Nobody who wears glasses in TV ever needs them for minor vision correction, except for reading glasses that are worn mainly to make the character look wise. Almost all TV characters with glasses have such bad vision that if they are deprived of their spectacles, they are practically blind — usually hammered home by showing (briefly) the character's uselessly blurry point of view or the character making a Blind Mistake.
In animation, when such a character's glasses are lost, their eyes shrink down to pinpoints, which indicates either that they are squinting to see, or to point out the jarring real life effect of seeing someone who has huge eyes when seen through heavily magnified glasses without their glasses. An anime variation on this is usually represented with the character's eyes being replaced by 3's or 3_3, which is another stylization of squinting.
Oddly, when a character discards his/her glasses in order to look more attractive or more badass, that character invariably turns out not to be blind without 'em after all (unless it's a parody). Sometimes both will occur, with the character's eyesight varying based on what's convenient for the situation.
Note: The legal term "legally blind" is with corrective lenses (per linked article). Saying you are "legally blind without your glasses" is absurd.
Further note: because special lenses are needed to keep eyeglasses from flashing stage lights, and reflecting filming equipment, any time an actor wears glasses, it's a character choice, and the glasses are special stage glasses, which the actor may or may not need. If an actor needs corrective lenses, and it's deemed wrong for the character, the actor has to do without, or wear contacts.
Truth in Television, albeit much rarer than it is in fiction.
See also Nerd Glasses.
Unrelated to Fan Myopia.
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The woman in this Sears Optical Ad, who mistakes a raccoon for her cat. "Come snuggles with momma..."
Another ad in the campaign shows a woman who yells "Taxi!", gets in a car, and tells the driver to take her to some location. After the car doesn't go anywhere, the camera pulls back to show she's in a police car.
Specsavers' current advertising campaign is based on this; with a sheep farmer shearing his own dog, an old couple taking a relaxing sit down on a rollercoaster, and a couple driving onto an aircraft carrier instead of a ferry.
Hida Sayuri in Best Student Council has a habit of having her glasses ("megane" in Japanese) knocked off so that she can meander about the ground mumbling "megane... megane...". Surprisingly, they have only been stepped on once. She's not just Blind Without Em. She seems to lose all sense-abilities and tunes out the world completely when she loses them. The first episode alone has her apparently patting the same square foot of land saying "megane... megane..." for hours before being fireman-carried home, still in her orz state.
Kururu from Keroro Gunsou also mutters "megane, megane" after he loses his glasses; whether they were dislodged by an explosion or shattered by boob missiles. While he is a nasty little cur, just break his glasses and he's mostly harmless.
Tokyo Mew Mew had Retasu. Actually, she could see without them when she was transformed as Mew Lettuce, but in civilian form, small blurry eyes and feeling around still reigned supreme.
Lucky Star averts the "shrinking eyes" effect when Konata pulls off Miyuki's glasses, and disappointingly admits that "it doesn't work that way in real life". They do, however, show her having to squint to read the board, and she says her vision without 'em is "way below 20/200."
Mari in Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0 claims to be this although given her subsequent actions and somewhat erratic personality suggests she may well be lying.
Integra Hellsing from Hellsing, in the anime at least, is shown at a couple of points to have extremely poor eyesight without her glasses.
Matsuri from Ichigo Mashimaro is already quite clumsy, but it gets throttled to near-catastrophic proportions when she doesn't wear her glasses. She almost gets herself (and Nobue) killed during a visit to the public bath, for one.
Keitaro and Naru from Love Hina are both so Blind Without Em that they don't recognize each other from two meters apart. In Naru's case, most of the time she wears contacts. It's only when she's studying or, in the case mentioned above, running away from home that she puts on her glasses in lieu of the contacts. The only times when she has neither are in the bath or when her glasses are broken. The time running away from home, she said that she spent the entire night crying. Contacts are not so good after that for a while. In the Anime both of their glasses soon break, leading to them having a nice time unknowing who they were talking to till Hilarity Ensued when they were fixed.
Sort of subverted in Witch Hunter Robin where the title character needs glasses only for correctly using her magical abilities. And it's really not as stupid as it sounds.
Lieutenant Tashigi of One Piece is so nearsighted that when she puts her glasses on her forehead to read, she easily mistakes random bystanders for her commanding officer.
Sacchan from Gintama has a tendency to lose her glasses often, leading to such situations as poking Gintoki's eye out with a chopstick full of natto or mistaking a time bomb for a giant breath mint. What makes her plight all the more disastrous — or hilarious — is that she's actually a ninja.
Ayaori in Penguin Revolution has incredibly lousy eyesight and can barely see anything without either his Nerd Glasses or contacts. Which is fortunate for the Sweet Polly Oliver who rooms with him, since he has a tendency to wander into the bathroom while she's bathing.
The girls from Hidamari Sketch are delighted to see Sae without her glasses for once, but when it turns out that she cannot even distinguish between a clam and a soup ladle anymore they quickly make her put them on again. (The reason she wasn't wearing them in the first place was because the steam was fogging them up, so the benefits of putting them on again are unclear.)
Nowy in Glass Fleet is apparently Blind Without Em, given that his Dropped Glasses moments are frequent enough to become an Overly Long Gag — but a scene near the end of the series suggests that he may be intentionally exaggerating it for Eimer's amusement.
