"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.
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.