Created By: Discovery on August 22, 2011 Last Edited By: Discovery on September 12, 2011
Troped

Smart People Wear Glasses

Intelligent characters wear glasses

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Rolling Updates, Launch delayed while Glasses tropes are reworked

So, I thought we already had this until I tried to link to it and found it was a redlink. I tried searching for it, then I put it in the Lost and Found, but nobody has been able to find it. I thought I might have seen it is a YKTTW a little while ago, but nothing turned up on the Launch list. I set the "keep" date up to 9000 and found nothing. Ergo, this YKTTW was formed.

It's not Brainy Specs, that's when a character who doesn't need glasses is wearing them to appear smart.

It's not Nerd Glasses, that's a specific type of glasses found mostly in Anime.

It's not Geeky Glasses, that's a plot where someone needs glasses but doesn't want to wear them because they think it makes them look stupid.


In the media, smart characters have a tendency to wear glasses. The association with the Hollywood Nerd archetype helps in modern works, although this trope is older than that. May be Truth in Television, as some say that since smarter people typically do more reading, they place more strain on their eyes and are more likely to develop myopia (nearsightedness). Some studies have gone so far as to claim that myopia itself is linked with open-mindedness and intelligence.

In anime, there is a commonly-used variant of this called Glasses-Kun: A Lancer who has black hair, is taller than The Protagonist, is always smarter than the main character, is relatively quiet, somewhat broody, and wears glasses.

In Real Life, there are lots of different types of people who wear glasses, but in fiction they are more rare. This is due to problems such as glare from the cameras in Live Action media, difficulty reading facial expressions, etc., and is the reason why when such characters are present it seems more significant. As proved by the examples, it is also why this trope occurs more so in Live Action, animated programming, and other pictorial media and less so in literature; it's a visual cue to the audience that the character is intelligent, yet is used sparingly because of the aforementioned difficulties involved.

This trope is an inherent part of The Glasses Gotta Go and Beautiful All Along, and often Hollywood Nerd. Supertrope to Nerd Glasses, and the invoked form of this is Brainy Specs. Compare The Short Guy with Glasses.

Examples:

Please do not list aversions, seeing as then it would be just a list of characters with glasses

Anime and Manga

Comics

Film
  • In Sucker Punch, both Dr. Gorski (in the asylum) and Blue (in the nightclub) have glasses, though they mostly only wear them when they need to take a closer look at something (They might merely be reading glasses, rather than corrective lenses). While Dr. Gorski is a psychologist, Blue is smart in that Dangerously Genre Savvy way.

Live-Action TV
  • Cookie from Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide.
  • The one and only Steve Urkel himself, from Family Matters.
  • A weird example as it's something of an informed trait: scientist Bennett on Dollhouse wears, as Topher so gleefully puts it, "glasses. On a chain!" She's apparently far-sighted because she only wears them when looking at computer screens.
  • Garcia, a computer genius, and her boyfriend Kevin Lynch both wear glasses. Though he apparently switched to contacts, flashbacks to Reid's youth in Criminal Minds shows that he had some of the largest glasses any child has ever worn, ever.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Giles, while not the resident genius, is the resident Mr. Exposition.
  • Liberty, Toby, and Claire on Degrassi: The Next Generation. Actually, if a character wears glasses on that show, it's almost a given that they're intelligent.
  • Daniel Jackson in Stargate SG-1.
  • Alex Dunphy from Modern Family is the only one of the Dunphy kids to wear glasses, and is definitely the brains of the family.
  • Ted Kasselbaum, the resident private investigator and genius computer hacker on Just Cause, wears glasses with blue tinted lenses.
    • Peggy, a paralegal with three graduate degrees, also wears glasses.
  • Billy from the original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.
  • FBI computer genius Winifred from General Hospital wore nerd glasses, even though the guy she was a Distaff Counterpart of (Spinelli) did not. The same actress wore a different pair of glasses as another computer genius in Vengeance Unlimited.

Web Comics

Western Animation

Real Life
  • Pol Pot hated intellectuals, so he had people killed for wearing glasses.
Community Feedback Replies: 64
  • August 22, 2011
    Rainbow
    Yeah, I'm surprised we didn't have this either.

