no room to breathe.

  • Winston of Freefall was genetically modified for life in space. His modifications make him completely hairless and give him resistance to atrophy in low gravity. Unfortunately, he suffers from an irrational fear of space travel. His phobia is bad enough that when he has to travel on a space craft he has to be kept in hibernation for most of the trip because he is afraid he will go crazy and walk out the airlock. But he is fine on a large space station with artificial gravity, where his modifications don't matter.
  • My Impossible Soulmate: Nagisa is a Winged Humanoid who's afraid of heights. Given she was nearly thrown to her death for being born with black wings, its quite justified.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • 2 Stupid Dogs: Little Dog is afraid of cats.
  • American Dragon: Jake Long features a hydrophobic mermaid.
  • Creature Comforts features, amongst other things, a Walrus afraid of the sea, a Dolphin who used to be afraid of the sea but has since gotten over it, and a few birds afraid of heights (although there is another bird who scoffs at heights and instead, quite sensibly, professes to be afraid of falling from a great height.)
  • Billy Joe Cobra, the titular ghost in Dude, That's My Ghost! is afraid of ghosts, and spooky stuff in general.
  • Extreme Ghostbusters had a "What Do They Fear?" Episode with a ghost who could make phobias come to life. Eduardo's fear was of death: ironic both because he was taunting Kylie earlier claiming she was afraid of death, and because he interacts with ghosts on a daily basis, so he knows there's an afterlife.
  • Fluffy Gardens: Oona is an owl who is afraid of the dark, but she has to face her fear when she wants to start a band with the (allegedly) nocturnal Floella the Bat.
  • One episode of Franklin has the title character being afraid of sleeping in his shell (which, in this show, it can be taken off) because he's claustrophobic. In the same episode he dreams about a hydrophobic duck, a lion which is afraid of loud sounds, a bird which is afraid of heights and a polar bear which is afraid of the cold.
  • On Hero Elementary, Lucita Sky is afraid of heights even though she can fly. She usually has to avoid looking down when she's flying.
  • Stumpy from Kaeloo is afraid of heights despite being a squirrel.
  • An episode of King of the Hill centers on Hank developing a serious crippling fear of propane, the thing he sells for a living, because he had survived a gas leak explosion in the previous episode.
  • Let's Go Luna!: Luna, the moon, is revealed to be afraid of the dark at times in "Day of the Dead". She even lampshades how embarrassing it is.
  • Fluttershy in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is afraid of... a lot of things, but the one that fits here is her fear of heights. She's a Pegasus. Justified example, as her wings are much weaker than those of most pegasi, and she spent her childhood on a city in the sky.
  • The Owl House:
    • Willow is a witch who specializes in plant magic, yet she is afraid of ladybugs (a bug that protects plants by feeding on harmful insects).
    • Raine is a specialist in Bard magic (being so good they became the Coven Head), yet they suffer from such severe Performance Anxiety that they end up running off the stage in a panic during their inauguration speech. Eda is quick to snark about it.
    • King is an Attention Whore and he also suffers from Performance Anxiety.
  • Ready Jet Go!: Sean is an aspiring astronaut who is afraid of heights and is claustrophobic.
  • A sketch from the Robot Chicken episode, "Boogie Bardstown in: No Need, I Have Coupons" has SpongeBob SquarePants, Bob Belcher, Alfredo Linguine, and Jerome "Chef" McElroy compete on MasterChef Celebrity Showdown, where each contestant has to cook with what they fear most. It is revealed in this sketch that SpongeBob is afraid of water.
    Gordon Ramsay: WATER?! You live in the SEA, you festering gutterslop!
    SpongeBob: But I can't swim, Chef...
    Gordon Ramsay: It's "Yes, Chef", you piss-colored tampon alternative!
  • Ruby Gloom: Scaredy Bat is afraid of heights and the dark.
  • In the Thomas & Friends special, "Tale of the Brave", despite his overall bravery and the fact that he is an engine designed to work on high, mountainous regions, Gator is afraid of heights. In his backstory, he had to cross a high bridge on a mountainous region to deliver urgent supplies to a village, despite his fear. This backstory also encourages Percy to face his own fears.
  • Transformers:
    • Transformers: Generation 1:
      • Silverbolt is afraid of heights, despite being a giant robot capable of transforming into a jet and being the leader of the Autobot's main air squadron, the Aerialbots. Despite this, he proves to be a level-headed, extremely qualified leader who always does his duty. It's specifically why Prime puts him in charge of the team. He says that the demands of the position will give him something to think about instead of his phobia. The fact that he has a sense of caution is also probably a plus, since the other four at that point were all extremely reckless.
      • Broadside of the same series gets it twice as bad. He's a triple changer with the vehicle modes of a jet and an aircraft carrier (yeah, yeah, we know), but he's both afraid of heights and gets the robotic equivalent of motion sickness at sea. Mocking his much unenviable lot in life is an infrequent joke among the fandom.
    • Blades, from Transformers: Rescue Bots, is likewise afraid of heights despite turning into a helicopter. However, thanks to some Character Development over the course of the first season, he becomes better at dealing with it.
  • Early in Season 2, Stella of Winx Club was shown to be afraid of heights, despite being a fairy. Later, she seemed to overcome it.

    Real Life 


Video Example(s):


Blu's Fear Of Flying

Blu the macaw from the movie Rio has a fear of flying. It stems back when Blu was a adorable chick living in Rio De Janeiro as he failed to learn how to fly due to poachers capturing him and various birds just when he was going to try and learn how to do it.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / IronicFear

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