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Astray has Riika Sheder, who like the Geordi La Forge example below is literally blind without her special glasses. In the main series, the purpose behind the experiments leading the creation of protagonist Kira Yamato is that sometimes genetically engineered "Coordinators" don't turn out quite as "perfect" as they're supposed to. Riika exists as living proof of how true this is. But since the cybernetic technology in the "Cosmic Era" is just as advanced as the genetic technology, she's able to be a mobile suit test pilot anyway.
Shou of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX cannot tell the difference between a giant koala and his friend Hayato without his glasses. It's surprising he can even WITH them.... In all fairness, Judai mistakes Hayato for a giant koala upon meeting him.
Carly from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds also can't see a thing without her glasses; except when her Super-Powered Evil Side is in control. (In fact, Jack finds her half-broken glasses in the ruins of the Arcadia Building after she is recruited into the Dark Signers, and they play a big part of getting her to snap out of it later.)
In the Kimagure Orange Road story, "Manami-chan's Big Adventure", Kyōsuke's meganekko sister loses her contacts while enjoying a day off from everyday household chores and is subsequently rescued from shady characters — in the manga they're lecherous guys, in the anime it's sukeban (girl gang) members — by Kyōsuke. He fails to recognize his dressed-up sister, and she fails to recognize him without her glasses or contacts (and he has a slight sore throat, which changes his voice), and they end up on a date together. (It makes sense in context and isn't squicky in the least.) In the manga story he's just being nice to a sweet girl he's met, but in the anime he does finally recognize her and treats her to the memorable day she wanted to have — with Manami never realizing that this kind, gentlemanly boy she spends the day with was in fact her brother.
Issei Tsubaki in Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, while still being functional without his coke bottles, doesn't recognize neither Sōsuke nor Kaname without them, and it leads him to almost kill the janitor after going through the entire class just to find Sōsuke who had missed their duel on the roof.
Sunao from Potemayo, when running to school with a large group of people but without his glasses, somehow ends up in a restaurant. That's not even open. And resembles a school only in that both have doors and chairs.
Maylene, the maid in Black Butler, is so farsighted she doesn't need a sight on her sniper rifles. However, that makes ordinary tasks as a housemaid rather difficult. She's Blind Without 'Em, barely functioning with 'em.
This is also true of all the Grim Reapers. The "Story of Will the Reaper" OVA shows the workshop of the craftsman who makes all of their spectacles - he is a highly respected legend. The Shinigami Haken Kyoukai Theme Song from the second musical says that their #1 rule is that all reapers must wear glasses. In regards to actually seeing them fumble around for a dropped pair, the stoic, straight-edged William gets that sort of scene the most. About thirteen minutes into episode 9 of Kuroshitsuji II, he loses his glasses and starts fumbling around on the ground Velma-style—even admonishing a brick wall that he thinks is his partner. It also happens to a lesser extent in the aforementioned OVA.
Averted in Brigadoon: Marin and Melan. Marin is a rare example of a character who's far-sighted rather than near-sighted. She does need glasses, but she can see well enough to get around without 'em.
Normally averted yet still invoked in Detective Conan to maintain Conan's Clark Kenting. He doesn't need the glasses to see, but he fakes this anyway to keep his identity secret. The dub made it one step further by making dub!Conan say he has retinitis pigmentosa.
Riruka Dokugamine from Bleach. She refuses to wear her glasses due to vanity.
A one episode character from Pokémon called Symour. He gets tripped by Meowth and upon loses his glasses says: "My glasses! I can't see without my glasses!"
Tenpou in Saiyuki Gaiden, despite being a god, suffers from this problem, to the point that he's only able to be killed once his glasses are knocked off and broken (he even admits the fight's lost once his glasses are gone).
The Class Rep in My Bride Is a Mermaid is pretty much blind without her glasses. She's also unrecognizable, when The Glasses Come Off she's far more attractive. Natrually, this means that she ends up spending a whole afternoon with Nagasumi with neither of them recognizing each other (as she can't see him, and he doesn't recognize her with her hair down.)
The DC Comics hero Doctor Mid-Nite is an example of literally blind — he can only see in total darkness, otherwise he needs special lenses to filter the light.
Pretty much the same with Riddick, though he seems to have no problem fighting in light when the plot calls for it.
X-Men's Cyclops could be seen as a special case. Though technically able to see without his ruby-quartz glasses, he cannot turn off the concussive beams that continually shoot from his eyes. He is thus forced to keep his eyes shut in order to keep from destroying everything around him. He can therefore be said to be "voluntarily blind" in the same way that the Inhuman's Black Bolt (whose voice is a similarly uncontrollable sonic weapon) is often said to be "voluntarily mute". They are contained because his body is immune to his own power: The beams which flow from his eyes flow right back in to his eyelids with no loss of energy.
Peter Parker before he becomes Spider-Man, as seen in the recent Spider-Man films. Interestingly, gaining superpowers mends his normal vision AND makes everything blurry when he wears his glasses. Wearing corrective lenses that aren't made for you really does mess up your vision, so this isn't unreasonable.
Spidey's foe Doctor Octopus sometimes has this problem. Depending on the continuity, it's considered a side-effect of the accident that gave him his powers.
