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What Is "Eye Candy"?

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  • Written By: Marco Sumayao
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 24 August 2016
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"Eye candy" is one of many idiomatic expressions in the English language used to refer to a visually-appealing person or object. The term is most commonly used to describe something that both catches and keeps an observer's attention with its attractiveness; eye candy is often ogled at more immediately and for longer periods than most relatively attractive objects. Although the term is usually meant as a compliment, many individuals also use the idiom as an insult to visually-pleasing objects with little to no substance.

The term "eye candy" is considered part of modern slang, although its origins are debatable. While some sources cite the first instance of the expression being used in 1984, others claim the original use was in 1978. Others believe it was a little-used derivative of the term "nose candy," which referred to cocaine and was first recorded in the 1930s. Regardless of the origin, "eye candy" grew in use steadily over the 1980s to early 2000s, eventually becoming part of modern colloquial English.

The expression alludes to the feeling people experience when eating candy — generally pleasant and often appetizing. People or objects considered to be "eye candy" evoke the same emotions in the aesthetic sense; their visual appeal is considered to be more stimulating than average. People who observe eye candy often report feeling happy, excited, and dazzled while at the same time wanting to see more.

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Many people, however, use the association with candy to make derogatory remarks. Candy is a superficially-good food in that it has little to no nutritional value to go along with its pleasing flavor. In the same regard, "eye candy" is often used to refer to an attractive person or object that has few positive qualities outside of appearance. The expression can then be used, for example, to insult a model with a bland personality, or a technological device with a stylish design, but limited functionality.

Few businesses benefit from this negative idea of eye candy more than the entertainment industry. A movie may be criticized for being all spectacle with no substance, yet end up being more profitable than more critically-acclaimed films. Movies with over-the-top action scenes or extremely attractive people, for example, generally do better than dramas with average-looking actors. This is likely due to the fact that many individuals treat movies and television shows in the same way they treat candy — as something to stimulate the senses without need for additional benefits.

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recapitulate
Post 3

I won't see movies because of eye candy, but I have been known to watch a bad television show at least a few times because an actor I think is especially gorgeous is on it.

I think there's not real problem with eye candy so long as people can separate innocent attraction from infatuation; a lot of television, movies, and music these days seem to be devoted to showing us excessively pretty people all the time, without much more substance. I don't have a solution, except suggesting we all pay a little less attention to looking "perfect"; But I still don't think there is anything wrong with a little eye candy here and there, though.

DentalFloss
Post 2

@widget2010- I see what you mean, but to me eye candy is an innocent term. It's suggesting someone is good looking and fun, without being over the top.

To me it can also describe people who are just acquaintance, or who you don't know at all, yet find attractive. It might feel weird to call your boyfriend's roommate handsome, but you could easily call him eye candy. That's my take anyway.

widget2010
Post 1

I have trouble with the term eye candy. It seems demeaning no matter what gender of person you are talking about, even though it sounds like a compliment to the person who says it. I don't just mean things like men making catcalls at women on the street, but even if a girl jokes that her boyfriend is good "eye candy". Maybe I just need to lighten up, but I don't think so.

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