Discrimination Against The Bespectacled: Now In 3-D!


Life was hard enough for those of us who wear glasses. Slipping down your nose in hot weather, flying off during exercise, inhibiting kissing: we deal with these quotidian indignities. But now, the unkindest cut of all: movies in 3D.

My heart sank when my Time Out New York arrived in the mail last week. It was a special 3-D edition, with a pair of pop-out, red and blue 3-D spex included down the centerfold. I duly popped and assembled and tried to perch them across the bridge of my heavy plastic glasses; they would not stay. I tried positioning them under the glasses, directly next to my face, but this somehow distorted the effect and nothing was remotely three-dimensional. I tried a smaller, backup pair of spex; no dice. Instead, the wonders were denied me, every image blurry and disorienting. I was bereft!

A few days later, I went to see Toy Story 3, one of the barrage of new films requiring plastic 3-D spectacles. I’d known, of course, that it was in glorious 3-D (and had in fact experienced my half-blind dad’s grumbling about the difficulty of two-glasses viewings) but hadn’t thought it would impose much of a problem. “Please Put On Your 3-D Glasses!” the screen screamed at us, over and over, as a succession of children’s films (all in 3-D) previewed. I’m trying! I thought, as I struggled to keep the cursed specs, perched atop my own (the small pair), from slipping off the tip of my nose. My viewing companion had tipped his head back at an off angle to keep the 3-D lenses balanced on his own wire-frames. Ultimately, I ended up holding the glasses in place for the film’s duration; otherwise, the images are blurry and headache-inducing.

3-D has existed in some form since 1890. The red-and-blue phenomenon of the 1950s, stereoscopic 3-D, relies on anaglyph, in which, to quote Wikipedia on the subject, “the two images are superimposed in an additive light setting through two filters, one red and one cyan.” The new films, however, use sunglasses fitted with a polarizing filter (for which we pay approximately $3.50 additional.) James Cameron is credited with starting the latter-day craze, which is now unavoidable, with his ’03 Ghosts of the Abyss. At the moment, Toy Story 3, The Last Airbender and Despicable Me all come in 3-D (and, at least in NYC, are more widespread than the 2-D versions) while Tangled, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Tron: Legacy and Gulliver’s Travels are all on-deck.

And, no doubt about it, it’s cool. Images pop, 4th walls fall, and there’s the pleasantly goofy ritual of joining an entire room of people in looking absurd. But will no one think of the bespectacled? Some of us can’t wear contact lenses! The only silver lining is that young children (who, after all, don’t wear contacts) probably have small enough glasses that 3-D pairs can cover their own more comfortably than those of us adults who insist on seeing children’s movies. There is, however, hope on the horizon: apparently Stephen Spielberg, friend to nerds everywhere, is helping to develop a new 3-D viewing system that won’t require glasses. These Autostereoscopic displays, while not yet formatted for the big-screen, give us all reason to hope. Because, while I never thought I’d rail against any form of glasses in print, this is one trend that’s cruelly unfair to Carrie Donovan, Martin Scorcese, and superheroes attempting to maintain convincing secret identities.

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