Puppets are meant to be charming, whimsical depictions of people, animals, and imaginary creatures. For some, however, the unblinking, frozen gaze of puppets can be unsettling, rather than entertaining.
The hard, handpainted faces of some puppets can scare people who suffer from this phobia, which is known by the Latin name Pupaphobia. They may feel they are being watched by puppets, even though they are simply objects crafted from papier-mache, fabric, or other materials.
Some people with this phobia report feelings of unease when puppets mimic human activity, also known in the mainstream as puppetry. The eerie similarities between real people and puppets makes them nervous and causes them to avoid performances or places where puppets are present.
Creepy Puppets In Modern Culture
Puppet shows and performances featuring puppets will be avoided by people with this phobia. Some violent, chaotic action can be found in certain puppet shows. For example, Punch and Judy, two popular puppets who evolved from the sixteenth-century Italian art of commedia dell’arte, were often brawling with one another and engaging in loud, noisy interactions with other characters. Punch spent much of his time “on stage” engaging in battles where he used his signature stick as a weapon. His squawking and agitated temperament were known to frighten some children (and perhaps their parents as well). Punch and Judy were an English tradition, borrowed from the Italians, and their operatic, over the top emotions were upsetting to some.
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Other famous puppets have also been known to frighten and appall those who suffer from Pupahobia. Howdy Doody, an American marionette, was featured on his own television program (Howdy Doody) from 1947 to 1960.
Howdy Doody wore Western garb, and his freckled face was a symbol of America itself. Each freckle on Howdy Doody’s rosy visage represented a state of the Union (48 at the time). On many modern Internet message boards, viewers of the Howdy Doody show have reported feeling of being “creeped out and depressed” after watching ventroloquist Buffalo Bill Smith operate the puppet.
Recently, Broadway made a foray into puppeteering with their musical production, Avenue Q.
This show featured puppets who mimicked the qualities of Sesame Street characters. This urban, grown-up take on the children’s television classic used puppets to tell the story and sing the songs. The award winning production was not for everyone. When one of the puppets sang a song called “The Internet Is For Porn”, many people were outraged and upset. Two puppets from Avenue Q, named Rod and Nicky, were modelled on Bert and Ernie. Some people found them to be disturbing and offensive, rather than amusing.
The modern trend of using puppets in adult situations has contributed to the fear of puppets. In the film, Team America: World Police, instances of sexuality, violence and profanity featuring puppets were repulsive to a certain segment of the population. Of course, other film-goers found the crude irreverance hilarious.
Films such as Team America:World Police are merely the tip of the iceberg with regard to the modern trend of placing puppets in decidely adult situations. All over the Internet, well-loved character puppets have been filmed performing strange and shocking acts. All these new uses of formerly innocent-seeming marionettes and other types of puppets may fuel Pupaphobia in the afflicted.
Symptoms Of Pupaphobia
Panic attack symptoms are synonmous with Pupaphobia. People who fear puppets will feel dizziness, anxiety, a sense of doom, and even nausea when puppets are present.
Treatment Of Fear Of Puppets
Therapy can ease the fear of puppets. A trained therapist will be able to bring out any underlying issues or childhood traumas that have contributed to the phobia itself. By utilizing hypnotherapy or other alternative therapies, the person who fears puppets may find some relief.