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In fiction, a Twitchy Eye is never merely a facial tic -- for some reason, a twitch reveals your state of mind.
The prevailing notion seems to be that an eye twitch denotes insanity, which can apply to a permanently mad person with a permanent tic, or an unstable character whose twitch manifests along with their madness. As such, it usually accompanies a Broken Smile, and sometimes overlaps with Mad Eye.
Of course, there are other emotions that give characters a Twitchy Eye, including anything from extreme annoyance, to horror, to caffeine. so much that * twitch twitch* has become a standard sound effect in anime and manga, as well as a standard anime gesture of slowly raising a clenched fist with a twitching eye. Might be the prelude to a Villainous Breakdown or a Heroic BSOD.
Other times it's not a mood, but an action -- such as lying -- that will bring about the twitch.
In Real Life, a twitching eyelid can be sign of emotional instability, but it's usually a sign of tiredness or severe stress.
Anime and Manga
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: Bishounen Duke Devlin gets a twitchy eye when he's losing to Yami at a game of Dungeon Dice Monsters (Which he invented). Ouch.
- Kagami does this occasionally in Lucky Star, when she's trying to deal with Konata.
- Kaname gets this a lot in the high school parts of Full Metal Panic!. Mostly due to Sousuke.
- The otherwise unflappable Xellos got an eye-twitch in Slayers TRY after Filia called him "raw garbage".
- Natasha Zabikov gets one on G Gundam when a boy calls her "Old Lady."
- Miyabi in Ai Yori Aoshi.
- Nenene in ROD the TV, multiple times in furious frustration with her new roommates.
- In Sonic X, Knuckles' eye has been seen twitching when he was extremely angry on a few occasions.
- Hiro-chan in Narutaru has this shortly before she snaps.
- Sasuke does this a few times in part one.
- Done dramatically by Gandalf whenever the Ring speaks in The Movie.
- The film version of Watchmen does this with Rorschach, though sparingly.
- Sir Ruber of the movie Quest for Camelot, one of the characters with a permanent tic, starts out with a slight Twitchy Eye that gets worse and worse throughout the film, until his whole face is practically quivering.
- Chief Inspector Charles La Rousse Dreyfus in the Pink Panther movies.
- Ed the hyena from The Lion King.
- The anchorwoman in the film version of V for Vendetta was said to blink involuntarily when she reported a story she knew was a lie.
- Several characters played by Kitano Takeshi have a twitchy eye, most memorably Nishi in Hana-bi, whose eye twitch announces an imminent outburst of sudden violence.
- Master Shifu of Kung Fu Panda seems to have developed one of these, particularly after Po gets selected as the Dragon Warrior--a trait which appears to afflict him much more in FanFiction.
- The Incredibles: after Kari has been putting up with Jack-Jack throughout the whole of the movie, she manages to freak out the new 'babysitter' with one of these.
- Russell being dragged across the Big Bad's window induces a slight eye twitch in the latter in Up
- In The Kid, while trying to make a sandwich for his younger self, Bruce Willis's left eye starts to noticeably twitch.
- No mention of Donkey? I'm going to need some serious therapy.
- Amelie's mother has developed an eye twitch as a sign of shot nerves.
- Seed of Chucky: Glen, who is the genderless offspring between the eponymous killer doll Chucky and his dollified girlfriend Tiffany, always has a notable twitch in his/her eye whenever he's anxious or goes into an Ax Crazy episode. He also tends to wet his pants.
- In the novel The Golden Goblet, the main character's villainous half-brother has a permanent tic in one eye that makes him look even more sinister.
- Mr Teatime in Terry Pratchett's Hogfather.
- Prince Andrei Bolkonsky developed facial tics in War and Peace, but that was probably due to a degenerative disease. The way it's written sounds like his personality (he was a curmudgeony sort) was getting the best of him.
- The First Law: Glokta's ruined eye (along with his face, sometimes) tends to begin twitching/blinking uncontrollably when he's nervous, lying, or any other time it's inconvenient to look like he's not utterly composed. He Lampshades it in his thoughts, calling it "treacherous jelly."
