How Three Childhood Movies Ruined My Manhood

OK, let’s get right to it: I don’t like spiders. I’m six-foot-three, I eat red, undercooked meat on a regular basis, I can bench-press my own weight (probably), and I’m fairly confident in my relative masculinity.

But goddamnit, I just don’t like spiders.

I don’t like the hairy ones, the spindly-legged ones, the colorful ones, the trap-building ones, the fist-sized ones, the poisonous ones—you get the idea. And there’s nothing masculine about yelping like a drowning poodle when any creature with more than four legs wanders into your peripheral. Now, I can’t be certain where this arachnophobia stems from, exactly, but since this is Unreality, I’m blaming it on movies. Plus I’ve been watching a lot of Community lately, and Britta’s psycho-analyzation skills leave me inspired.

I can actually trace my phobia of spiders back to one [glaringly obvious] movie I watched at the age of twelve, but in retrospect, Hollywood had been training me to hate those eight-legged freaks for years. Just not in the ways you might expect.

Here are three movies from my childhood that are responsible for f***ing up my manhood.

Charlotte’s Web

When you’re young, a lot of things aren’t really scary until someone teaches you to be scared of them. Things like teenagers or vegetarian hamburgers, for example. And at the age of four or five, I didn’t have a real problem with spiders because spiders were bugs, bugs were squashable, and I wasn’t awesome at sitting still.

Besides, Charlotte-the-adorable-protagonist wasn’t scary-looking. She was adorable, and four-year-old me didn’t like the idea of her crawling away to die.  (Hell, I didn’t even know that scene was about the “circle of life” until years later; I just knew things were about to suck for her 20,000+ kids after she sang that damn song.)


I mean come on, this doe-eyed arachnid has a better vocabulary than most of my human siblings, yet E.B. White had to give her a realistic life cycle? The ending of Charlotte’s Webb was always unsettling to me, and I think that’s probably why.

The Hobbit

Fast-forward a couple of years to my first dose of J.R.R. Tolkein; I fell in love with his Middle Earth right away (along with the fantasy genre in general). And I didn’t know a whole lot at the age of six, but I knew magic and swords were awesome, dragons were badass, and there was no reason to be scared of sleeping in the woods at nigh—holy hell, what the shit is that??

Pictured: not Chuck Testa.

Needless to say, Charlotte’s grown-up orphans of Mirkwood these were not. This tale had some downright dark imagery sprinkled in throughout, and recently-potty-trained-TJ wasn’t thrilled about the baritone, wolf-riding goblins, but at least those monsters were of a reasonable scale. The idea of a Volkswagen-sized bug lunging at my face with those hairy fangs, on the other hand, did not sit well with younger me. Not well at all. (Come to think of it, neither did zipped-up sleeping bags for a while.)

And here’s where some self-psycho-analyzation comes into play. The ending of Charlotte’s Web left a bad taste in my mouth, but I didn’t know why since I wasn’t really familiar with the concept of life and death yet. The Hobbit introduced me to spiders as hideous, grotesquely anthromorphasized villains, but that’s hardly a basis for a full-on phobia. Still, those movies were strike one and two. I just needed one more reason to write off this entire species for good…


Well, that should do it. 12-year-old-non-spider-liking-TJ probably could have found something less spidery for him and his friends to watch on a rainy school night, but in his defense, check out the trailer:


Does that look like a horror movie to you? It didn’t to me either, and even though I was promised plenty of this…

…I also got s faceful of this…


…and this.

Wikipedia says advertisers couldn’t figure out if they were shilling a thriller or a comedy with Arachnophobia, which explains how I was so easily duped into shitting my pants during a sleepover.

So thanks, Hollywood. Here I am in my late twenties eating stupid amounts of red meat and living with a daily fear of spiders. I haven’t gotten any hits on my profile in weeks.

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  1. It’s cool man, the 1st time I watched Charlotte’s Web I was about 4 and when I went to bed after the movie there was a huge spider chilling out on my headboard…waiting. It didn’t matter what my parents said, they couldn’t convince me that this killer beast was pleasant Charlotte. It was around that time that a spider who look up residence in my sister’s window bit her in the eye in her sleep. She woke up the next morning and her eye was swelled shut. That’s most likely where it started but I grew up I Florida and had plenty of run-ins with massive terror inducing spiders that would give anyone a healthy fear of them.

  2. I came down here to comment on your article, but I think Jake’s comment has kind of usurped it for me. *shudder*

    Anyway, snakes are my emasculating creature of choice. Though for some reason I liked Snakes on a Plane, most snake-related scenes in movies creep me out beyond belief (True Grit, for example).

  3. Speaking as an arachnophobe myself I have ALWAYS been afraid of Spiders, it’s not their potential to be poisonous that scares me nor is it anything I can actually describe, I just am. Absolutely terrified by them, unfortunately I’m not 6’3 nor can I bench my own weight and my voice already sounds like that of a dying poodle so…Long story short, I was actually happy when Charlotte died. I was the only kid in my class who was like “Oh wait, Charlotte died, AWESOME!”

