Follow TV Tropes


Fish Eyes

Go To
"Damn your eyes! "Too late!"
"I can't stop looking into those entrancing eyes... Can she see all around her? Maybe she can see through the very fabric of time and space!"

How do you make a blank stare even blanker? Have the character's eyes face slightly (or even more than slightly) away from each other — reverse cross-eyes, if you will. It's usually used to make the character look unintelligent or dumbfounded, causing it to become known as "derp eyes" in some Internet circles. In real world English this is called "wall-eye" or "squint", and in medical jargon "exotropia".

Sometimes however, they can be used for a more serious effect, such as showing that a character's mental stability is loosening, emphasizing an emotion (commonly anger or happiness); sometimes this is done when a character mocks another, or to emphasize that they act in a way unlike they usually do. They may occasionally be the result of plain old physical eye damage.

A particularly common form of Off-Model in both hand drawn and computer generated 2D animation, especially when depicting an aside glance. Compare Comically Cross-Eyed, which is also used to convey stupidity or insanity, but is almost always Played for Laughs.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Happens to Marcille in Delicious in Dungeon after she hears the scream of a mandrake.
  • Depending on the angle, Ryuk from Death Note can have this.
  • Caster of Fate/Zero has these, emphasizing that he's not the world's most stable individual. He's also a walking reference to the Cthulhu Mythos, so it's only fitting he has the "Innsmouth look" mentioned under Literature. In the Einzbern Consultation Room specials, it is revealed that he had these even when he was alive, and Jeanne d'Arc would regularly poke his eyes back in.
    • When he appears as a Saber in Fate/Apocrypha, he begins with normal eyes, but as his sanity declines, his eyes morph into this shape.
  • Katou from Holyland, emphasizing how nuts he is.
  • The Gold-Toothed Doctor from Fullmetal Alchemist has these behind his Scary Shiny Glasses. In his case they emphasize just how ''off' he is.
  • Some of the aliens from Gantz will have this expression if their cover is blown or sustain enough heavy damage, right before dishing out horrible bloody violence.
  • Since its unchanging Cat Smile is harder to convey in manga, Kyuubey is given this look in Puella Magi Oriko Magica to enhance its creepiness.
  • When E. Honda stumbles into Balrog's chest in Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, Balrog's got this look before winding up to clobber him.
  • Cell from Dragon Ball Z briefly adopts this look (complete with slobbering) after Gohan kicks him so hard he vomits up Android 18.
  • Gastro from Assassination Classroom has eyes apart from each other, and they probably enhance his shooting skill.
  • Maeve from Blame! has eyes like this to make her look more dangerously unhinged.
  • Midori of Space Patrol Luluco does this at one point when asked to look at two copies of a pamphlet on either side of her. Her third eye also sprouts a second pupil so it can look both ways as well.
  • Played for drama/horror in Blood on the Tracks. Shigeru's fall off a cliff causes a skull fracture which leads to bleeding on his brain, requiring surgery to relieve the pressure. When Shige sees him in the hospital after the surgery, he is comatose, his eyes pointing in opposite directions with extremely dark scleras, as if they're very bloodshot or even bruised.

  • Michelangelo's David, believe it or not, has the character's eyes move away from each other. Deliberate, because Michelangelo knew both eyes couldn't be viewed at once, and made each profile fill different artistic roles.

    Comic Books 
  • Ink, one of Nicky Cavella's lackeys in The Punisher MAX is depicted with his eyes looking in different directions.

    Comic Strips 
  • Matt Groening's Life in Hell would use a slight wall-eye effect on characters who were despairing about something. Doubtlessly influenced the early Simpsons examples.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Godzilla, whenever portrayed by a suit that had fixed eyes. This is especially pronounced in his 2016 incarnation, to the point that his eyes don't ever focus on anything and are, for the most part, unmoving.
  • Igor from Young Frankenstein (pictured above).
  • Jeebs in Men in Black.
  • In Ella Cinders, Ella does this when practicing different looks from a book on how to be an actor. She then starts moving either eye independently. It's a rather unsettling split-screen effect.
  • The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland (2010). This, combined with his bright orange hair and insane demeanor, is a result of severe mercury poisoning.
  • An interesting case of this trope and Method Acting on the part of the actor for Pennywise the Dancing Clown in It (2017); initially the director wanted to achieve this effect through CGI techniques, but Bill Skårsgard told him that he could actually unfocus his eyes to achieve the desired effect. Thus, Pennywise appears wall-eyed in most scenes that he's in that aren't action heavy, with most of said scenes shot so that one eye is pointed directly at the camera.

