American Horror Story has never been one for subtlety when it comes to their advertising. Chances are, you’ve already seen the slew of clown-infused posters that have been skulking about in promotion of the upcoming Cult season (and you’ve probably even had a few nightmares about them).
However, the show may have finally taken its advertising just a bit too far, thanks to the recent inclusion of trypophobia-inducing images in AHS: Cult marketing.
There are always plenty of motifs in the show’s advertising campaigns, and one of the most recent repeated visuals is imagery featuring clusters of small, grouped holes.
The imagery, while it may sound innocuous, can actually be triggering for certain people.
The show has been consistently using beehives in the promos for the upcoming season, most likely as a reference to the cult “hive-mind” that the season will attempt to explore. However, the persistent usage of imagery featuring holes is rubbing people with trypophobia the wrong way.
Trypophobia is a proposed phobia of groupings of smalls holes, bumps or indentations, and many of the AHS: Cult marketing images are capitalizing on this phobia.
Trypophobia is actually a fairly reasonable evolutionary fear, as BuzzFeed reports:
Arnold Wilkins, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Essex, tells BuzzFeed Health that it’s theorized that trypophobia — derived from the Greek words trýpa, meaning hole, and phóbos, meaning fear — is actually an evolutionary response that might stem from an instinct to avoid clusters of small holes or bumps because they resemble the symptoms of contagious diseases (measles, chicken pox, leprosy), because they appear on dangerous things (poisonous blue-ringed octopus, snakes, poisonous plants), or because something dangerous might be living in them.
The effects of trypophobia can be debilitating, with certain triggered individuals experiencing symptoms of scratching, crying and even vomiting. For the most part, though, many people are just severely disturbed and grossed out.
Apparently, AHS has confirmed that Sarah Paulson’s character on the show does indeed have trypophobia, as well as coulrophobia (a fear of clowns) and hemophobia (irrational fear of blood) — so, the imagery is certainly no accident.
That said, it may be slightly negligent for the show to flippantly push such images in people’s faces. Phobias should not be taken lightly, particularly when an online audience can’t anticipate or filter these advertisements.
That said, from a marketing perspective, this is pure gold. It doesn’t matter if people are disgusted or not — they’re talking about it. And that’s the only important metric of success in the promotional realm.