Technology with attitude

The Latest Lady Gaga Fashion Trend: The Real Dangers of Circle Lenses

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lady gaga
Lady Gaga in her Bad Romance video
Circle lenses are contact lenses that fit over the eye. The look makes the shape of the eye appear larger by providing color to cover some of the white area of the eye. As a long time prescription contact lens wearer, I’m pretty comfy with contacts. I’ve also seen friends purchase contact lenses like these at conventions and wear them at LARPs (live action role playing games). One of Lady Gaga’s music videos also shows her with the large, doe-like eyes—furthering the trend. According to ABC News, circle lenses may be unsafe. The real danger, however, may be psychological.

Anime-style eye. Illustration: Oni Lukos, Wikimedia Commons.
Anime-style eye. Illustration: Oni Lukos, Wikimedia Commons.
ABC’s research indicates that any non-prescribed lenses can be unsafe because they can scratch the cornea and damage the eye. As a contact lens wearer, I know this to be true for any contact lens—especially lenses that aren’t properly-fitted. However, I have to wonder whether this is simply a general concern for safety—after all, don’t major companies like Johnson & Johnson and Bausch & Lomb make major bucks off of selling prescription lenses and accessories? Those companies make a lot of money.

I’ve always assumed that I couldn’t wear these rogue-brand contact lenses while still wearing my regular lenses. Not true, say some of my lens-wearing friends—they simply stack lenses to avoid purchasing expensive prescription color contacts. I don’t have to do research to know that this is probably unsafe, but many people employ this tactic. It’s also true that unregulated contact lens manufacturers are not held to FDA standards, so wearers don’t have an actual assurance of the lenses. When you purchase lenses from an FDA-approved manufacturer, you know that they are sterile, safe and fitted to your eye.

Let’s go back to Gaga. Why would Lady Gaga want to appear in videos with exaggerated, doe-like eyes? Although Gaga is a trendsetter, this is a desired physical attribute that has been around for much longer. Check out any cartoon, specifically the rabidly popular anime style—most of the characters (especially children) have large, wide eyes. This is prevalent in Western animation as well—just look at any Disney princess. (Gaga’s eyes, for the record, were enhanced using a computer, not a lens, so she can hardly be blamed for the circle lens craze).

Comments on this post about anime even indicate that the ‘bad guys’ in Japanese animation actually have smaller eyes. This leads me to believe that the round eyes are less about cuteness and more about culture. What does it say to an Asian (or any) audience when the ‘good guys’ have light skin and round eyes and the ‘bad guys’ have darker skin and narrower eyes? It unfortunately furthers a standard of beauty centered around Caucasian features. Others disagree about the meaning of this ‘wide-eyed’ representation, citing many valid points, but this isn’t about the intention of the animators—it’s about the audience of those watching cartoons. While the animators may have intended for the ‘good guys’ to simply appear more emotive and emotional than the bad guys, the audience might not be getting that message.

It’s one thing to point out that cartoons show or promote a look. It’s another thing when girls deliberately risk their own health and safety to conform to the look. Sure, girls could be doing worse things—drugs, starving themselves and getting breast augmentation to look like Barbie, watching “Twilight” movies, having unprotected sex—but this is a pervasive and prevalent trend. The assumption for girls of all races still seems to reflect a Caucasian ideal.

As a Caucasian woman with exceptionally round eyes, I can personally attest to the fact that this eye shape draws attention. Add makeup or further exaggeration in any way and the round eyes draw more attention. However, the general American interest in Japanese culture and animation has also created a monumental interest in Asian women; many men (young and old) even start to fetishize Asian women without even realizing it.

Before you buy those contact lenses for yourself or your daughter, think about why you’re buying them (and why boys generally don’t want to make their eyes larger). Are you just trying to emulate a character, or is it about making yourself appeal more to this standard?

This is a controversial topic. Mature comments from all viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.