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The Beef with Glasses: Perpetuating Stereotypes in Media

Growing up, I was charmed by an amusing fiction of entertainment: the Princess Diaries, Ugly Betty, She’s all that and much-loved Indian TV series and movies like Jassi Jassi Koi Nahi, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. What do these gems share in common, you ask? Well, it's the beguiling transformation of the leading actress, where the first order of business is bidding farewell to her spectacles, which apparently reduces her epitome of ugliness. Ah, the enchanted removal of lenses, capable of altering the perceptions of others and, more importantly, driving the hero gaga over the unexpectedly turned gorgeous damsel!




I remember being a mere 8-year-old when I first donned glasses, and let me tell you, it was like facing the Grim Reaper himself. I cried for hours and days, thinking about how these 'dork goggles' would be the source of my elevated monotony. This started my eager anticipation of their removal, imagining that the day after my LASIK surgery would be a gamechanger, and everyone would be falling head over heels for me. But to my utter disappointment, nothing happened.


Coming to this realization, I understood how commercial movies and shows have portrayed glasses as a deformity and a sign of ugliness, creating visual stereotypes and a lack of representation and diversity. Media representation plays an essential role in constructing perceptions and confining labels. The aforementioned movies depicted women they identified as nerds, geeks, or socially inept introverts, all of whom happened to wear glasses.



This eventually constructs a narrative that people with glasses are like that. While these portrayals might be valid in some cases, perpetuating them leads to reinforcing stereotypes and negative connotations. Moreover, these media products also depicted that girls who wear glasses are less attractive or less desirable.



Coming toward conclusion, these media representation staring glasses as a mark of ugliness and the need for transformation suggests the perpetuation of hurtful stereotypes. The suggested movies, while being entertaining and much-loved by many, contributed to a narrative that links eyeglasses with nerdy or introvert characters. This not only restricts representation and diversity but also reinforces destructive subtexts and beauty standards. It is essential for media creators to challenge these constructed stereotypes and offer more diverse and realistic representations of people who wear glasses. Embracing the diversity is a step towards fostering inclusivity and dismantling negative stereotypes in our society.


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Aisha Aamir
Aisha Aamir
Jun 22, 2023

Lovely read! I've always found the ugly-fication of glasses so odd, especially considering it is an accessory donned by the person and not an actual physical characteristic. It also feels ableist in the sense that glasses are there to help you do the basic task of seeing, especially when your vision is impaired. It is a disability, and glasses are a disability aid, and to see it being reduced to something that needs to be removed to achieve beauty is a little jarring. And one would assume that this trope ended with older media now that we are more critical of these things, but it still seems to prevail. In the recent popular K-drama True Beauty, the protagonist takes off…

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It is so weird to grow up and realise how our ideas of beauty have been shaped by the media so much. I remember watching tv shows that reinforced the same representation of a person wearing glasses as being dorky or not attractive enough. This just says that oh you can be pretty if you remove your glasses, does not matter if you will not be able to see, at least the guy would end up liking you because you are cool as opposed to being "ugly" or "dorky"-reinforced by the shows that you have mentioned and more.

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Mubashir Mémon
Mubashir Mémon
Jun 16, 2023

Great Read! This reminds me of an episode from The Big Bang Theory wherein one of the show's main characters, Leonard Hofstadter, wears glasses, which are used to emphasize his intellectual and socially awkward personality. However, in one episode, Leonard tries contact lenses and receives a positive reaction from those around him. While this example subverts the trope to some extent by showcasing that Leonard's appeal isn't solely tied to his glasses, it still perpetuates the idea that the removal of glasses can enhance a character's attractiveness or confidence.

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I completely agree; Mia's transformation in The Princess Diaries was a pretty problematic representation of what is beautiful and what's not. One example does come to my mind that showcases how glasses are used to stereotype people who wear them as nerdy or smart: Cher from Clueless. Cher, once going to Harvard, starts wearing glasses which I think was a conscious choice on the director's part to represent her nerdy side as then she just removes them later. This makes it really weird because the function of prescription glasses is to aid seeing not stereotyping. 😭

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Such an interesting and engaging read! I completely agree that this is a recurring pattern and the first example that sprang to my mind was taylor swift’s you belong with me music video because I used to watch that a lot as a child and it also features a glasses removal makeover just so she can get the guy. And now that I think about it, most of the rom coms I’ve consumed growing up always include some sort of a makeover montage that is crucial to the transformation/glow up of the lead girl, implying that one can only be considered attractive if they change their whole appearance and literally loose their vision😭

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