In Batman: Year One, James Gordon uses having dropped his glasses as an excuse not to recognize Bruce Wayne after Wayne saves his son's life.
Spanish comic book character Rompetechos is this, but taken to the extreme where he is blind even with them. 90% of the time he reads something (say, "Escuela de perritos", "Dog School") and he believes it's a very different thing (say, "Escuela de peritos", "School for experts"), which coupled with his very bad temper makes him believe the people in the places where he goes to are mocking him, and this lands him in loads of trouble.
The version of the Scarecrow/Jonathan Crane appearing in The Sandman claims to be this, as demonstrated in a scene where he jumps out in full costume at Dream and John Dee, followed by an apologetic pause to take off his mask and put his glasses back on.
'Erbert of the Bash St. Kids in The Beano is Blind Without Em - as is his canine counterpart 'Enry.
In The Death of Superman this was the Kryptonite Factor towards the Eradicator - the body he made out of various material around Superman's tomb was imperfect, rendering him unable to see in brightness. Thus, he is forced to wear a set of shades to filter the light. He does see the irony of a man whose power is derived from the sun and yet he can't see in the light.
One of the iconic drawn-in-the-margins characters of Cricket, a children's magazine, is Zoot, a pygmy shrew who's Blind Without Em. A good thing too, else he might have caught on too soon that the "puppies and kitties" he'd been hanging around with were actually various insects, worms and snails that he rightly ought to be preying upon! Instead, he became so fond of them that he converted to vegetarianism when he learned the truth.
Marcie was once told by Peppermint Patty that she would look more sophisticated with her glasses up on her forehead, resulting in her bumping into walls, a lamppost, etc. Marcie: "Before I became sophisticated, I almost never had headaches."
Averted with Linus, who occasionally donned glasses for a time in the early '60s but seemed to see all right without them, and eventually discarded them entirely.
Conrad, Captn Crazy's brother, is even almost-blind with 'em.
Brenda in Adventures in Babysitting, having her glasses stolen, wanders around the bus station blindly and mistakes a rat for a kitten. (The bag lady who steals them is actually able to see better with them; ironically, in Real Life she'd likely be even blinder trying to wear glasses not prescribed to her.)
Averted in Jurassic Park. At one point, Dennis Nedry loses his glasses. He looks for them for about a second before saying "I can afford more glasses", being in a hurry to catch a ship. His sight is not drastically affected. However, not having his glasses leaves his eyes vulnerable to the spat venom of the dilophosaurus.
My Cousin Vinny
Subverted when the inept defense lawyer tries to discredit a witness by claiming the man couldn't have seen the perps' faces because he wasn't wearing his vital glasses. The witness replies that they're reading glasses.
Also subverted with another witness, who was wearing her glasses when she saw the crime. In this case, though, she's half-blind even with the glasses.
Olivia in Final Destination 5 appears to be this. When she loses her glasses on the bridge she is unable to do anything but stumble around and cry for help. The audience is also shown a brief glimpse of her vision- it's pretty dire.
Sorority Boys contains what is probably the stupidest example of this trope ever. It's a drag comedy that expects us to believe that a character without her glasses can't tell the difference between a naked man and a naked woman.
The Goonies. Stef, although it's really just a couple instances of "I can't see a thing"; it's not really played for comedy or anything.
Major League: Pitcher Ricky Vaughn can't make out the strike zone until he's fitted with an embarrassing pair of glasses.
Minority Report has a man say this to very creepy effect. He is standing over his bed (which contains both his wife and another man) and as he puts his glasses on he's raising a pair of shears as if about to stab them.
The title character of Dr. Cyclops. He can't see at all without his coke-bottle spectacles; that's why he summoned the team of scientists to his island, because he needed to use a microscope to perfect his shrinking device, and couldn't use one while wearing them. His miniaturized victims try to take advantage of this by breaking them. They only manage to break one lens, but that blinds him enough for them to trick him into chasing them to a mineshaft, where he plummets to his death.
Gattaca has Vincent lose his contacts and is thus utterly helpless when he tries to cross a main drag (which is plain dumb in the first place).
Done very scarily in the first film of The Mummy Trilogy. When Mr. Burns' glasses get broken in the tunnel, he must feel his way in the dark. He sees the mummy ahead of him, but his eyesight is so bad he's not sure he sees anything. He looks away, then back, only to be sure that someone/something was there because it's now gone. The mummy appears right behind him, so now he can see the mummy up close. He can only scream before he gets his eyes and tongue ripped out.Which then means that the Mummy, having his eyes, is short-sighted. No wonder he later thinks the lead female is his lover. Word of God says this was the idea in the original script, although they never drew explicit attention to it.
Black Comedy example in Wild Wild West. Artemis Gordon has a device that can project the last thing a murder victim saw before he died, but to do so, he has to mount the victim's decapitated head onto the device. Anyway, at first, the image is very blurry (they can see someone who's obviously General McGrath, but not a paper he's holding) until West notices the victim's glasses on the table and puts them over his eyes. Then they can see the document clearly.
Donald Sutherland's character in Space Cowboys says he only needs glasses for a few things, like "reading, driving, seeing movies, walking..." He nonetheless passes the NASA eyesight test by memorizing the letters: "I may be blind, but I have a perfect memory!"