- In the novelization of Resident Evil 0, it's mentioned that Birkin's paranoia has caused him to develop a facial tic. Though, it's a slight subversion because it's actually on the corner of his mouth rather than his eye.
- In Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, Lockhart's Valentine's Day antics really irritate McGonagall.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine featured Jack, a genetically-engineered super-genius who was unstable and borderline paranoid, in two episodes. He was very twitchy.
- Data's Evil Twin Lore in Star Trek: The Next Generation had a facial tic when first discovered and activated.
- Captain Darling from the fourth season of Blackadder! Actor Tim McInnerny had a hard time getting rid of this tic after filming ended.
- On MacGyver, Jack Dalton's left eye always twitches when he lies. It's so well known at the Phoenix Foundation there's a notice in the ladies' room warning about it.
- In Pushing Daisies, Ned's eye twitches when he lies.
- Barney in How I Met Your Mother does this occasionally, most notably when he was trying (and failing) to hide his fear at being on the receiving end of another slap from Marshall on Slapsgiving.
- Peter on The Monkees sometimes displays this tic when he is nervous or startled.
Davy: "Are you nervous?"
- On Just Shoot Me, Dennis realizes Nina is trying to keep a secret because of her "I've got an itch to snitch" twitch.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Xander briefly developed an eye twitch every time anyone mentioned Faith, after they'd had sex together.
- Topanga begins to develop a really nasty one during the preparations for her wedding to Cory, which, naturally, are full of wacky hijinks as Eric... "helps."
- Sheldon has this (among other tics) when things don't go his way (for instance people interrupting him when he wants to show off his knowledge, or not being able to answer a question to a quizz).
- "Your eye twitches like that when you're happy right?" -- from FoxTrot, said during an abysmal vacation.
- "Calvin's going to be inside for a week?"
- Fred Bonaparte in Psychonauts has eye twitches... even after he's cured by Raz.
- Boyd seems to have a twitchy eye as well. It's most noticeable when Raz first meets him outside the asylum ruins.
- Happens frequently throughout the Ace Attorney series.
- Kristoph Gavin in particular is this trope, even before his Villainous Breakdown.
- Count Veger in Jak and Daxter gets one when he finds out the Precursors are ottsels.
- A twitchy eye is one of the first signs you get that there's something that's not right about Lisa in Silent Hill 1.
- Portal 2 gives us a robotic example in Wheatley the Personality Core. He gets damaged early in the game and, from that point until the showdown with the Disc One Final Boss, he has a short circuit that randomly causes him to spasm and give off sparks. Since his body is intended to resemble a robotic eyeball inside a frame, the effect is strongly evocative of a twitchy eye in a human, and even works as Foreshadowing that Wheatley is not as sane as he appears to be.
- The main character of Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog has this as a Character Tic. It becomes very pronounced when he's nervous, almost to the point of being a Tourettes Syndrome tic. In particular, it tends to occur when he's discussing his Arch Enemy Captain Hammer and when his desire for his Love Interest, Penny conflicts with his desire to be a Super Villain. In contrast with the typical use of the trope, the tic becomes noticeably less pronounced the stronger he grows in his Dr. Horrible persona.
- The OCD-suffering Hannelore of Questionable Content does this when Marten unthinkingly jokes about spreading garbage around her apartment.
- This is supposedly the "tell" in poker of the Patterner in Exterminatus Now. To clarify: the Patterner is an Expy of Tzeentch, Warhammer 40000's god of Magnificent, manipulative bastardry. When he's shown preparing to deal, he has at least five decks of cards floating around him and held in all four hands. And he displays he's bluffing when his eye (which is not only all of his head, but floats around separate from his body) twitches.
- Drive: Nosh does this when he learns that he has to go to Tesskil, whose inhabitants, the Tesskans, lost a war with his own species, the Veetans.
- Any character in Invader Zim will get twitchy whenever they start feeling crazy, but particularly Gaz and the so-happy-it's-freaky experiment, Nick.
- The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy uses this a lot. Mostly with Billy's mom and her Broken Smile.
- Mr DeMartino from Daria
- Brock Samson of The Venture Brothers has a very twitchy eye that manifests when he enters one of his Rages. This happens especially when killing people who have threatened his Family...or run him over with a truck, while he's returning the favor.