    Ironically however despite being arachnophobia, my favorite superhero is Spider-Man. How’s that for a kick in the teeth ?

  4. For me its rats, and it all has to do with Orwell’s 1984. And, it was definitely more the description of the rats boring through my face and skull to eat my fatty brain found in the book than the movie… plus, their tails… pull it together, man!

  5. I woke up with a spider in my ear one time in the 4th grade, when I woke it crawled across my face. I didn’t sleep without a sheet over my ear for almost 10 years after that….

    Fuck spiders.

  6. Don’t feel so bad about it man. I heard somewhere that it’s the fact spiders look so alien to us that causes the instinctual fear.

    I’ve started becoming a bit jumpy around them when they first make themselves known, it’s a bit like reacting to a jump scare, but that’s mostly down to being around a mother who was always scared of them.
    I can pick them up and throw them outside but I have had a few ‘surprise’ spider appearances in my life that would probably render you catatonic.

  7. Geez, you urbanites are pretty easily scared, aren’t you? Grow up somewhere evenly slightly rural like the middle of Michigan and you’ll be surrounded by so many spiders and insects you couldn’t be scared of them if you tried.

  8. I did not have a fear of spiders until I learned of the assassin spider native to Australia… IT HAS A NECK!!!!

    google it if you dare.

  9. any one remember the movie, trilogy of terror and the demonic voodoo that came to life when its belt came off? and it chased a woman around her home with a knife? that scared the heck out of me when i was a little child in the early 70’s!

    also, when i was 18, i had just watched the exorcist again. around 3:00 a.m., i wake up for some odd reason. then my bed starts to shake! for those first three seconds, i wa scared out my mind! then, i realized the walls and window were shaking as well. i live in the bay area. it was a small earthquake. talk about very bad timing!

  10. Charlottes Web was one of those movies I watched as a child that depressed me to some degree yet was comforting in some ways. I was an extremely serious child and movies rarely effected me. That is.. until I watched The Brood. It was the first and really only movie to ever give me nightmares almost continuously for years. It wasn’t so much the gore as it was the psychological aspects and the faces of the children.

    As for the others, Spiders have never really affected me that way. I dislike them for the most part but was only a little scared of spiders themselves, moreso of them crawling and biting me while I was asleep. Oddly though I used to play with Daddy Long Legs and let them crawl on me quite often and even owned a tarantula and black scorpion for a short time and that greatly reduced any fears I had.

  11. I to am arachnophobic. My older brother and I use to have sleep overs with all our friends every weekend we would pick a few movies and fall asleep in sleeping bags in the living room. I was probably 6 or 7 at the time and my genius parents bought each of us our own pet (because the two bunnies three dogs three cats and all the fish weren’t enough) so I got a parakeet and they bought him a tarantula. so we fell asleep watching Arachnophobia…I woke up in the middle of the night with this huge tarantula climbing over my stomach. I screamed and it took a nice long flight into a wall. It survived a bit dazed but he learned not to put his dumb pet near me again. I don’t think I have ever woken up that scared before.

  12. arachnophobic people here should check out kingdom of spiders (1977). it was the most disturbing horror scenario for me as a kid and scared the shit outta me. oh and it has starring shatner in it!

  13. OMG Arachnophobia ruined me for life. I wasn’t scared of spiders until I realized that they were dangerous. (Okay, not around here in WA state, but, whatever) Still. That movie RUINED ME.

  14. There is one reason I despise spiders: They can bite me in my sleep. That just seems unfair. I’m much larger than them and can kill them with ease, but all they have to do is wait till I sleep.

  15. Well… I’ve lived most of my life in rural towns. It wasn’t until about 2 years ago that I started being fearful of spiders. Also, it’s much less “fear” and much more “genocidal vengeance”. I was bitten on my chin by a brown recluse. Rather than the flesh of my face dissolving it turned into a massive abscess. Am I afraid of them? No. But by God any spider that crosses my line of sight shall taste the wrath of my size 14 shoe.

  16. Fuck spiders. Fuck them all the hell.

    As a child, I never liked spiders, and would freak the fuck out whenever one was near me….and then the cartoon Mighty Max came out, and every other episode dealt with fighting a gigantic spider.

    Now, as an adult, I stand by my decree that all spiders are abominations and must be killed on sight.

    And while we’re on the subject of spiders; why does every RPG seem to have a fetish with giant spiders in cave areas? Most spiders don’t live in caves, and I’d like to see giant ants for a change.

  17. Anybody remember an episode of the “Outer Limits” revival where (I think) some guy was trying to clone his wife/family members/I don’t know what and all of a sudden there was A BATHTUB FULL OF CRAWLING CENTIPEDES AND OTHER NASTIES?!?!

    *ahem* I think that’s where all of my bug phobias started from. *brrrrrr*.

    Okay, I know I’m not crazy–I distinctly recall that it was “The Outer Limits” revival.

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