  • A minor character in the Discworld books is Nobby Nobbs's on-again off-again girlfriend Verity Pushpram, a fishmonger who apparently has such a bad case of fish-eyes it's earned her the nickname "Hammerhead".
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Merope and Morfin Gaunt's eyes are said to point in different directions.
  • Finn from The Magic Toyshop has a misaligned right eye, which according to Melanie makes his gaze "disturbing and oblique". He explains that this was caused by him being stung in the eye by a bee as a child.
  • Part of the Innsmouth Look, according to H. P. Lovecraft. Makes sense, since the inhabitants of Innsmouth are slowly turning into Fish People.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • A minor character named Pounce from Ravenpaw's Path has this look worn all the time. He's often seen derping in the background.
    • The blind character Jayfeather is often depicted this way in the Russian illustrations.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Cookie Monster of Sesame Street has eyes like this. It's apparently why he's Marty Feldman's favorite Muppet.
  • Jack Elam had a successful career unnerving people in various roles, starting in western films and series like Rawhide and continuing in guest roles well into the 1990s. Often he was the villain, but sometimes he just put the "strange" in stranger.
    • Lampshaded in one comedic guest spot (possibly his recurring role on Eight is Enough) where someone kept saying, with reference to Elam's character, "Never trust a man who can't look you in the eyes."

  • Bud of No Good Gofers has fish eyes that regularly roll in opposite directions.
  • Q*Bert has this expression in the lower-left corner of the Q*Bert's Quest playfield.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show: Wanda, of the ill-fated duo of Wayne and Wanda, has slight wall-eyes, though she isn't portrayed as particularly unintelligent (now, Wayne on the other hand...) just spectacularly unlucky.

    Video Games 
  • In The Binding of Isaac taking an "R U A Wizard?" pill gives Isaac wall eyes for a short time as a reference to the "Are You A Wizard?" meme. Unlike most examples of this trope Isaac's eyes actually move to the side of his face rather than just facing outwards. This makes it much harder to aim because he fires his tears at a 45 degree angle rather than straight out in front of him. Picking up "The Wiz" gives Isaac this effect permanently and also gives him a Dunce Cap, but to compensate it doubles his rate of fire and makes them travel over obstacles. It's still widely seen as a Power Up Let Down, though.
  • In Borderlands 2, Tiny Tina's left eye sometimes drifts outwards due to a glitch, but the developers liked it so they left it in.
  • A kangaroo enemy in Dynamite Dux has these.
  • All passive (harmless) mobs in Minecraft. Since eyes are only two pixels wide by one pixel tall, it was either that or crossed eyes, which are used for the default player character skin and for wolves and ocelots, to make them look more intelligent.
  • Masada (or that guy with the piano) in Yume Nikki. Likewise, when enraged, the toriningen can get these.
  • Lemmy Koopa from Super Mario Bros. has a lazy eye, that sometimes invokes this trope.
  • Gooey, a (questionably) sapient offshoot of Dark Matter and best friend to Kirby, has these.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Parodied in The Angry Video Game Nerd episode "Game Glitches" during the Rocky part, when the Glitch Gremlin changes Rocky Balboa's face by making his eyes pop out, and calls him "Bug-Eyed Balboa".
  • Sanguine, a Friendly Sniper with modified vision in Twig, has this effect, as he can rotate and aim each eye individually.

    Western Animation 
  • El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera: Zoe Aves gets this expression twice when she nearly blows her secret identity in front of Manny and Frida. The first time, her Blinding Bangs prevent the viewer from seeing her left eye, so it merely looks like she's watching Frida warily. The second time, her helmet exposes her other eye, so the viewer can now see how one eye tracks Frida and the other tracks Manny.
  • Ruby-Spears's Mega Man has had this photoshopped to the point of Memetic Mutation.
  • On SpongeBob SquarePants this is done a few times. Most notably in the episode 'Selling Out', done by the new manager, Carl. The only time he doesn't do this is when he narrows his eyes at Mr. Krabs, but he's back to his glasgow-style smile and literal fish eyes afterwards.
  • Luigi briefly wears this expression at the end of the Super Mario World episode "The Yoshi Shuffle".
  • Seen a few times in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, often as a Freeze-Frame Bonus due to typically being an animation error:
    • Derpy Hooves is an interesting case: her Fan Nickname (which was briefly adopted in part to be her canon name) comes from this, yet she's just as often seen Comically Cross-Eyed. She inverts this as her eyes usually face inward.
    • One background pony (called Cloud Kicker) in "Griffon the Brush Off" can be seen making a crazy "shocked" face, complete with fish-eyes, when Gilda scares off Fluttershy. The same background pony makes another fish-eyed face in "Hurricane Fluttershy".
    • Rainbow Dash briefly wears this expression in "Fall Weather Friends" while trying to laugh off Twilight Sparkle's suspicions.
    • Pinkie Pie wears this expression during her infamous Sanity Slippage in "Party of One" whenever she is puppeteering the friends that she created for Gummy's after-birthday party.
    • Twilight Sparkle lapses into this several times during her brief struggle with mental instability in "Lesson Zero".
    • The toys of Princesses Celestia and Luna tend to suffer from this, as do the Miniature Collection toy of Zecora and the Target-exclusive plush of Twilight Sparkle.
    • Purposefully averted at one point during the Season 2 finale. During fake Cadance's song, she gives a sideways look at the audience (directly to her right) while standing in front of a mirror (directly to her left). The show's art style would have rendered this as her having fish eyes, so her mirror image's eye is closed to keep the focus on the other one. Fans sometimes cite this as an animation error, not realizing how odd she would have looked had this not been done. Basically, as the ponies have their eyes partly to the sides of their heads and not pointing directly ahead as with humans, turning one eye directly to the side makes it impossible to point the other one in the same direction. From the character's own point of view, it would seem she would have split her field of vision in two if she'd kept the left eye open, so this was perhaps justified in-universe too.
  • Pops up now and again on The Simpsons, especially on earlier seasons. There's even one episode ("Diatribe of a Mad Housewife") where Marge is trying to talk some sense into him, and his reaction is to stand there staring off into space, with one of his eyes wobbling back and forth. Then the same scene is repeated with Bart and Lisa in the same episode.
    • Ralph Wiggum is drawn this way a lot of the time (although it's pretty subtle).
    • The episode "I Don't Wanna Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" revolves around Marge being stalked by a bug-eyed fugitive who wanted her to see him in prison after she persuaded him to turn himself in to the police, but she never did. This feature is pointed out repeatedly and usually Played for Laughs, but it looks rather disturbing at a point when they're in a stadium and he appears to look down at Marge from the jumbotron. For bonus points, the guy was voiced by Steve Buscemi.
    • When Sideshow Bob hypnotizes Bart in one episode, the Simpson kid becomes cross-eyed.
  • Technically speaking, this is a design staple in various Matt Groening creations, including Life in Hell and Futurama.
  • Ren from The Ren & Stimpy Show has them from time to time.
    • MANY characters from Ren & Stimpy have fish eyes when drawn in an "off-model" way. Ren's pretty obvious, though, because he's a chihuahua.
  • Done in The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, in the movie Attack of the Twonkies. The Twonkies often wear this expression. It is also the default expression for Bolbi.
  • In Ed, Edd n Eddy, this is Ed's default expression.
  • The hotelkeeper in episode 2 of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated has constant Fish Eyes.
  • Cartoon depictions of Rodney Dangerfield sometime veer into this when he's playing stupid: see Rover Dangerfield and the Genie's impression of him in Aladdin.
  • Megatron and Starscream Narmfully don this expression several times in Transformers: Prime.
  • On Phineas and Ferb, this is the default expression of Perry the Platypus when he's in his civilian guise. In "Mom's in the House", Phineas and friends make fish-eyed expressions like Perry during the "Perrytronic" song.
  • Gravity Falls: Grunkle Stan gets this expression a lot whenever he states a stupid plan, most notably the driving bear from "Bottomless Pit".
    • Old Man McGucket sports this nearly all the time.
  • Mike from Total Drama Revenge of the Island and All-Stars always has this expression while he takes a deep breath right before one of his alternate personalities activate.
  • In the Steven Universe episode "Frybo", Steven goes wall-eyed when he zones out on an infodump from Pearl regarding some magic gem shards.
  • Rivet from The Adventures of Figaro Pho sometimes dons this expression, such as in the "Fear of Mad Dogs" episode when he is malfunctioning.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: In "Knock It Off", this expression is seen on several of Dick Hardly's Powerpuff knock-offs.

    Real Life 
  • As on glorious display above, the late Marty Feldman, a talented actor and great comedian. His were caused by Graves's disease.
  • George Harrison of The Beatles. That didn't seem to matter to any of his thousands of fangirls, though.
  • Richard Williams of Kansas sometimes has this appearance in early photos of the band. Justified in that one of his eyes was a fake glass eye (replacing an eye he lost making a homemade bomb when he was younger). Eventually he got tired of fooling around with the glass eye and started wearing an eye patch.
  • The man of the "Are You A Wizard?" meme.
  • The Potoo Bird seems consistently unable to focus both eyes on a subject in spite of its forward-facing eyes.
  • Scarlett Johansson, although it's not very noticeable.
  • Down Syndrome can cause this.
  • Peter Lorre had these but they're not really obvious.
  • Ryan Gosling, however, this is pretty subtle but it's more obvious in his page pic.
  • Jean-Paul Sartre was apparently teased and bullied for having these during childhood.
  • Due to their ability to move their eyes independently from each other, chameleons sometimes look like this.
  • David Prowse got these towards the end of his life.


Video Example(s):


Friendship Games

Pinkie Pie's eyes just start randomly drifting apart while Rainbow Dash is talking.

How well does it match the trope?

3.4 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / FishEyes

Media sources:

Main / FishEyes