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While this trope seems unfair to those who like reptiles, its origins can be at least partially explained:
- There's an Otherness issue. Their bodies are often cold, hard and scaly, while as mammals we tend to prefer things warm, soft and cuddly. Snakes in particular, with their legless bodies and unblinking eyes can seem just wrong to some people.
- There's the unfortunate fact that some reptiles are in fact dangerous to humans. Larger reptiles eat large mammals. Additionally, some snakes are poisonous.
- Stemming from this are superstitions and stories created to try and combat that danger, or simply entertain: lurking menaces that can slither into your hut and poison your children make for great baddies. Other dangerous creatures such as lions tend to be big, strong and charismatic and are spared such hatred.
- And, of course, there are many Herpetophobes out there, justified or not (it's a healthy fear if you live in parts of Australia; silly if you live in parts of New England). Writers are quite keen to jump on any common fear in their audience..
As with What Measure Is a Non-Cute?, it should be noted that this view varies by culture. It is largely played straight, especially with snakes, by Europe and North America and a few other cultures. In many other parts of the world (particularly Asia), on the other hand, snakes are associated with various gods, as well as being seen as symbols of immortality and fertility. In quite a few Bollywood movies, cobras are a force for good, killing evil villains.