    Some examples:

    Inversions/Subversions
    • Harry Potter, who is more of a Book Dumb character who depends on his smarter friend Hermione (no glasses on her) for his schoolwork some of the time.

    I'm sure there are many more than that, but these are some I could easily think of for a start.
  • August 22, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    • Daria is famous for her coke-bottle glasses, and for being one of very few Lawndale residents with a rapier-wit.
      • Characterization Marches On makes aversions of several characters, when in later seasons, most characters are given redeeming moments, often of intelligence.
  • August 22, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    Smart Glasses? Also, pulling a few examples from The Urkel:

    Aaaand plugging some of my favorite shows:

    • A weird example as it's something of an informed trait: scientist Bennett on Dollhouse wears, as Topher so gleefully puts it, "glasses. On a chain!" She's apparently far-sighted because she only wears them when looking at computer screens.
    • Garcia, a computer genius, and her boyfriend Kevin Lynch both wear glasses. Though he apparently switched to contacts, flashbacks to Reid's youth in Criminal Minds shows that he had some of the largest glasses any child has ever worn, ever.

    Also, skimming Nerd Glasses reveals that many of the examples don't actually fit what the trope is talking about. The trope needs a cleanup.

    EDIT: In retrospect, I can think of more examples off the top of my head.

    I'll add more as I think of them.
  • August 22, 2011
    jaytee

    This trope is an inherent part of The Glasses Gotta Go and Beautiful All Along, and often Hollywood Nerd.
  • August 22, 2011
    Nightwire
    Ahem, Brainy Specs?
  • August 22, 2011
    Discovery
    ^ As mentioned in the description (well, the description-like thing), this is not what the trope Brainy Specs refers to.
  • August 22, 2011
    jaytee
    ^^Yeah, this would be supertrope to Brainy Specs (or at least the underlying assumption on which it relies).
  • August 22, 2011
    AmyJade
    Daniel Jackson in Stargate SG 1.
  • August 22, 2011
    jaytee
    I don't think Harry Potter is a subversion or an inversion. More like an aversion, and therefore not worth noting.
  • August 22, 2011
    Discovery
    Yeah, it's probably best to not have an individual subversion/inversions section anyway, since it would probably just end up being a list of characters with glasses who aren't particularly intelligent.

    Also, if someone wouldn't mind writing up a quick draft of a description, that would be great. I've been trying to come up with something, but I think I might have a mild case of writer's block.
  • August 22, 2011
    Webby
    Inversions and aversions shouldn't be listed at all, because then this would be a list of all fictional characters with glasses. :P I'll try to think up some examples. This trope is everywhere yet my mind is blank.

    Also, it might be interesting to note why the stereotype exists. The association with the Hollywood Nerd type probably helps in modern works, but it seems older then that.
  • August 22, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    It's weird that we haven't covered this. Especially considering how many glasses tropes we have already.

    In anime, 9 times out of 8, The Lancer has black hair, is taller than The Protagonist, is always smarter than the main character, is relatively quiet, somewhat broody, and wears glasses. Fandom has taken to calling this archetype "Glasses-kun".
  • August 22, 2011
    AmyJade
    It might be useful to note why so few people wear glasses in media compared to real life, and thus when they are present it seems significant. (E.g., glare from the camera in live action media, harder to read facial expressions.)

    It's worth noting aversions/subversions where the audience expectation is lampshaded, I think, but not in general.
  • August 22, 2011
    Discovery
    I've put up a tentative description; it obviously needs quite a bit of work, but I think it's a good start.
  • August 23, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    I think it might be worth noting that among those who need glasses, smart people are more likely to wear them because dumb people will be the ones who care more about how nerdy they look than about the benefit they would get from wearing them.
  • August 23, 2011
    jaytee
    ^I don't think it's quite fair to equate "smart" with "wanting to look nerdy." It might be fair to equate "nerdy" with "wanting to look nerdy," but even then, the whole nerdy glasses thing has been kind of "in" for the last few years...
  • August 23, 2011
    AmyJade
    ^ I think the comment was saying "dumb people don't want to wear glasses even if they need them because they'll look nerdy," not "smart people want to wear glasses because they look nerdy."
  • August 23, 2011
    jaytee
    ^Well, I don't think that's a fair assumption to make about dumb people either...

