Eye candy” is one of the many English idioms used to refer to a visually appealing person or object. The term is most commonly used to describe something that captures and maintains an observer’s attention with its attractiveness; Eye candy is often ogled to more immediately and for longer periods than most relatively attractive objects. Although the term is generally intended as a compliment, many people use language as an insult to visually pleasing objects, with little or no substance.
The term “eye candy” is considered part of modern jargon, although its origins are questionable. While some sources cite the first instance of the expression used in 1984, others claim the original use was in 1978. Others believe that it was an underutilized derivative of the term “candy nose” which referred to cocaine and was first recorded in 1930. Regardless of where it came from, “eye candy” grew in use steadily during the 1980s to early 2000s, 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 as “eye candy” evoke the same emotions in the aesthetic sense; their visual impact is considered more stimulating than the average. People who observe eye pleasure often report feeling happy, excited, and dazzled while at the same time wanting to see more.
Many people, however, use the association with candy to make derogatory comments. Candy is a superficially-good food as it has little or no nutritional value to go on with its pleasant taste. In the same sense, “eye candy” is often used to refer to an attractive person or object that has few positive qualities outside of appearance. The expression can be used, for example, to insult a model with a bland personality, or a technological device with an elegant design, but limited functionality.
Few businesses benefit from this negative idea of eye candy more than the entertainment industry. A film may be criticized for being the whole show with no substance, but end up being more profitable than most critically acclaimed films. Movies with over-the-top action scenes or extremely interesting people, for example, generally do better than dramas with medium-looking actors. This is probably due to the fact that many individuals treat movies and TV shows the same way they treat candy – as something to stimulate the senses, without the need for additional benefits.