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Eye Scream

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"We all understand that eyes are the most vulnerable of our sensory organs, the most vulnerable of our facial accessories, and they are (ick!) soft."
Stephen King, Danse Macabre

The eyes are our window to the world. We rely mostly on our sight to tell us about the world — its wonders, its dangers, and its beauty (unless you're blind). At the same time, our eyes are very fragile, and mostly made of water and nerve tissue. Which means that most direct attacks on the eyes, especially with a sharp, pointy object, will destroy them.

Ah. Made you wince, didn't it?

The Eye Scream is when the creator of a work takes advantage of our Primal Fear of having something utterly horrible happen to our eyes, usually involving the invasion of the eye sockets by a foreign body, and plays it up for all its worth; all its squishy, bloody, traumatic worth. Academically, this is known as the Injury to the Eye Motif.

An interesting commonality in these examples is that one of the best ways to quickly show a character has gone completely off the deep end is to show them mutilating their own eyes.


Usually accompanied with Reflective Eyes, so we can get a nice and nasty glimpse of the incoming foreign object. A Super-Trope to Armed with Pepper Spray. See also Go for the Eye (which encourages this trope), A Handful for an Eye, Moe Greene Special, Forced to Watch, and Eye Poke. Likewise, a Groin Attack can invoke the same primal reaction. Compare Fingore, Agony of the Feet and Ear Ache. Contrast Eyes Are Unbreakable. If the character survives, it often results in an Eyepatch of Power (or an Eyeless Face if it happened to both eyes).

In Real Life, this will usually kill you unless you can get immediate medical attention, due to blood loss and shock.

Has nothing to do with Eyed Screen, apart from both being Eye Tropes.


Example subpages:

Other examples:

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  • This Denny's commercial contains the most humorous example of this trope ever.
  • The Australian Workplace Safety ad that has a young building apprentice remove his safety glasses because he couldn't see well with them... while using a nailgun. We shall leave the rest to your imagination.
  • The ads for FX series The Strain were eventually pulled, as they showed a parasitic worm burrowing into someone's eyeball.
  • This anti-smoking ad.
  • In Will You Be Here Tomorrow? by ERI Productions, a worker hammering without safety glasses misses a nail and propels it into his right eye.
  • In 2016, the IFAW released an educational toy about puppy farming called Suzy Puppy, a very sick puppy from a puppy mill whose various illnesses included conjunctivitis, which was so severe it caused her eye to bulge out of her head.

  • In Gassed, the injuries are not shown directly: all of the soldiers depicted in the painting are blind from a mustard gas attack, their eyes wrapped in bandages. The soldiers on their feet need to be guided by orderlies.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • While not shown on the actual card, the flavor text for Distress has some horrifying connotations;
      "They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. I like to break windows and take what's inside."
    • And if you thought that was bad, just check out the new art/flavor text tag team of the 2012 Core Set reprint of the same (emphasis added):
      "Of course I'm sure I've gone mad. The little man who crawled out of my eye was quite clear on this."
    • Gaze of Pain depicts a person whose eyelids have been slit open vertically.
    • Deathmark shows an eye whose pupil is bleeding out of it as inky black tears.
    • Eye Gouge, appropriately enough, features a spear thrown right into a cyclops' eye. The card's effect is humorous: slightly debilitating to most creatures... fatal to Cyclopes.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In one Arabian Nights story, a prince is practicing archery and shoots at a bird that's perched on the vizier's house. He misses, and hits the vizier in the eye. The vizier being a typical example of his profession, this doesn't work out so well for the prince: the vizier usurps the throne, has the prince captured and plucks out his eye. No, he doesn't use any instruments to do so. He literally sticks his finger in the prince's eye and plucks it out.
  • The Brothers Grimm telling of "Cinderella" has Cinderella's cute little bird friends pecking out the eyes of her wicked stepsisters after they try to pass themselves off to the prince as Cinderella.
  • In "Rapunzel", the prince loses his vision after falling from the tower into thorn bushes, regaining it later thanks to Rapunzel's Swiss Army Tears. It's kept in more than once version, like the Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics retelling that gives the viewer a lovely view of the Prince falling into the bushes, with the thorns as the last thing he sees...
  • In Madame d'Aulnoy's The Princess Mayblossom, the titular princess kills the evil ambassador Fanfarinet - who is trying to kill and eat her - by stabbing him in the eye with a dagger.
  • In traditional fairy lore, it's not uncommon for those who spy upon fairy revels to lose the eye through which they watched them.
    • In many versions of Tam Lin, the Queen of Fairy vows that if she had known Tam Lin would try to escape her, she would have plucked out his eyes.
    • An Older Than Print fairy trope is that of a human who inadvertently gains the ability to see through fairy glamour, usually through anointing an eye with a magic potion. When he meets the fairy later on and greets it, the fairy asks which eye the mortal sees them through; when he tells them, the fairy immediately puts his eye out. (In later versions, the mortal is Genre Savvy enough to claim that he sees the fairy "through the eye in the back of my head," i.e. an eye that doesn't exist. Sometimes the fairy congratulates the mortal on his cleverness, and lets him be; sometimes the fairy is angry but powerless, and tells him that if he'd given any other answer, he would have lost the eye.)

  • Demolition Man: One of the captive balls is an eyeball, and hitting it awards the Retina Value
  • GoldenEye: Completing the "Xenia Encounter" has the villainess crush a Naval Captain until his eyes pop out of their sockets.
  • Kirby's Pinball Land: The Kracko Boss Battle starts with him as a sole eyeball for Kirby to hit.

  • Cool Kids Table: This happens in the game Homeward Bound 4. Josh gets shot in the eye by a human, but fortunately it's just a flesh wound to him and he can barely see anything to begin with.
  • The Magnus Archives:
    • Dr. Algernon Moss, the statement giver of episode 98, blinds himself to avoid having to see the eternal darkness he was trapped in by Maxwell Rayner.
    • Adelard Dekker deals with a supernatural threat this way in episode 113. The man had been invading people's dreams to kill them in their sleep, so Dekker broke into his house while he was sleeping and performed a lobotomy on him with a kitchen skewer in the hopes of removing his ability to dream. It left him unable to speak coherently.
    • In episode 154 Jon learns that losing your eyes is the only way to escape being tied to the Institute forever and dying if you refuse to feed the Eye for it. When he shares this with the other characters they are forced to decide whether they want to gouge their own eyes out or be stuck as a servant for one of the dread powers. In the end, Melanie is the only one willing to go through with it, removing them with a bookbinder's awl.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for Eye Scream and calm ourselves afterwards with ice cream!

Alternative Title(s): Eye Squick


Caroline's missing eye

As the game begins, Caroline quickly learns that one of her eyes has been surgically removed.

How well does it match the trope?

4.75 (4 votes)

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