    Where did this connection between intelligence and superficiality/choice of fashion come from? I know a lot of very smart people who would never give up their contacts, and I know a lot of dumb people that love wearing glasses.
  • August 23, 2011
    AmyJade
    ^ I would guess that the stereotype of smart people wearing glasses comes from the old wives' tale that reading a lot strains your eyes, and smart people read a lot, therefore smart people need glasses.
  • August 23, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    Probably a mixture of both, but primarily what AmyJade said. Is that really an old wives' tale?
  • August 23, 2011
    SquirrelGuy
    Dilton Doiley in Archie Comics
  • August 23, 2011
    jaytee
    @Amy Jade: I understand that; I was specifically talking about Hidden Faced Matt's comment that "dumb people will be the ones who care more about how nerdy they look," which doesn't make any sense.
  • August 23, 2011
    Twentydragon
    Perhaps as a title: Glasses for Geniuses.
  • August 23, 2011
    Nocturna
    Anime And Manga
    • Ishida Uryuu from Bleach wears glasses and is number one in his class. He also perfectly fits the description for a "glasses-kun". It is also worth noting that he is the only member of the Five Man Band who wears glasses, and one of less than a dozen who wear glasses among the Loads And Loads Of Characters.
  • August 24, 2011
    AFP
    • In Sucker Punch, both Dr. Gorski (in the asylum) and Blue (in the nightclub) have glasses, though they mostly only wear them when they need to take a closer look at something (They might merely be reading glasses, rather than corrective lenses). While Dr. Gorski is a psychologist, Blue is smart in that Dangerously Genre Savvy way.
  • August 24, 2011
    Arivne
    Web Comics
  • August 24, 2011
    Discovery
    We have five hats now; should I launch it or wait for some more examples? If anyone has suggestions for redirect titles or indexes that would also be very helpful.
  • August 24, 2011
    Oreochan
    How about Glasses Tropes and Intelligence Tropes for indexes?
  • August 24, 2011
    Discovery
    Perfect! I'll give this a few more hours to see if anyone has any more examples, and then I'll launch.
  • August 24, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    There's a thread in the Special Efforts forum about cleaning up all of the glasses tropes, and this YKTTW shouldn't be launched until all of those have been properly cleaned up.
  • August 24, 2011
    Discovery
    That's been reactivated? Last time I checked it hadn't been posted in for about a month. But sure; I'll wait a bit. What exactly needs to be done in the fixing-up-the-glasses-tropes department? I'd love to help.
  • August 24, 2011
    JonnyB
    Averted in Dr. McKay of Stargate Atlantis. He is arguably the smartest person in the crew (and he would say the smartest person on the planet, regardless of what planet he was on), but he doesn't wear glasses, although several of his assistants do.
  • August 24, 2011
    Discovery
    ^I think the consensus was not to list aversions, seeing as they would just be every smart character without glasses.
  • August 24, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    It seems to be mostly an issue of renaming. It's all just so scattered, and the glasses trope we actually need, this one, doesn't exist yet. Which I think is the main problem.
  • August 24, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    We definitely need this supertrope, for it underpins so many others. Must the cleanup project delay this launch?
  • August 24, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    Well, take it to the thread. We all want this launched, but talking about it here isn't going to help things move faster.
  • August 24, 2011
    Discovery
    For an image, how would people feel about the top panel of this comic? Or does anyone know of anything better?
  • August 24, 2011
    acrobox
    Billy from the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
  • August 24, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
  • August 24, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    I disagree. We already have lots of glasses tropes, I'm not sure the Added Alliterative Appeal makes up for the title sounding more like the others.
  • August 24, 2011
    Korodzik
    The Polish comic book Tytus, Romek i A'Tomek has A'Tomek (a nerdy, math-minded kid), professor T. Alent (a genius inventor) and "Papcio Chmiel" (the Author Avatar).
  • August 25, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    I was specifically talking about Hidden Faced Matt's comment that "dumb people will be the ones who care more about how nerdy they look," which doesn't make any sense.
    - jaytee

