In the mid 1970s, "Mannequin Modeling," a human model posing as a mannequin figure, was made famous by New York City's major flagship department store Abraham & Straus, which was located in Downtown Brooklyn.
Mannequins are a common theme in horror fiction, although not nearly as common as baby dolls. While an intense, irrational fear of mannequins (known as pediophobia) is rare, many people nonetheless find them disturbing (due in part perhaps to the uncanny valley effect), especially when not fully assembled.
In "realistic" (non-supernatural) horror, the presence of mannequins or mannequin parts can be a visual cue for insanity, particularly insanity of a violent nature. Examples of this include The Silence of the Lambs, in which mannequin limbs are among the objects found in the killer's storage unit. In Dean Koontz's novel Velocity, a group of mutilated mannequins is found at a suspect's house, causing the protagonist (and reader) to believe the suspect to be the shark, or at least seriously disturbed. In the television series Carnivàle, the camp site of a twisted Texas back country family is strewn with mannequin parts of all sorts.
Another instance of mannequins occurs in the psychological thriller Condemned: Criminal Origins where, in one level, the player is inside an abandoned department store strewn with mannequins. The player can pick up a mannequin arm and use it as a melee weapon also. As the player progresses through the level there are certain stages where the mannequins are actual, disguised people. They come alive and try to kill you.
Another setting found in numerous movies is abandoned nuclear test sites consisting of entire towns populated by mannequins, creating an eerie and unsettling atmosphere. This setting appears in such films as Kalifornia, Mulholland Falls, and the 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes.
A theme which appears both in horror and science fiction is mannequins coming to life, usually with somewhat zombie-like attributes. A recent example is "Rose", the first episode of the current Doctor Who series, in which a vat of sentient alien plastic seeks to take over the world, using animated mannequins called Autons as its primary enforcers. The mannequins have gunlike weapons inside their hands, and there are many scenes of them smashing through shop windows and wreaking havoc in a London shopping mall. The Autons are also seen in the earlier Doctor Who episodes Spearhead from Space and Terror of the Autons.
Much more rare in fiction is a heroic or virtuous mannequin, although examples do exist. DC Comics' hero Brother Power the Geek is a mannequin brought to life by a lightning strike who gains super powers and befriends a group of 1960s hippies. His comic book series only lasted two issues. In the movie Mannequin and its sequel, the protagonist's love interest is a mannequin who magically comes to life.
'Mannequin' is also a song performed by British death metal band Cradle of Filth. In the Marilyn Manson song "Tourniquet" from the 1996 album Antichrist Superstar the subject is a mannequin. The ska band Reel Big Fish's music video for "Where Have You Been?" from "Cheer Up!" features frontman Aaron Barrett's fictional ex portrayed as a mannequin.