Sinistra, the bikini-clad temptress in the '60s beach-party film The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini.
In How to Marry a Millionaire, Pola (Marilyn Monroe) is blind without her glasses, and vain enough to always take them off around men. This leads to scenes like pretending to read a book, which she's holding upside down.
Sheriff Albert Earp in Carry On Cowboy — although he is not really much better with them on.
A mall employee from Eight Legged Freaks, who proved himself Too Dumb to Live by repeatedly taking off his glasses, even when on the run from giant spiders. Eventually, he blindly walks up to one and is killed.
In a reversal, although not really a subversion, in Strangers on a Train, Alfred Hitchcock wanted the actress who played Miriam to wear glasses with thick lenses so he could show her murder reflected in them, and to make her resemble another character. The actress, Casey Rogers (billed as Laura Elliott), didn't need glasses, and couldn't see at all with the costume glasses on. She wears the thick lenses for close-up and medium scenes, and plain lenses for long shots, but there are still several scenes where she has to depend on other people to make sure she doesn't trip or stumble when she's wearing the glasses. In the scenes where Miriam goes to the amusement park with two men, she is holding both their arms most of the time because she can't see where she is going.
In Guest House Paradiso, Richie donned Eddie's glasses as a disguise. They were both rendered nearly blind as a result.
An important plot point in 12 Angry Men (and the play on which it was based, of course): Juror #9recalls that a key witness in the murder case had marks on her nose suggesting that she usually wears glasses, though opted not to in court. He points out that she was unlikely to be wearing them in bed late at night when she claims to have seen the murder from all the way across the street, thereby making her less than credible as a witness.
Delicatessen has a woman who removes her glasses in order to look better for a man she's about to see. She is almost completely blind without them and many times knocks something over or overpours tea. We are given a view of her vision a few times and she's pretty blind.
Turkey Shoot has a particularly glaring example: Ritter removes one prisoner’s glasses before setting him out on the field.
Piggy, from Lord of the Flies. He's almost completely blind without them. Poor kid never saw that rock coming.
Tamora Pierce's Tris, from the Circle of Magic series. In a mild variation, she has much worse regular vision without her glasses, but can see magic better.
Harry Potter has very poor eyesight without his glasses and everything is said to look blurry without them. He almost never drops them, though he breaks the frames a lot, but he does have them removed when he goes into the hospital wing.
The film of Prisoner of Azkaban averts this trope nicely when Harry gets his glasses knocked off by the Whomping Willow, leading to a fuzzy but still somewhat intelligible PoV shot that's pretty close to what the world looks like through myopia.
Paradoxically, Harry's vision is quite good with his glasses on, enough so that he serves as Seeker on the Hogwarts Quidditch team, a position which relies on keen eyesight.
Though one of the books does point out that Harry being a glasses-wearer does affect his playing in certain situations — Hermione has to make his glasses waterproof with magic to allow him to play in the rain.
Princess Andromeda, from One Good Knight, has been severely nearsighted since early childhood. However, the Sophont who made her glasses designed them to stay on her face (and they do, unless she chooses to take them off).
This is an important plot point in one Sherlock Holmes story. Holmes deduces that the culprit could not have left through the front door because she would have to walk along a narrow board to avoid leaving footprints, and she is clearly blind without her very thick glasses that she lost while committing the crime.
Catherine of Catherine Called Birdy has terrible eyesight. As she lives in the Middle Ages, she has to just deal with squinting a lot, something she complains about a few times over the course of the book.
Subverted in I Am Number Four where Sam's specs used to belong to his (missing) dad. Four tries the glasses on and gets a massive headache for his trouble.
Four: Jesus, is your vision really this bad?...You know these things will screw up your vision if you keep wearing them, right?
Winter of Magic's Returnnote Pamela F. Service. Welly has his glasses knocked off a few times in the book. Near the end, a charm makes sure he won't lose -or break- them again, and improves the prescription.
Rosalind Hawkins from The Fire Rose has to wear glasses. She isn't shown as ever losing them. However, she is required to take them off for a ritual to Summon (or rather cajole) an Unicorn (an Elemental of Spirit), and is annoyed that she can't see much of anything. (The Unicorn looks like a white, blurry shape when it appears.)
Doctor Who exception: The Fifth and Tenth Doctors both have only minor vision problems. David Tennant admitted in an interview that he had the Doctor wear glasses to give children with glasses a hero.
In the crossover short Time Crash, the 10th Doctor explicitly states that neither he nor the 5th Doctor need glasses to correct their vision — they only wear them to look clever. The 1st Doctor occasionally did wear proper glasses to improve his ailing vision.
Exemplified in Star Trek: The Next Generation by Geordi LaForge, who actually is blind without his VISOR. (Technically, he is still blind even with it. However, the visor lets him perceive his surroundings in other ways that make his "sight" superior to most humans.)
Without this trope, the famous The Twilight Zone episode "Time Enough at Last" would have lost some of its zing. It's almost reverse Fridge Horror, though, because you realize that eventually he'll think to stumble his way into an optometrist's and find a pair that works reasonably well. He could also have just found himself a magnifying glass.
Parodied on Futurama with The Scary Door, where the last man on Earth has just lost his glasses.
