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
—John Sebastian, "Four Eyes"
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Anime and Manga
- According to flashbacks this occured 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.
- 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!'"
- 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.
- This happened to Karen in 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.
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. Also a subversion 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.
- 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 early on, a few jokes were based around them. In particular, Elly squinting and holding the menu at arm's length in a restaurant, looking 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.
- 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. Surely 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. nontheless, no one wears them.
- Very much truth in real life. Because glasses are often associated with nerds and "ugly" people, many children who need glasses dread them. Although this has changed a lot in recent years.
- It may not be as universal as the fear of nerdiness and/or ridicule, but for some people the backlash actually comes from being extremely upset that your eyes don't work properly. The glasses remind the person of this, thus the glasses must be evil.
- Not to mention that glasses can be very uncomfortable until you get used to them. The nosepieces are hard to get accustomed to for some people. Plus, in some cases, people have trained their eyes to compensate for their bad eyesight, which can be a hard habit to get out of when you have glasses and don't have to do that anymore. Even though you can see better, the sharp clarity and your brain getting used to not having to strain can actually give many people a headache at first.
- It's fair to say that this trope is the general reason to why some people choose to use contacts instead of glasses. Of course, contact lenses have some practical advantages, but since glasses can have their own advantages (like not needing to touch your eyes directly), none of them are that superior in terms of practical use. It's mostly for visual reasons that people prefer contacts.