When you're a kid that sees through plasticAlice learns that she needs glasses, but when she tries to wear them everyone thinks she looks stupid. So she tries to do without them, but it doesn't go well. Eventually, Alice accepts her need for glasses and people stop making fun of her as they get used to it. Instant plot! Essentially, she starts needing to wear glasses and is forced to cope with the potentially negative social reaction. The glasses might not actually be Nerd Glasses, but that's what she thinks they are; that's what counts. Sometimes, she ends up discovering contact lenses, allowing for a complete Snap Back to how she was before. Sometimes they'll just Snap Back in the next episode with no explanation at all, which results in a serious Broken Aesop ("it's ok to wear glasses, but makes our actor less marketable"). This has become a Discredited Trope in recent years, due to the wide acceptance of glasses to the point that some people are actually buying Purely Aesthetic Glasses just for the look, the stigma associated with glasses is pretty much gone. And with the increased recognition of glasses fetishism, you're more likely to see someone use their glasses as a selling point when flirting than take them off. Contrast Meganekko, where the glasses are part of the appeal, and Purely Aesthetic Glasses, glasses worn specifically to look smart.
With a harness of elastic
So the girls all think you're icky
And the boys all think you're queer
With a harness of elastic
So the girls all think you're icky
And the boys all think you're queer
— The Lovin Spoonful, "4 Eyes"
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Anime and Manga
- According to flashbacks this occurred to Kaname from Kimi to Boku when began wearing glasses in his first year of middle school. He didn't want to wear them because he thought they were uncool and he didn't want to be teased for them. Kaname began wearing them permanently after he lost a thumb wrestling contest.
- One episode of Sally the Witch involves one of Sally's classmates needing glasses, but being unwilling to get them because she believes boys will laugh at her if she wears them. Sally attempts to fix the girl's eyes with magic... but then finds her own vision compromised. Her parents explain to her that if a witch tries to heal a human's ailment with magic, they'll come down with the symptoms him/herself. The girl eventually relents and agrees to wear glasses after her little brother is hit by a truck, which apparently she couldn't see coming because her vision was just that bad. The boys DO laugh at her, but after Yoshiko scolds them for mocking the girl when she was courageous enough to wear them, they apologize and admit she's actually not bad looking even with them.
Films — Animated
- In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Sam adopted a Dumb Blonde persona (and stopped wearing her glasses) after being teased for being smart as a kid, though in her flashback we only see her being taunted for wearing glasses.
"All the kids used to taunt me with this lame song. It wasn't even clever. 'Four eyes, four eyes, you need glasses to see-ee!'"
Films — Live-Action
- Variant in Star Trek II. Kirk's discomfort with his reading glasses is that they're a sign of his age, rather than a symbol of dorkiness. Zig-Zagged a bit too, as one of the first times he actually wears them is right before outsmarting Khan for the first time in the film, transmitting the command override codes to make Reliant lower her shields rather than sending Khan the Genesis data as was demanded of him.
- 12 Angry Men: The twist that puts the testimony of one of the witnesses in doubt is the fact that the witness needs glasses to see, and she didn't wear them in her appearance in court - although the marks remained on her nose, which is why the jurors were able to figure out she used them on a constant basis.
- This happened to Karen in the The Babysitters Club spinoff series Babysitter's Little Sister. The boy who made fun of her ended up needing glasses, too.
- Ed from L.A. Confidential has this about him. He can see without his glasses, but not well enough to shoot, drive, or read from a distance. But since he's climbing the social-celebrity ladder, he is told he can't be seen wearing them, so he takes them off as soon as he no longer needs them.
- This is inverted in one Le Petit Nicolas story. When Clotaire shows up to class one day with glasses, the teacher explains that his parents suspected his long-standing bad grades may have been a result of him not being able to see, so his grades will improve when he wears glasses. The kids misinterpret this as glasses themselves making you smarter, and all of them want to get a pair.
Live Action Television
- Happened to Jan on The Brady Bunch.
- This trope was played out to the letter in an episode of Kids Incorporated: "Best of all, I got contacts for when I'm onstage singing!" And, apparently, for every time ever, since we never see Renee in her glasses again.
- Stephanie in Full House.
- Happened to Marie in Everybody Loves Raymond.
- Inverted on The Big Bang Theory when Priya has Leonard get contact lenses, but Leonard hates wearing them because he can't see as well with them in and keeps bumping into things. There's also a subversion in another episode, when Penny gets a pair of nerd glasses to look sexy-smart for Leonard.
