Tropes have been around as long as media has existed. When watching TV or film, we can identify images and themes that are used over and over again. But are tropes benefiting society, or projecting unrealistic ideologies for societal consumption? Some tropes can be argued to be harmless, like the classic “Running Through an Airport” trope, but others create or reinforce stereotypes in society. Just take a closer look at one trope: The “Glasses Gotta Go” trope.
The “Glasses Gotta Go” trope is when a girl or guy (but almost always a girl) takes off their glasses and instantly becomes beautiful and more desirable. We have seen this trope in a plethora of Hollywood movies, but they predominantly appear in romantic comedies. For example, when Mia Thermopolis in the Princess Diaries gets a drastic makeover in order to become princess, or when Lanie in She’s All That gets a makeover in order to win prom queen. Makeovers in film include a common element: the disposing of the glasses. The iconic makeover montages are part of another trope known as the “Beautiful All Along," where the nerdy woman (or man) takes off their glasses, lets their hair down, becomes more fashion forward, starts wearing makeup, and suddenly, they are the object of everyone’s desire. Think Miss Congeniality. It’s that ugly duckling to beautiful swan moment. Yet another trope related to glasses is the “Glasses Come Off” trope, where a person takes off their glasses in order to kick some ass — like when Clark Kent takes off his glasses to become Superman. This trope says that people with glasses cannot be badass or kick ass. One has to ask: What did glasses ever do to Hollywood?
These tropes are dangerous because of the ideologies that they project. In the “Glasses Gotta Go” trope, it is this idea that glasses are dorky and ugly, thus undesirable. The main protagonist will never be able to fully achieve their goals, which in most romantic comedies is to obtain a romantic partner, if they are wearing glasses. In contrast to Hollywood, glasses are quite common to the general public. I, myself, wear glasses and have several friends that also wear glasses. According to the Vision Council of America, 64% of adults wear glasses and 11% of adults wear contacts.
Despite how common glasses are, Hollywood still creates this idea that glasses are unattractive, continuing to reinforce the nerd stereotype. By doing so, Hollywood influences people to think a certain way about a certain group of people. This trope tells people who wear glasses that they areugly or undesirable to future romantic partners. The “Glasses Gotta Go” trope shows what society values in terms of beauty standards, and how you have to fix yourself in order to fit that standard. Wearing glasses does not make anyone any less attractive. It is unfortunate that movies and TV shows that use this trope continue to make us doubt this fact.
Movies and TV shows are incredibly influential sources of media that reach a large population of people. With that amount of influence, it is important to stay away from toxic tropes that reinforce or even create stereotypes. We, as consumers in pop culture, need to demand that these toxic tropes be stopped. In order to destroy stereotypes associated with glasses, Hollywood needs to get rid of this trope.
top photo: The Princess Diaries
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Gabriella Giambanco is currently a Pre-Med student at Northern Arizona University. In her spare time she enjoys writing about pop culture and feminism.