One form of prejudice that often gets unnoticed is ‘eye-sightism’ or ‘spectaclepohobia’ ( I discovered there is something called ‘matogyaliaphobia’ which is defined as the fear of eyeglasses). I’m interested in people’s attitude towards glasses-wearers. The stereotype of someone wearing glasses is that of a geek, wimp, fogey or victim. They are usually also deemed unattractive.
The question is – can you see ‘beyond the glasses’ to the individual behind those frames and lenses? Perhaps it depends on the style of the glasses. Are some more attractive or ‘cool’ than others? Plenty of famous people wear or wore glasses: John Lennon, Michael Caine, Dame Edna Everage, Rolf Harris, Edgar Davids, Elton John, Groucho Marx, Gok Wan … and even fictional characters such as Harry Potter and Clark Kent.
The stereotype in films and popular culture is as follows: any character wearing glasses is either considered ugly or plain; a geeky nerd; the egghead sidekick (like the new Q in Skyfall); or old. When a change occurs the glasses are discarded – it’s become a cliché. A good example is in The Mummy. Rachel Weisz’ character starts off with glasses, denoting how she is bookish, academic and mousey. Then without the glasses she becomes beautiful and heroic.
The film Ugly Betty, of course, has the titular character wearing specs – what a surprise.
An advert appeared recently in my local paper depicting a bespectacled wimp being beaten up by cool-looking thugs. Then the glasses-wearer goes on the internet and joins a martial arts group and learns how to fight back. But it begs the question: why did he need to wear glasses at all? Is it just a lazy stereotype?
On the other hand wearing sunglasses is positively cool.
My novel MYOPIA explores this whole question. Jerry has to work out how to respond to bullies without resorting to violence himself. He seeks creative ways to combat this hurtful form of prejudice that blights his life. Whilst doing so he finds out a great deal about himself and about the boy making his life such a misery.
MYOPIA by Jeff Gardiner is published by Crooked Cat Publishing
in both paperback and e-book formats