- Done hilariously on Lost: Sawyer develops migraines from all the reading he's suddenly doing after the crash. Jack has to go through the luggage for glasses, but turns out Sawyer needed two different lens prescriptions. He ends up with the right half of one ugly pair grafted onto the left half of a different ugly pair. Everyone has a good laugh, but it's fairly warm and fuzzy as the show goes.
- Devin in Power Rangers Dino Thunder trashed his glasses on purpose because he hated looking geeky and knew the girl he liked would never give him a second look if he wore them. Ironically, a Villain of the Week caused an Applied Phlebotinum that let his inner cool guy out and let her inner nerd out, resulting in her wearing geeky glasses for a while.
- Happened to Tony of Men Behaving Badly, one of the cases where contact lenses allowed a Snap Back (but the glasses show up again as part of his new nerdy image in the last episode)
- Little House on the Prairie had two of these:
- Mary, in the 1975 episode "Four Eyes". For those who also read the novels, this episode would actually foreshadow Mary's future health problems and eventually becoming completely blind.
- Jason Carter, in the 1983 episode "Home Again". You remember that plot, don't you? No? Because you probably remember the far-more famous main plot about Albert's drug abuse and painful withdrawal. Jason's eyesight problems was simply a lighthearted subplot that was used to relieve the heavy-handed main story while, at the same time, focusing on Dr. Baker as a caretaker for the whole community and an individual staunchly against drug abuse.
- Hannah Montana: Lily lost her contact lenses and no replacement would come before the finals of the skateboarding contest, and she'd rather forfeit than wear her glasses until Miley encouraged her.
- Smallville did this in a season 3 episode with Clark who was recovering from being briefly blind. It also functions as a Mythology Gag given Clark's famous disguise.
- In the Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode "48 Hours", Detective Amy Santiago's contacts dry out, forcing her to wear thick, round Nerd Glasses. Detective Jake Peralta constantly teases her about them. Played with in that Amy already was nearsighted beforehand, hence the contacts.
- Happy Days has Fonzie developing vision problems. He resists his glasses at first, because "glasses are for nerds." A motorcycle accident then convinces him that "glasses are cool." Became a Very Special Episode, no doubt to encourage kids watching the show to be like Fonzie and wear their glasses. Fonzie's vision problems miraculously went away by the next episode, as his glasses were never seen on his face again.
- Played with in an episode of Red Dwarf, where the Cat discovers a pair of old reading glasses and finds he can "see the small writing again" with them. He learns a lot of new information, but is so vain and shallow that he starts to panic about his new Character Development. When faced with a choice between this and going back to being a Static Character, he chooses to destroy the glasses in a blender.
- For Better or for Worse did this with both Liz and Elly. Since it was an arc-based strip, they eventually adapted to it, and Liz doesn't need them anymore, but at the time, a few jokes were based around them. In particular, Elly squinting and holding the menu at arm's length in a restaurant looks very peculiar. Michael asks why she just doesn't put her glasses on... and John says she thinks they make her look silly.
- Linus in Peanuts made a big deal way back in the 1960s, when he started wearing glasses. At first partly subverted in that after a while, his glasses tended to come and go at random, until finally he stopped wearing them altogether.
- In a radio episode of Our Miss Brooks, Miss Brooks goes to an optometrist after Mr. Conklin accuses her of needing glasses. She borrows a pair of glasses to see their effect on Mr. Boynton. He compliments her on how mature she looks. So much for any chance of Miss Brooks wearing glasses!
- A variant was done in a Something*Positive storyline. Davan, who already wore glasses, was prescribed bifocals by his optometrist. PeeJee mocked him for getting old, so he went back to wearing his old glasses. His father, who wears bifocals, called him out on it, at which point Davan notes that his father is guilty of the same thing, because he should be wearing trifocals.
- In an early The Optimist strip, the fat kid is accidentally given a wrong prescription (a three strip story arc).
- Averted in Kevin & Kell, when Rudy asks if Kevin is feeling a midlife crisis now that he needs bifocals, Kevin points out that, as a prey species, he's lucky to have lived long enough to need bifocals. Although there was one strip that showed Kevin being reluctant to consider the idea he needed glasses, months before his mother forced the issue.
- Played with in one Awkward Zombie strip. Katie isn't happy about needing glasses when she drives, saying that one of the reasons she doesn't like having them is that she's always interpreted them as a part of someone's face and that she doesn't want to make herself look different to other people by wearing them. Her other reason is that she has a hard time drawing glasses so that they're visible but not keeping readers from properly seeing the expressions that she draws in her comics.
- Occurred in Arthur, and he did indeed keep the glasses as part of his signature look.
