Reflections on Themes in Film: Pediophobia

Friday the 13th: The Series - The Inheritance (1987) screenshotWhile logic attempts to rescue all pediophobic people from their fear of dolls, the majority are never saved. Why are dolls so scary? What is it about them that ups their freak factor?

Pediophobia: The fear of dolls or, more generally, of false representation of sentient beings, such as mannequins or robots.

The above definition touches upon one possible explanation: false representation.

When we look at a thing, our brain automatically places it into its tidy drawer in the file cabinet of “the known.” Therefore, when we discover the thing is not what we labeled it, oftentimes completely the opposite, our fear of the unexpected, of the unknown, is triggered. An inanimate object modeled after human beings, such as a doll or mannequin, with a secret life of its own, feeds into our fear of the unexpected. If we can’t trust a thing to remain as we know it to be, then what can we count on? Our sense of control over things beneath the “all powerful human” takes a huge hit.

Or, perhaps, the fear of dolls is rooted in a fear of children.

The X-Files - Chinga (1998) screenshotTiny creatures with coveted amounts of energy, who are sweet and eager to please, children possess the ability to entertain themselves for hours and bounce back after the most horrific events. Their imaginations are filled with pictures, characters and worlds that amaze and astonish the dormant (or dead) adult imagination. And, most times, children aren’t suspected where foul play exists because, well, they’re innocents, aren’t they? Yet, we all know how sneaky kids can be. How cunning they are when they want something. Master manipulators in adorable packaging. Those probing questions we just can’t believe came from the mind of a child; they had to hear it someplace else, from a grown up or on TV. Could it be, we imply their innocence because we fear our vulnerability to the little darlings?

Of course, there are several more theories to explain the fear of dolls, so please share your two cents in the comment box below.

The subject fascinates me — being a long-time pediophob — and if I had to explain my fear, it’s a doll’s eyes. They look so real that I can’t stop wondering, “What is it thinking? Is there actually a soul inside there looking out at me? Does it want to hurt me?” Needless to say, Cabbage Patch Kids (with yarn hair) were the only dolls to survive my childhood; all the others went to a better place – far away from me.

Wanna test your level of pediophobia? Watch the following:
(But with the lights on and away from dolls.)

Friday the 13th Season 1, Episode 1, THE INHERITANCE (1987)

CHILD’S PLAY (1988)

X-Files Season 5, Episode 10, CHINGA (1998)

DEAD SILENCE (2007)

And just for giggles, or screams if you’re easily frightened, check out these baby dolls. Now, honestly, could you sit in a room with even one of those things and not freak out?

Web Resources

Pediophobia – The Fear of Dolls (Associated Content)

10 More Extremely Bizarre Phobias (Listverse)

Evil Doll Movie List (Undead Backbrain)

6 comments

  1. Interestingly, I was listening to a podcast earlier today (iTunes U, University of Alabama’s Zombies lecture series) and they were talking about the idea of canny and uncanny (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny). Scroll down and look at the map. The closer something gets to looking human–but not–the more frightened we are of it. It could be almost human, but not quite, and that not quite scares the bejeebus out of people.

  2. Liked all the questions you asked. Very interesting.

    Have you ever seen Dolls? That was sorta creepy. You’re gonna have to rent Trilogy of Terror and Magic. The former’s probably the most famous killer doll movie there be. And Magic’s 90 minutes of full bore creepiness. *shivers*

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