"Wait, my eyes aren't that bad; I call still read the large-print books. (eyes fall out) Well, lucky I know how to read braille. (hands fall off, big no, tongue falls out)
Heroes: In the series, Mister Bennett uses his Nerd Glasses to make himself seem inconspicuous. Right up to the point where he shoots someone. In the webcomic, one villain remarked, "He shoots well, for a guy with bifocals." Gosh, really?
Billy, the Blue Power Ranger could barely see without his glasses or, later, contact lenses, then glasses again when Alpha steps on his contacts.
One episode of Monk has this as a plot point: the victim was blind without her glasses, yet they weren't found at the crime scene.
Olive from On The Buses can't see a thing without her glasses.
Averted in Being Human in which George is seen without his glasses almost as frequently as he is seen with them. Possibly justified... in the pilot George says that "A week before (a full moon) I need glasses to watch the news," implying that his vision gets better as he becomes wolfier.
Possibly played straight and averted in Leverage, as Hardison is seen in flashback with glasses on and may wear contacts. Eliot, on the other hand, only wears his glasses about a third of the time.
Subverted on Due South. Detective Kowalski appears to be moderately nearsighted. He can read, write, drive his Pontiac GTO without apparant difficulty, and otherwise function as a normal human being without his glasses. However, were he to attempt to shoot the broadside of a barn without his Birth Control Glasses, the safest place to be standing would be directly in between RayK and the barn. With his glasses on, he's an expert marksman. Of course, he never actually wears the glasses because he looks like a dork with them. And because they're so bulky, they're always getting stuck in the liner of his jacket when he actually needs to put them on during a gunfight. When asked why he doesn't wear contacts, he claims that they're too much fuss.
Sid from Skins, mostly likely. The lenses of his glasses are noticeably thick (they magnify his eyes a little bit) and he's been shown to sleep with them on. Of course, Sid only has glasses because the actor who plays him does.
In an episode of Seinfeld, George loses his glasses. He thinks he can see just fine (especially when squinting), but he ends up mistaking a police officer petting her horse for Jerry's uncle making out with Jerry's girlfriend. It's also revealed that he once mistook mailboxes for raccoons. Oddly enough, he was also able to spot a dime on the floor from the other side of the room.
Averted in 30 Rock. Liz is often seen without her glasses and can see fine without them (leading Jenna to comment that "She doesn't even need them"). This is partly a reference to the fact that, while they are her trademark, Tina Fey is not wholly dependent on them and only needs them for long distances.
Averted in New Girl. Jess often wears glasses but can see just fine without them too. She even goes entire episodes without needing to use them.
In one episode she mentions that "they help me see" but this is never mentioned again.
Good Eats: Alton Brown, at least within the mildly-fictionalized confines of the episodes that have plots. In one episode, he loses his glasses in a shipwreck, then washes up on a Desert Island where he spends several days living off foraged island vegetation, completely unaware that just beyond the trees where he's getting his coconuts one of the major cities of the Hawaiian islands lies within walking distance.
A Happy Days episode had Fonzie confronting a vision problem and the fear he has with the prospect of wearing glasses. Richie tells him that glasses or no glasses, he's still the Fonz and he's still cool. When Fonzie later tells a contest audience that "wearing glasses is cool," the self-esteem of millions of children across the nation who wear glasses soared.
Duck Dynasty: Silas "Si" Robertson's vision is so poor, with or without his original glasses, that he mistakes raccoon droppings for muscadine berries at one point. And eats them. He soon gets a new pair, though.
In the short-lived series Big Day, Becca accidentally drinks Skobo's contacts when they're in a glass of water. Skobo has vision problems for a majority of the episodes until he buys a pair of glasses with the same prescription at a yard sale.
Skobo: I am legally blind without my glasses!
Averted on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Both Wes and Giles are seen at times without their glasses and doing just fine. It's only when a spell strikes Giles that he actually goes blind.
Also averted on CSI NY, where the disappearance of Danny's glasses from the early seasons is still unexplained.
Samantha Samuels on Cory in the House removes her glasses in one episode. When asked if she can see without them she responds that she can without a problem, only for us to show the scene in her perspective. Her eyesight is pretty bad.
Pe Lanza, vocalist and bassist of Brazillian rock band Restart (although he assumed that he has contacts on during the concerts as a homage to Superman).
Lisa Loeb. She's also apparently allergic to contact lenses.
A little known fact about John Lennon, he was extremely short-sighted. Refusing to wear glasses because they were unfashionable until his mid-twenties, he could see very little during most live performances of the Beatlemania era.
A supposedly true story about Elton John is that he had perfect vision when he was young. He started wearing eyeglasses to emulate Buddy Holly... and now 40 some years of glasses wearing have ruined his eyes to the point where he legitimately needs those glasses.
In The Bible, Mark 8:24 Jesus heals a blind man—and unusually, does it in two stages. After the first dose,note that is, after Jesus spits on the man's eyes and lays his hands on him, the man is what we could call Blind Without Em (he says "I see people; they look like trees walking around"). Which, even in a world without glasses, is still a whole lot better than being blind. Jesus lays his hands on the man again, and the man is 20/20. A possible interpretation is that Jesus first healed his vision and then implanted in his mind the ability to correctly interpret what he saw.