- The Powerpuff Girls had one, though that wasn't permanent, and Bubbles accepts them after they magnify her Eye Beams to ludicrous power.
- Hey Arnold! had Rhonda Wellington Lloyd getting glasses and immediately losing her cool reputation, having to sit in the back of the bus with the loser kids, and generally becoming a klutz (accidentally breaking her glasses, leading to an even worse-looking tape-based repair job; trailing toilet paper under her shoe, etc.). Then she gets over her paranoia, regains her self-confidence, gets a better-looking pair of glasses, and almost seems to learn An Aesop about the nerds who had come to her rescue. Aside from one reference later on about her having since gotten contacts, it's never mentioned again.
- Seen in an episode of the Mr. T cartoon.
- Cartman of South Park got glasses in the succubus episode. The doctor referenced this trope, and so stapled Cartman's glasses onto his face. Eventually he got retina transplants (courtesy of Kenny, who has just died again) and it was never brought up again.
- The Simpsons also took the glasses plot to its logical extreme, giving not only Bart thick glasses, but also oversized shoes and a spray that made his voice sound more nasal than usual. He originally went in for just the glasses, but the optometrist noticed something wrong and recommended Marge take him to another specialist. And so on, and so on, dealing with a wide variety of disorders including strep throat, flat feet, and a dry scalp. It's debatable if he really needed any of the extra treatments or if the doctors were faking since the medical practice they worked for was named HMO Hibbert Moneymaking Organization.
- Parodied in Rocko's Modern Life. Rocko almost immediately becomes far-sighted around the time that he's training for a jackhammer contest. The insurance glasses are too awkward for him, so he tries to avoid wearing them in spite of his ability suffering. When it finally comes time for the contest, he comes out without wearing any glasses, causing Heffer to panic ("He can't see anything! Watch out!"). He does perfectly, which was revealed to be because, yes, he discovered contact lenses. It's then revealed that the big hero of the jackhammer ring wears contacts as well, but only while jackhammering because "with glasses, I look like an intellectual". He demonstrates this by putting on his glasses and within two seconds, some girl walks up and asks "are you an intellectual?"
- Inverted in Daria, when her mother tried to persuade her to wear contact lenses instead of her glasses. People keep saying Daria looks better this way, but the contacts hurt her eyes too much to wear; as a result she goes to school without glasses or contacts, bumps into everyone and everything, and winds up feeling miserable that she does, in fact, care about her looks.
- An episode of Goof Troop hit this one. Max had to wear glasses for a few weeks "from playing too many video games", and was distraught over how nerdy he looked with them.
- In the Justice League Unlimited episode "Kid Stuff", it turns out John Stewart needed glasses as a kid, and so needs them when he's been de-aged. He uses his power ring to recreate the Urkel-esque specs, then realizes he can make them look cooler — and turns them into a Kyle Rayner-style mask.
- Inverted in Blue's Clues, when the characters are all rather supportive when Blue's friend, Magenta, gets glasses, as part of a Very Special Episode. However, given the presence of this trope, maybe it wasn't such a bad thing to show little kids after all.
- Also inverted in Cow and Chicken, where not only does everyone think Cow looks better with glasses, but they actually make her smarter. Of course, since that show had Negative Continuity, Cow was without glasses from then on. Not so much of a Negative Continuity since she was putting contact lenses during the epilogue.
- Care Bears: A boy refused to wear his glasses because other kids told him cowboys didn't wear glasses.
- The Kids From Room 402: Jessie was so afraid of needing to wear glasses that he cheated on the school-sponsored eye exam and ended up forced to wear thick glasses (his family's insurance wouldn't cover anything cooler) or, as the shop called it, glasses "for the not so active". Not only he was constantly mocked by his peers but the glasses damaged his eyesight making it harder to run. He eventually broke them and faced the consequences of cheating. In the end, Vinnie had to wear a similar pair of glasses (his family's insurance wouldn't cover anything cooler either) and, to Jessie's dismay, managed to look cool with them.
- Military recruits who need glasses will be issued BCGs for the duration of training. They are made more for their Nigh-Invulnerability than fashion. BCG is an acronym for "Birth Control Glasses" as the line is that they're so unattractive that no woman has ever been known to "get lucky" while wearing them.
- Here's a link to The Other Wiki's article on that type of glasses. They don't look too bad...
- Same goes for the Swiss Army. Every recruit who requires glasses gets issued a pair of "Fighting Glasses" (official designation) which she/he is allowed to keep after duty. These are also made with durability and not design in mind (here's a pic◊). if you break those glasses, you get issued new ones. if you break your 'civilian' glasses during army service, you're out of luck. Nonetheless, no one wears them.