    Actually, it makes perfect sense. Those are stupid priorities to have, hence the people who have them will tend to be stupid.
  • August 25, 2011
    Discovery
    ^^^^ I'll add Smart Spectacles as a redirect page, but as CommanderPanda said, having it as the actual title would add to the already severe confusion involving the glasses pages. Plus this title goes along with Smart People Play Chess and Smart People Know Latin.
  • August 25, 2011
    Nocturna
    @Discovery about the proposed picture: I think that comic (and all the panels individually) illustrate the idea of Brainy Specs (showing how glasses makes someone appear smarter), so I don't think it really goes with this trope that well.
  • August 25, 2011
    drdeathray
    In St Trinians (2007 movie) this trope was exploited/enforced. The Posh Toties were supposed to participate in a school competition for brainacs. They cheated all the way of course, but in order to appear smart, they were told to wear glasses, so they wouldn't raise suspicions.
  • August 25, 2011
    Nocturna
    Some possible page pictures I dug up:

    Ishida Uryuu

    Dilton Doiley

    Shy Violet

    Brainy Smurf

    Gretchen Grundler (if a better quality version could be found)

    I would personally vote for the Dilton Doily one, as I think it does the best to get across "smart person wearing glasses". My second choice would be a better-quality Gretchen Grundler.

    (Edit: Fixing link.)
  • August 25, 2011
    Discovery
    ^^ I would say that belongs more at Brainy Specs than here.
  • August 25, 2011
    randomsurfer
  • August 26, 2011
    Synchronicity
  • August 26, 2011
    Skyhawk431
    Real Life example: Pol Pot hated intellectuals, so he had people killed for wearing glasses.
  • August 27, 2011
    AmyJade
    Another TV example: Ted Kasselbaum, the resident private investigator and genius computer hacker on Just Cause, wears glasses with blue tinted lenses.

    Also I'm not sure if I'm correct on this, but it seems like Brainy Specs is often the Invoked form of Smart People Wear Glasses. If I've got the right idea, could that be clarified in the trope description?
  • August 27, 2011
    AmyJade
    ^ Missed one in the same show: Peggy, a paralegal with three graduate degrees, also wears glasses.
  • August 28, 2011
    Discovery
    Okay, that whole launched/not-launched glitch thing was weird, but this is the original YKTTW and the other has been discarded.
  • August 30, 2011
    robinjohnson
    Glasses can also magically appear on a normally 20-20-vision character if they suddenly become smarter for some reason. This happens to Homer Simpson in one episode, and to Rimmer in an episode of Red Dwarf when he is given a "mind patch".
  • August 30, 2011
    shimaspawn
    ^ That's not this trope. That's Brainy Specs.
  • August 30, 2011
    IntentionallyIncohesive
    Jeremie from Code Lyoko.
  • September 6, 2011
    Xtifr
    While we're waiting, can we expand some of the X Just X examples? At least have them say, "the smartest one of the gang", or words to that effect. Something to indicate to someone unfamiliar with the work that these are actually examples, and not just random people randomly wearing glasses.
  • September 6, 2011
    MrInitialMan
    Brainy Smurf from The Smurfs
  • September 10, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Aversion (do you want those?): On Arthur Arthur is the only major character who wears glasses, but he's not the brainy one. Brain is the smartest kid in the class and he doesn't wear glasses.

    (FYI re your introductory text: I also recall a "smart people wear glasses" ykttw a while back, but I haven't been able to find it either.)
  • September 10, 2011
    Discovery
    I think the consensus was to not include aversions, seeing as then the article would just be a list of all characters wearing glasses.

    (I'm glad I'm not the only one! I was starting to think I was going crazy!)
  • September 10, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    Maybe a mention of that in the description? Trope Decay is an ugly thing.
  • September 10, 2011
    IlGreven
    FBI computer genius Winifred from General Hospital wore Nerd Glasses, even though the guy she was a Distaff Counterpart of (Spinelli) did not. The same actress wore a different pair of glasses as another computer genius in Vengeance Unlimited.
  • September 11, 2011
    Discovery
    ^Be forewarned, Nerd Glasses does not mean what you think it means. It's currently in the trope repair shop to get it renamed; it's actually about opaque round glasses found in comic books and anime. I'll just un-wikilink it, and when we get around to making an actual Nerd Glasses trope it can be relinked.
  • September 12, 2011
    Discovery
    We've finally been given the go-ahead to launch this. Any last minute additions?
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=7irlk9wmeyv629rnln6tbseo