Fri
Nov 14 2008 2:04pm

Enter The Eyepatch!

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.

DrivenBut 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).

Solid SnakeCybernetic 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:

How to Use an Eyepatch to Improve Night Vision
Eyepatch of Power
You’re Not Ready For The Space Pirates!

[Image of girl with gun from Thriller - en grym film, copyright BAV film.]

18 comments
Jason Henninger
1. jasonhenninger
I totally agree. Glad you mentioned Daryl Hannah's character in Kill Bill, too...evil hotness incarnate.
R O T
2. rogerothornhill
This post is nothing less than a public service! I can attest from personal experience that the only cool part of being mugged was dragging my IV stand into a hospital bathroom, looking in the mirror at my bruised, stitched, and (temporarily) patched face, and saying: "Snake Plissken. I though you were dead."

I would be interested, however, to know how everyone feels about post-Caleb Xander Harris. Love the character, love me some patch, but somehow I never felt that particular combo actually worked. Also why didn't Captain Jack on Torchwood have a patch? Can there ever be such a thing as too much pirate?
PRT
3. PRT
Honor Harrington is still my favorite eye-patch-wearing sci-fi heroine.

Angelina Jolie's character in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is a close second, probably because that's almost exactly how I pictured Honor when I read the books.
R O T
4. rogerothornhill
Yes--Frankie! Patchness abounds, and lo it is good.
PRT
5. cbyler
There's also historical (and videogame) one-eyed badasses Xiahou Dun and Date Masamune (the latter nicknamed "the one-eyed dragon").

And Horatio Nelson, a major inspiration for Honor Harrington (including many of her injuries). In the Battle of Copenhagen, Nelson, upon receiving a signal to retreat, put his telescope up to the eyepatch, looked in the direction of the flagship, said "I do not see the signal", and continued attacking. The outcome of the battle was inconclusive, with both sides heavily damaged, but it's still an impressive story.
Heather Massey
6. sfrgalaxy
Thanks for reading, Jason!

>Can there ever be such a thing as too much pirate?

Never.

PRT, I was thisclose to using Frankie's image to open the piece. Love her character design, hubba hubba! Couldn't find a decent enough pic, unfortunately.

Cbyler, what a cool story. Someone should use that in a movie, it's that good.
Sandi Kallas
7. Sandikal
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.

There was a great episode of Mythbusters where Adam and Jamie tested this theory. It's true!
fred campbell
8. fred00
My favorite eye patch character is Hank Frost from the They Call Me A Mercenary series.
David Goldfarb
9. David_Goldfarb
In Marvel Comics' Infinity Gauntlet series, George Perez drew Odin with an eyepatch, in accordance with Norse myth. Unfortunately, Marvel Comics' Odin had always been drawn with two eyes. So they added the following caption:

"I, Great Odin, didst witness half my people vanish in the twinkling of an eye. The ceremonial eyepatch of sorrow did I immediately don!"
PRT
10. Ahrvid Engholm
That eyepatch girl is Christina lindberg and the still is from the Swedish movie Thriller - en grym film (Thriller - a cruel move). Christina - who I have actually met - was a famous pinup girl in the 70's, and also turned up in films - often vry lightly dressed. She later became editor of an airplane magazine.

--Ahrvid
ahrvid@hotmail.com
Lisa Paitz Spindler
11. dangrgal
You mentioned DangerMouse! Awesome.

I know I usually wax on about stuff in comments, but one mention of DM or Buckaroo Banzai reboots my brain.
PRT
12. K Maze
Don't forget everyone's favorite Russian mercenary / hot chick, Molotov Cocktease from The Venture Brothers. She's got a sexy black heart-shaped eyepatch which totally ups her bad-ass mercenary hottie factor!
Heather Massey
13. sfrgalaxy
Sandikal, thanks for the heads up. I would love to catch that episode one of these days.

Fredoo, I just googled an image of Hank Frost--be still my beating heart!

David, thanks for reading! That is one amazing quote. Love it.

Ahrvid, lightly dressed is right, lol! Cool tidbit about her life. And you met her? I'm not worthy.

Hi, Lisa! Thanks for reading. I wish I could watch some Danger Mouse right now...oh yeah, I live in the age of YouTube--yes I can!

K Maze, I did not know who Molotov Cocktease was but now that I've googled a few images I've died and gone to heaven!
Nathalie Gray
14. Nat
Hey, I wanted to check out Hank Frost too, but all I got was this image:

http://www.amoeba.com/dynamic-images/blog/Phil/mercenary18front.jpg

Surely that's not the one that makes sfrgalaxy's heart beat madly?! I know, I know, it's all about tastes and all that. But dude...that guy...he's...erm. Not my type *said delicately*
Heather Massey
15. sfrgalaxy
Hi, Nat! Thanks for reading. Actually, the mustache sealed the deal.

Kidding!

It was this image: http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/n3/n16153.jpg

I suppose it reminded me of the older Solid Snake--he's hella sexy. Now for some weird reason, this makes me realize that if Quint from JAWS had worn an eyepatch, he would have rocked my world three times as much.

And my blogger buddy Lisa Paitz Spindler alerted me about an eyepatch sighting on The Big Bang Theory:

http://www.cbs.com/primetime/big_bang_theory/video/video.php?cid=501654023&pid=sXe6YmqhP59a8t8SBTBdzPM3t4QLl5Lg&play=true&cc=2

Enjoy!
Matthew Jarpe
17. mjarpe
Probably because of the whole peripheral vision/depth perception thing not many people in real life rock the eyepatch as a fashion accessory, no matter how cool they look. Bowie experimented for a while. He probably tripped over an ottoman or something and said to hell with it.
Heather Massey
18. sfrgalaxy
BlueTyson, that rocks! Thanks for the pic.

Mjarpe, I agree--the reality is sobering. One of my brothers had to wear a medical eyepatch to correct a vision problem. Not exactly an easy process for a child.

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