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Keep Eyes Peeled For Specs Discrimination

Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from the Toronto Star, February 8, 2006.

It's one of TV's last acceptable stereotypes. And it's right there in front of our eyes.

Have you ever wondered why so few TV characters wear glasses? No? You have more important things to wonder about?

Well, beat it.

That's right, take your 20/20 glibness elsewhere...

Let's start again.

Have you ever wondered why so few TV characters wear glasses? How can sleazy producers get away with this abysmal representation at a time when 84 percent* of North Americans require some type of vision correction? (*Statistic totally made up to bolster questionable thesis.)

Look at some of tonight's shows.

Lost (ABC, CTV, 9 p.m.) brims with mysteries--from tropical island polar bears to cryptic numerology to menacing black clouds to the marooned inhabitants' sudden capacity to comprehend Korean.

But nothing boggles like this: how did Oceanic Flight 815 leave Sydney carrying so many passengers with perfect vision? This, my myopic brothers and sisters, is the real conspiracy.

The No Specs rule holds true for Invasion, South Beach and Freddie, though that last show might improve exponentially if the cast was forced to stumble around the set in Groucho Marx cheaters.

And would it kill just one musician to expand the acceptance speech parameters at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards (CBS, Global, 8 p.m.)?

Thank your fans, your parents, your label, your God. Fine, whatever. But, come on Kanye West, how about a shout-out to your optometrist?

Where are the role models for the world's bespectacled children? Must these poor kids, already tormented with "Coke bottle!" and "Four Eyes!" taunts, seek inspiration from Harry Potter and Napoleon Dynamite?

As somebody who spent his teenage years looking like a photonegative of Buddy Holly, I can tell you that we must change this grave situation before anguished youth throw off their glasses and start bumping into walls.

TV is overrun with doctors, lawyers, forensic scientists--occupations that usually boast a high proportion of corrective lenses in the real world. So what gives?

Beauty and The Geek (WB, 9 p.m.), which calls itself a "social experiment," is really just another show that ridicules the nearsighted while upholding a wretched pop-cultural slander: Glasses equals Nerd.

Did you watch the recent episode where the Geeks were subjected to a hasty makeover? With one exception, every Geek was stripped of his glasses, which prompted the Beauties to flutter their hands and squeal with newfound lust.

This, of course, feeds into the Before And After Transformation Empowerment Myth: 1. You start with somebody who is meek, insecure, unattractive, traits that are literally magnified by their ghastly eyewear. 2. The person is suddenly transformed, possessing a range of previously unknown strengths. The glasses are ditched and he/she adopts a new look that might even involve flamboyant costumes, including a cape. You know, like Superman. Or Elton John.

Women are also victims of television's Anti-Lens Bias. In the past, female characters were often saddled with oversized glasses to make a not-so-subtle point: this chick is not as attractive as that chick. (See: Bailey Quarters versus Jennifer Marlowe on WKRP in Cincinnati; Kay Simmons versus Valerie Irons on V.I.P.; Velma versus Daphne on Scooby-Doo.)

The other night, while watching 24, I noticed that Audrey removes her glasses when talking to Jack on a secure phone.

And so this evil stereotyping continues with tired archetypes. From the Most Deranged Sibling (Arrested Development) to the Geeky Peripheral Friend (Malcolm in the Middle) to the Guest Role of An Ugly Romantic Interest (Closer To Home), today's glasses-wearing characters are direct descendents of Skippy and Urkel.

This is a moral outrage.

So join with me now, my blind-as-a-bat brothers and sisters. Let us raise our concave glasses and call for an end to this prime time prejudice! Let us not rest until all the Desperate Housewives are fitted with horn-rims.

Let us forever remember the sacrifice of one Drew Carey, who wore glasses on TV even after laser eye surgery.

The time has come for a Million Specs March. Imagine the sight as we lock arms, our glasses pushed bravely up on our noses, our "Stop The Astigmatic Stigma!" placards hoisted into the crisp air.

Let them laugh at us, push us to the ground. We have bendable frames and scratch-resistant lenses.

We shall not stop fighting until the day arrives when every character on every show on every network is free to wear glasses without fear or persecution.

vmenon@thestar.ca

Reprinted with permission--Torstar Syndication Services.