In Galatians Paul mentions that when he writes with his own hand he uses large letters. This implies that when he was cured of his blindness after the Damascus Road incident, although he could see well enough not to bump into things, he still was far from 20/20.
Stan Hansen can't see beyond his nose without his glasses on. Stan's legendary stiffness in the ring is attributed to this.
"Hacksaw" Jim Duggan: The affable everyman wrestler often wore glasses outside the ring due to his real-life poor eyesight. Several heel color commentators — in particular, Jesse "The Body" Ventura and Bobby "the Brain" Heenan — frequently pointed this out in disdaining Duggan.
Arn Anderson: The cornerstone of wrestling's Four Horsemen was never seen without glasses except for his wrestling matches. Like Hansen and Duggan, this is attributed to his real-life eyesight problems.
In EarthBound, Jeff describes himself as "really nearsighted". So, he's probably Blind Without Em, but never loses his glasses.
Persona 4 makes the characters wear special glasses while in the TV world so they can see through the fog. These glasses also work when Inaba is covered in fog. The Main Character is a Double Subversion of this. (Once because he actually can see through the fog a little even without them and twice because it's not enough for him to not need them.)
Seemingly averted in Siren: Blood Curse. It is implied that Sam's glasses do help his vision, but they break at one point in the game and he seems to have no particular vision problems despite never getting a replacement, although the Shibito curse may have a part in that.
Jorge Garcia of Backyard Sports cannot see well without his glasses. Dmitri seems to be like this (he faints if he sees sun without glasses), but the difference is that his glasses may actually be goggles (as they do not break when he falls).
Missing groom Matt is Blind Without Em in the Nancy Drew game The Haunting of Castle Malloy. Used as a plot point, as finding Matt's glasses is the first sign he hasn't run off as a prank or ditched his bride. It also explains why he couldn't read all the clues Nancy finds in the rocket laboratory, and rescue himself.
Happens to a Skye in the in the survival game Lost in Blue. She's not completely blind without them, but severely nearsighted enough she can't navigate the island's hazards without help. Consequently, she stays in the cave, mostly cooking and doing other passive jobs nearby.
Phil's teacher Mr. Soggy in Riddle School 3. You have to knock his glasses off with the rubber band hidden in the vent.
The Courier can be slightly this in Fallout: New Vegas if the player chooses the four eyed trait. It grants a bonus on the Perception stat if you wear glasses, and a malus if you don't.
There is a mod ("Realistic Four Eyes") which alters the camera by blurring the screen if a Courier with this trait doesn't wear glasses. Depending on the version installed (there are three versions, depending on the level of blurring), the game becomes unplayable without glasses.
In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All, Richard Wellington's eyesight without his glasses is so bad that he mistook a baseball glove for a bunch of bananas (admittedly, the glove was extremely bright yellow).
In Trials and Tribulations, Godot is literally blind without his visor.
Certain scenes confirm he attends classes that cater to students with absolute blindness as well, confirming the lenses don't achieve much.
Corpse Party has Sakutaro Morishige, as revealed in Extra Chapter 9. When Yoshiki accidentally breaks his glasses, he has to escort Sakutaro home, where he has a spare pair. When Mayu sees them walking together, she leaves, not wanting to "interrupt".
Prince Nazagi of The Royal Trap without his spectacles is seriously impaired and completely unable to see people's faces, which makes social interaction difficult, since he refuses to wear the glasses in public.
Subverted in MegaTokyo: Piro manages to function quite well after Largo sits on his glasses, and later explains to Kimiko that he can still see reasonably well. (Interestingly, Kimiko responds that she can barely see at all without her contacts.) He still has difficulties, however, as shown later when he searches for hidden cameras.
Subverted in Schlock Mercenary, in which Kevyn insists he can't see a thing without his trademark shades. In fact he can see just fine without them — if only in a single spectrum of light.
Gwynn of Sluggy Freelance fame goes for the classic glasses trifecta, not only being Blind Without Em and having a true set of Geek Glasses, but being Beautiful All Along to boot. Unfortunately, when she takes her glasses off to invoke Beautiful All Along, Blind Without Em shenanigans often lead to her making a far worse impression than if she'd kept the glasses on.
The Law of Purple: Dex's eyesight is highly dependent on his glasses, as he is incredibly nearsighted without them. Possible aversion with another character, who also wears glasses but doesn't appear to be quite as dependent on them.
When The Makeover Fairy yanks away her glasses, The Nostalgia Chick sulks that now she can't see.
Subverted overall in that she functions perfectly well without the glasses, and rarely wears them after that episode.
In Space BeastsIchabod Crane doesn't need glasses at all for most of the main story. At the very end however, he gazes into the radiance of the magic crystal for too long (despite his friends warning him to turn his head and not look). Because of this he is now legally blind and now needs glasses. (Ichabod isn't too upset about this though, as he always felt this day would come, and it completes his nerd look. His girlfriend Marzipan Cheshire likes the glasses as she thinks they make him look Wise.) However even when he loses the glasses Ichabod is NOT helpless! Having spent so many years living among Animal People he can use senses other than sight to find his way and even fight.
Doki is an extreme version as explained here in that without her glasses she fits the standard of legally blind (as preposterous as it sounds), as explained why she needs a white cane.
