I have an axe to grind (yes! I know I always have an axe to grind!) Anyhow recently two comments came up, quite unrelated in terms of events, but very much linked thematically, that it made me stop and think. The first one happened earlier in the week, about Monday when I was part of a group lunch. Some banal comments were flying around, when one of my colleagues turned to me and said “You know, for someone who reads so much and is so academically oriented, you don’t wear glasses…right?” I corrected him there and introduced him to a wonderful accessory called “contact lens”. That was the end of that and I dismissed the incident without much thought. Then towards the end of the week, another colleague who is also a friend, came back from a meeting with the new Director and said “Boy! He sure is bright! Superb analytics and all; of course he is bright, one can make that out at once, he wears those thick glasses.” That’s when I stopped and thought ‘What in the world is the correlation between spectacles and intelligence?
I know in the bygone era, before the invention of electric light and advanced publishing, students and academics pouring over the hand written or badly printed scripts in the candle light would often lose their vision or at least seriously damage their eyesight. But how does that translate to the present day – to judge a person’s academic calibre by the thickness of his/her glasses is so in adherence to the stereotype that it makes me barf!!!(I know that whenever I grind an axe, I also barf) Our films of course go out of their way to reinforce this image – the protagonist is a geek and therefore will wear specs, the moment he/she become cool, off go the specs!!!!! I mean what? I mean really what the hell is this? Even our literature adheres to such connotations – remember the novel Robert Langdon of the Da Vinci fame? He is a professor who wears glasses. Had he been a CIA agent, I wonder if Mr Brown would have made him wear glasses!!
I am sure, all of us if we seriously think back have enough examples that defy this stereotype. I have a bimbo at work that will make bimbo’s feel inferior in bimbohood. She wears these really fancy glasses because she is trying to pass as an intelligent creature. Just wearing big round glasses will not make her intelligent. On the other hand I have my sister and brother-in-law. My sister has double masters from Boston University and worked as an Art Historian and my brother-in-law has a Ph.D from MIT in Mathematics. Yup they are bright and definitely have an IQ score above the average, but guess what – THEY DO NOT WEAR SPECS!!! They do not even have reading glasses….go figure!! My Dad who is hitting 70 and for years have read and read and read and is possibly one of the brightest men around, also does not wear glasses. I can go on and on about this list, but I think you get the idea!!
So what is the correlation between intelligence and glasses? I mean in medieval era, it was considered to be a sign of physical weakness and not mental superiority to wear glasses!!
As a foot note, my trusted and sacred source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, informs me that these days there is ‘in” thing called “Geek cheek”. It apparently refers to a person who wears black horn rimmed glasses and is comfortable with technically complex accessories. Apparently the brigade leading this “Geek cheek” look includes Justin Timberlake and Myleene Klass. I think I rest my case – glasses+ Justin Timberlake ≠ intelligence!!!!