Confession time: I have a
fetish thing for eyepatches.
I don’t want to wear one; I just love this bold accessory on characters. My latest preoccupation was sparked by a few events: The singular sight of Tom Cruise sporting one in his new film Valkryie; my recent post about villains; Entertainment Weekly’s November 7 issue with its “The Eye Patch Index”; and author Nathalie Gray sharing her love of space pirate Captain Harlock in my interview with her.
Eyepatches have been in existence for ages, of course. We all know they were common gear for sailors—and pirates, natch.
However, some research uncovered that they weren’t just used to cover lost or injured eyes. They also helped sailors’ eyes adjust when going below or above deck. The same went for pilots who had to alternate their gazes between brightly lit cities and dimly lit cockpits. Additionally, people in other dangerous occupations wore eyepatches, such as blacksmiths.
I can never have enough eyepatch-adorning characters in my life, even after a reality check hit me one day: Eyepatches reduce one’s field of vision and negatively impact depth perception, making them not so much fun for those who have to wear them for medical reasons.
However, in fiction we can and do overlook their limiting aspects (most of the time). Eyepatches lend so much mystery to their wearers that it’s easy to be swept away by the allure they create.
The two Snakes (Plissken & Solid), Nick Fury, Elle Driver (Kill Bill), Beatrix (Final Fantasy IX), Frigga (Thriller: En Grym Film)—these are just a few of the characters who’s indomitable eyewear upped their hip factor several notches.
Yes, even Danger Mouse couldn’t help but kick things up a sartorial notch or two.
But the truly interesting thing about eyepatches is the way they’re karmically agnostic—a favorite accessory of both villains and heroes/heroines.
So what does an eyepatch accomplish for villains? It automatically increases the badass quotient, for one. This point was driven home for me after I read the science fiction romance book Driven by Eve Kenin. (Yeah, that was a bad-ass pun, wasn’t it?) The villain in that story is Duncan Bane. Not only does he have a cool moniker, but he also wears an eyepatch to mask a past injury. He’s also a corporate mogul, which means he’s impeccably dressed.
Axiomatic Expression of the Day: Eyepatch + Armani = Badass.
But what does an eyepatch do for heroes and heroines? Why it makes them more badass, too—all in that special Sergio Leone-esque antihero way! In the Metal Gear Solid series, Snake is the no-nonsense, world-weary soldier who always gets the job done (while still finding time to chat about the weather & share recipes with his loquacious pal, Mei Ling).
Cybernetic eyepatch + Gruff personality = Still Badass!
Okay, so sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference, but eyepatches in fiction offer a unique visual flair that I can’t praise enough. While the motif is a bit overcooked at times (I’m looking at you, Captain Ron), it serves up a timeless mystique that reaches the inner Robert Louis Stevenson in all of us.
Now, since I have you all riled up, here are some eyepatchy links that should hold you over until next time:
[Image of girl with gun from Thriller - en grym film, copyright BAV film.]