We Are Our Avatars: Prior to getting the cybernetic eyes, Daniel Lincoln was a literal example — his glasses had a charm on them that allowed him to see. When his glasses were off, he would often stumble around and give people mistaken identities. The first day with the group ended with him crashing into people and not facing the right way several times.
Tweety's SOS (a Tweety and Sylvester cartoon set aboard a cruise ship): Granny drops her glasses while trying to keep the puddy tat away from her bird. Sylvester notices this and, seeing that Granny is virtually blind without her glasses, kicks them under her chaise. Sylvester then resumes his chase... but is unable to grab his meal before the bird finds the glasses and puts them back on his master.
The classic example is Velma from Scooby-Doo, who was always losing her glasses in the original series. (A common gag on the show: Whenever she loses her glasses, the Monster of the Week is the one who hands them back to her, and she doesn't realize how close he is until she puts them on.)
Nicole Jaffe, the actress who originally played Velma, admitted in an interview that at the initial taping of the show, she accidentally dropped her glasses. She then exclaimed something the writers adapted into her catchphrase: "My glasses! I can't see without them!"
Milhouse often loses his glasses, and he is practically blind without them. As well as this, both his parents have similar glasses.
Milhouse: *to approaching car* Nice doggy!
Professor Frink sometimes loses his glasses too.
Averted in an episode where Troy McClure is pulled over for reckless driving. His license requires him to wear glasses, but they make him look like a nerd, so we usually never see him with any.
In one episode, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger drops his glasses in a toilet while visiting the nuclear power plant. (Smithers assures him as he leaves that they'll keep an eye out for them, but Kissinger knows what happened, he's just too embarrassed to tell him.) In the next scene, the news reports that he injured himself walking into a flagpole.
Steve Smith from American Dad!, who's supposed to be far-sighted, is rarely seen without them, but when he breaks them (for instance in fights or when he's been attacked by animals) he usually gets home OK.
Meg Griffin From Family Guy, Stewie breaks Meg's glasses because he hates to be watched while he sleeps. We even see how bad her vision is when Stewie does a vision test and holds an undetermined object (which appears very blurred out).
Duckman. His eyes don't shrink to points when he removes his glasses — he doesn't have eyes without them. Or eyelids and eyebrows, for that matter. Not only that, but they sit far down his face even normally, so you can see the blank stretch of forehead where they should be even when he's got the glasses on. Furthermore, as Cornfed suddenly notices and remarks on, Duckman doesn't even have ears to keep his glasses in place. A particularly bizarre sight gag shows Duckman face down on the floor, his glasses knocked off, and his eyes within his glasses blink and shed tears. In one episode he actually removes the glasses/eyes, and turns them around to take a look at himself.
In My Gym Partner's a Monkey, Adam deliberately takes off the Spiffy's (nerd) glasses to avoid detection of a killer mob, as they were killing off the smart people (literally) and were under the assumption that anyone with glasses is smart (despite the fact that there at least two people in the killer mob who wore glasses). In their blind state, the Spiffy's were wandering around helplessly, appearing to be so dumb they can't tell where they're going (well, it worked).
Porcupine in My Friends Tigger & Pooh, who can't tell the difference between Darby and her dog, Buster, without her glasses.
In the Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines episode "Fly-By-Knights", Dastardly thinks the Vulture Squadron needs glasses, so he kits them out with them. The resulting effects: Zilly sees everything upside down, Klunk sees everything in fours, and Muttley sees everything as far away. The General's hand reaches out from Dastardly's phone and plops a pair of glasses on him, with the result of seeing everything way close up.
Gus in Recess is apparently blind without his glasses. He even says "I'm blind!" when he accidentally steps on and breaks them. What's ridiculous is that when he finds that he's considered cool without them, he ditches them, sacrificing sight for popularity. The viewer is given a scene or two from his point of view: the images are blurred, but not even close to the severity of the blur of people with glasses in real life. It's only a slight blur, and the "lines" between objects are still distinguishable.
Viper:(dodging every blast) I'm going out on a limb here, but it looks like you need contacts. Chow: Maybe.
Of course, it's been established that it's very hard to aim the eye beams of the Pig Talisman because, you know, you've got red-hot beams of heat shooting out of your eyes. Coupled with Chow's need of glasses, he was never going to be a perfect shot. Whenever his glasses are taken off any other time, he seems perfectly fine without them.
Subverted when Hank's glasses are broken on a motorcycle trip and Peggy has to drive him home on the bike. While we get to see the world through his blurred vision, it's not bad enough to qualify as "blind" except in the not-legal-to-operate-motor-vehicles sense.
Played straight in the episode "A Firefighting We Will Go." After Bill breaks Hank's glasses, Hank runs face-first into a wall while chasing him up a flight of stairs.
Mr. Griff on Stanley states that he can't see a thing without his glasses.
On Doc McStuffins, the character Hallie the hippo makes this statement, as the titular Doc takes away her glasses supposedly to give her an eye exam, but actually to hide the fact that she's in a room that's decorated for a surprise birthday party (but isn't quite ready yet). We are, however, given a point-of-view shot of what Hallie sees and it's clear that things are just blurry, like someone with nearsightedness. She probably could have figured it out if Doc and the others hadn't continued to keep her distracted.
Also, in the episode Starry, Starry Night, Aurora the telescope is blind without her eyepiece, mistaking the aquarium for a big-screen TV, Lambie for a dog and Chilly for Stuffy, who she thinks is a porcupine. As in the case of Hallie, this is reinforced with point-of-view shots, which indeed shows what she sees as a blurry mess.
In the Futurama episode "The Problem with Popplers", the Omnicronians are almost fooled when Zapp Brannigan tries to substitute an ape for Leela. Leela at first thinks this is because they have a hard time telling any creatures other than their own species apart, but seeing as Lrrr did indeed only figure it out when he used his glasses to get a better look, it seems bad eyesight may be at least partially to blame.
Noelle as well. In one episode she loses them in a bet to another girl. While we are given a glimpse of her vision (in the perspective of the other girl when she puts on the glasses) it doesn't appear to be too bad. Until she gets her glasses back however, Noelle clearly has a difficult time seeing.
Eliza from The Wild Thornberrys loses her glasses pretty often and her vision is pretty poor. In one episode she switches places with another girl only to have difficulty because she can't wear her glasses.
Daria seems to be pretty blind without her glasses, though occasionally we see her without them and she doesn't seem to have too much of a problem.
Zummi from Disneys Gummi Bears. In one episode, he loses them, and spends half the episode crawling around blinded until he lucks out and find them.
Littlest Pet Shop (2012) episode "Blythe's Pet Project" has a B-plot where shop owner Mrs. Twombly loses her glasses and has a driver's test coming up. Her eyesight is so bad that she mistakes an average height woman for Russell, a less-than-a-foot-tall hedgehog. It turns out they were in her purse all along. Oh, and she passed the test.
Everyone's individual prescription differs, but one constant is people with decent vision's impression of Blind Without Em. For most people, having your glasses off is just blurry, but not necessarily to the point they can't operate in general. While walking down the street a person without their glasses may not be able to read "stop" on a stop sign, but they can see the big, blurry red thing and can tell they're at an intersection, so the fact that it's a stop sign isn't much of a logical leap. The blurriness is just like an out-of-focus camera, only it's stereoscopic — some blurs are closer than others.
Nearsightedness (Myopia) is when you can focus on things that are close to you, but the farther away things are the more blurry they become. This is the most common reason for vision correction.
Farsightedness (Hyperopia) is when you can't focus on things right in front of your face — but your distance vision is clear. This is more rare than nearsightedness.
Astigmatism is a defect in the shape of the lens or cornea that prevents a sharp image from being projected on the retina, making vision blurry regardless of distance.
That said, while you may be able to function to some extent without your glasses, actually finding the dropped glasses can very easily invoke this trope. They're small, often dark-coloured, and blend in with so many things. Many people who have very bad eyesight without their glasses try to keep a spare or old pair in a drawer where they can be easily found to expedite finding their lost current pair of glasses.
One of the tests required to obtain a driver's license in practically every jurisdiction is a vision test. If you require the use of glasses or contact lenses to pass the test, your license will make note of that fact (usually with a code appended to your license number, or a printed endorsement on the license stating "Corrective Lens" or something similar). For a driver with vision restrictions, driving without correction constitutes a moving violation and will get you ticketed.
Christopher Lambert has Myopia and is almost entirely blind without his glasses. Since he cannot wear contacts, he is often forced to act while unable to see anything clearly (making the fact that almost all his roles require fighting or some form of strenuous physical activity all the more impressive). This is also the reason behind his trademark intense gaze as he is really just trying to see what's in front of him.
Actor James Spader is legally blind and claims that in any film where he doesn't wear glasses—which is most of them—he can barely make out the face(s) of the other actor(s) in the scene with him.
Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode is also very nearsighted without his glasses and there are even stories that Martin Gore used to hide or snatch Fletcher's glasses away from him, evidently as a practical joke, and causing him to trip in the studio and even on stage.
It's actually surprisingly common for people who need vision correction but don't have contact lenses to go without their glasses, if they don't like the way they look with them on. It's the little things that usually tip off the people around them - not noticing obvious signage, etc.
In a surprising aversion, most glasses-wearers (particularly those with Myopia) see better while underwater without their glasses; plus, in most cases, also see better than "normal"-visioned people. This has to do with the different refractive index of water vs air. This is part of the issue with why prescription goggles are far less popular than prescription sunglasses. It's also why many competitive swimming clubs have a timing clock installed underwater, in addition to one sitting on deck—-many swimmers have a far better chance of reading a time clock 10 yards away on the bottom of the pool than a clock sitting on deck at the same distance.
Harry Truman had wanted to attend the Military Academy at West Point as a young man, but his eyesight was so bad they couldn't take him—he could hardly see a thing without his glasses. When World War I started, he wanted to join the Missouri National Guard, but realized that he'd face the same problem—so he memorized the eye chart and ended up a captain in the artillery.
They actually became his trademark by accident. His regular glasses broke just before a performance, so he had to use his prescription sunglasses instead since there was no time to get a replacement.
John Kipling had extremely poor vision without his glasses, and was turned away from the Army in WWI. At his insistence, his father, Rudyard Kipling, pulled strings to get him a commission anyway. He died at the Battle of Loos.
Katy Manning (Jo Grant in Doctor Who) wore thick glasses when off camera. On camera, she was prone to crashing into the scenery or other actors.