by carl wilson

Sociological Digression


Non-musical, but: I'm reading Colin McCabe's promising (as of p. 25) biography of Godard and came across this passage:

Rachel [his sister] recalls ... Jean-Luc irritating their father from a very early age, incessantly punning and balancing on chairs. But the most constant irritation was Jean-Luc's peering over his glasses, a gesture which is typical to this day. Rachel remembers her father complaining, 'Don't look over the top of your glasses,' and Jean-Luc regularly replying, 'Who me?' before gazing down at his plate.

Besides being an amusing detail in a portrait of the artist as a precocious brat, this set me off thinking about this peering-over-one's-glasses thing. We all know what it signifies - an arch look of skepticism or I-dare-you challenge, occasionally even anger. But how and why does it do that? Do we all pick it up from movies as something we just know has that effect (and if so what, for instance, silent-film star started it?), or is there some actual interactive dynamic involved: Are you trying to get a better, unmediated view of the victim of your contempt or ire? Or are you moving your glasses away because the person is making you so sick you don't want to see them clearly? Or is it a matter of moving the shield away from your eyes to make your stare more naked and stark (the next step of which would be to take the glasses off and put up your dukes)?

(The alternative meaning - flirting - is clear enough: Lowering the glasses equals lowering your guard, your inhibitions, as possible prelude to removal of glasses followed by removal of clothing.)

I ask because I don't think I use this gesture but there's gotta be some of you among my heavily four-eyed readership (a characteristic I can state confidently without reference to site statistics) who do - so what does it feel like you're doing?

Your data will be used for the forces of good.

To go back to music (but really gossip): Sure, everybody's talking about the Broken Social Scene pot bust, but WHAT ABOUT the Jon-Rae and the River West Coast Grand-Theft-Cheese arrest?

The Writ | Posted by zoilus on Thursday, July 21 at 05:21 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (7)



Oh, I see the person above me basically made the same point. I feel your ire.

Posted by HD on July 22, 2005 03:22 PM



Um, don't people who are far-sighted need to look over their glasses to make eye contact? (Being near-sighted, my ire could hit the wrong person.) This might explain why it's an expression we tend to associate with people on the other side of 40...

Posted by HD on July 22, 2005 03:19 PM



ah, just the kind of burning topic to keep me from working on a friday afternoon.

a theory: given that farsighted people need their glasses to read, it stands to reason that the sense of disdain (and incredulity) comes from looking at someone who has just interrupted you while reading. the gesture places the burden on the person being looked at to somehow prove themselves worth the bother.

Posted by stop14 on July 22, 2005 01:10 PM



I do the opposite: because I have a small head, my glasses are always sliding off the bridge of my nose, so I constantly push them back up -- by squinching up my nose. I don't think that's very flirty but it does make me look like I have allergies or perhaps the symptoms of a coke habit.

Posted by jennifer on July 22, 2005 08:58 AM



I do it if I decide I don't need to actually be able to see anything for a few minutes.

Posted by ryan on July 22, 2005 08:26 AM



oh. uh, it should be obvious, but in case it isn't: i take the glasses off before doing the above.

Posted by optimus on July 21, 2005 08:46 PM



I catch myself doing a varient of this. When I am preturbed and trying to figure out how to respond to a vapid suggestion, insipid coworker, etc., I scrunch up my eyebrows a little and rub my lower forehead (just above my brow) with the arm of my glasses.

Not sure if you can picture that. But I got called on it once and realized that I am very bad at hiding when I think ideas area stupid.

Posted by optimus on July 21, 2005 08:44 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson