Friday, September 07, 2007

Tat Consumption...yum yum!

So after fiddling with my class schedule for an irritating two days, I'm finally enrolled in the courses I intend to keep this semester. School has been, well, school...all the usual chilling, working, homeworking, erranding, and all that shit that starts out as fun but becomes a boring routine sooner than you'd hope. Fortunately I'm still in the semi-fun phase right now, which I'm taking full advantage of while it lasts.
Despite my hatred for any kind of classic literature...okay I don't hate it, I'd just rather be writing or reading some psychology...I'm forced to take a Shakespeare class this semester. As it turns out the professor is pretty cool (and pretty hot...she's a 20 something redhead with milky skin and cherry red lips), so I'm not too upset about it - I mean this is the only class that stands between me and my English major so what the hell.
Anyway, the play we're starting out with is Titus Andronicus, which, once I got reacquainted with Billy boy's topsy turvy use of language, is pretty damn interesting. It's a revenge tragedy, which means swords, infidelity, and lots and lots of death. Sweet. To top it off, the professor decided we would benefit from seeing the modern movie version of the play, which was just as gory and dark but, ya know, you can SEE it. Sweeter.
So in the play, the Romans have just defeated the Goths and captured their Queen and her sons. One of the sons is killed immediately when they get to Rome as a sacrifice, and the other two and the Queen are allowed to live as slaves. The Roman emperor, this guy Saturninus, decides he has the hots for the Gothic Queen, Tamora, and basically forces her to marry him. Lalala, all kinds of stuff happens, murder, betrayal, revenge...then comes the rape scene. Tamora's two still-living sons decide they want to have their way with Titus Andronicus' (the warrior who led Rome to victory against the Goths) only daughter, Levinia. So this is where it gets interesting...I swear I'm going somewhere with this...
Goths are supposed to be barbarians. They live in little makeshift tent villages, and the general consensus is that they're crazy and animalistic etc.etc....So no surprise that come time for the rape, we see Tamora's sons disrobe to reveal elaborate blackwork tattoos. Then a few scenes later we see Tamora's naked body, also bedecked with inked designs. Everyone else in the movie is totally pristine, flawless white skin...oh yea except for the Moor, aka the black dude. His face and body are covered with scarification patterns. And he's like the devil in this play - he basically sets up people to betray eachother or even to be killed by one another, then he laughs about it - he's a pretty sinister dude.
Now, I'm not gonna go crying to mommy about this one...I mean, what's the point? Despite the fact that negative stereotypes about tattooed people are known to be outdated, negative portrayals of them in the media apparently die hard. Look at movies - bad guys are the ones with the tattoos, not the hero or the hot chick. Oddly enough, even a character as corrupt and shady as Mama Morton, the prison matron in the musical Chicago, is too righteous to don tattoos.
Now look at advertisements. We all know that 'sex sells,' and these days the sexiest ad bodies are flawless - apart from the ink (real or digital) that sometimes graces their taut, glistening flesh. I can't ever recall having seen a flabby body inscribed with a tat in an advertisement*, so the message is clear - hot bodies are made hotter (or at least more marketable) by tattoos.

Oh, by the way, did you know that each of us sees about 3,000 ads every single day?

So what can we deduce about our culture's attitude toward tattoos from movies and advertisements that feature them? They're obviously the mark of someone deviant, rebellious - basically a badass. But on the other hand, they're a sexy accessory worn by only the hottest of the hot to sell anything from pricey purses to the most covet-worthy jeans. The result? Impressionable teens who are being subconsciously trained to desire body art because it's portrayed as something that's darkly sexy. Eh, not so bad an image compared to the traditional Western conception of tattoos. I guess consumer culture got a little hungry and finally decided to eat up that box of Tat-Os that's been sitting in the cupboard for, oh, only a couple hundred years.
With this recent popularity of mods in the media, it's quite the wonder that body modification is still being banned in some circles. I guess old folks have always been kinda pop-shy. Anything hip and new is worthy of their suspicion, especially if they have the power to try and stop the fad from catching on. 'Cause that might be dangerous...somehow....
Okay kiddies, thanks for reading. Check back soon for a post on gang tattoo removal programs and perhaps some other pertinent schtuff. Gobble up 'dem Tat-Os now, but just be sure you'll wanna be eating them for the rest of your life, even if they're past the cultural expiration date.

*a particularly good article by a witty modified lawyer who also runs the Needled blog, one of a few that inspired me to start my own.

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