- Tweek of South Park, in addition to his overall jitteriness, has a perpetually twitchy eye.
- In a Simpsons parody of Amadeus Lisa, as Salieri, does this when the emperor declares all music other than Beethoven obsolete, making her schemes against Mozart all for nothing. She then hails a coach for the nearest asylum and rides off, cackling hysterically.
- If you pay careful attention, you can see Ned Flanders twitch an eye during "Hurricane Ned" after the rebuilt house falls down, just before he puts his glasses back on and completely loses his shit.
- An episode of Futurama ends with a shot of Fry doing this after being forced to destroy his robot Lucy-Liu girlfriend, and then watch Bender start making out with the real Ms. Liu. Or at least her head. It's complicated.
- Wile E. Coyote often gets a twitch during his Oh Crap moments.
- Megatron of Transformers Animated no doubt appreciates Lugnut's unswerving loyalty, especially in comparison with Starscream's constant backstabbing, but once in a while gets a twitching optical sensor when Lugnut overdoes the fawning adulation. "Just...go." * twitch twitch*
- Megas XLR has Magnanimous get one after being sucked through a portable black hole. And he lampshades it.
- Guess how Kevin can tell that his friend Ben is lying? It even becomes a minor plot point in one episode.
- Happens often in The Fairly Odd Parents; one example was when Timmy's mom showed him that her old bikini still fit.
- On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Heloise does this after Cerbee and Beezy ruin her private picnic with Jimmy. She then is paralyzed with rage, breathing deeply and heavily in one spot for hours.
- Atomic Betty: Maximus IQ does this after Galactic Guardian HQ is destroyed, because Noah and Minimus accidentally do it before he can.
- The lunch lady in the Fanboy and Chum Chum episode Little Glop of Horrors does this when Fanboy insults her glop.
- Not to mention Lenny, who even has an anti-stress twitch cream.
- Miss Achmetha from Veggie Tales has this as a character trait, and comes up pretty much every time she's used.
- A subtle one in Duke and the Great Pie War done by Duke (played by Larry):
- Shifu of Kung Fu Panda does this when Oogway chooses Po as the Dragon Warrior. This only serves as an early warning signal for the horror that he unleashes on Po.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic:
- In "Swarm of the Century" Twilight Sparkle audibly snaps and develops a twitchy eye when she sees the Parasprites eating Ponyville because of a spell she cast. In "Feeling Pinkie Keen", she develops a Twitchy Eye and evolves into Rapidash when Pinkie tells her that the Hydra wasn't the doozy she predicted.
- "Suited for Success": Rarity earns one of these when she learns the famous fashion designer Hoity Toity is going to be attending her fashion show, and seeing the (tacky and overdone) dresses she made for her friends. She does it again at the end, when Hoity Toity agrees to sell her fashions at his shop, and proceeds to place a big order.
- Twilight briefly does this while worrying about whether Princess Celestia will approve of her friends in "A Bird In The Hoof".
- Spike's eye also twitches in "Owl's Well That Ends Well". Friendship Is Magic gets a lot of this.
- In "Party of One", Pinkie Pie goes crazy when none of the other ponies want to come to her party, and holds a tea party with inanimate objects complete with Creepy Circus Music and eye twitches.
- At the Grand Galloping Gala in "The Best Night Ever", Fluttershy develops a Twitchy Eye, Evil Laughter, and Dramatic Thunder when none of Canterlot's creatures want to be her friends.
- Twilight does this repeatedly after going nuts in "Lesson Zero".
- The Tick has the character of Big Shot, a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of The Punisher. He gets all eye-twitchy whenever he shoots, fights, or even says the word "gun". This is indicative of some pretty deep-seated mental trauma, as he is prone to collapsing into uncontrollable sobbing while screaming "Why didn't you love me, Mommy?!"
- SpongeBob SquarePants does this when Patrick meets him in his house. "I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU PATRICK!"
- "Opsoclonus" is a term that just broadly refers to any kind of uncontrolled eye movement. A lateral twitch is specifically called "Nystagmus" and can be a sign of an underlying neurological problem if it persists.