Televising the Tattoo
Kat Von D portrait tattoo by Erin Chance
With filming beginning for yet another tattoo TV show, NY Ink, it seems the timing is right for Dr. Matt Lodder's look at the formulas behind "reality TV" (and their relation to the true reality of tattooing) in his article entitled, "Televising the Tattoo" for Paperweight: A Newspaper of Visual & Material Culture.
The article articulates the hot button issue surrounding these shows: not every tattoo needs to have a story but a television show does. Here's just a bit of what Matt says:
It is true that subsections of the tattooed population--gangs, sailors, prisoners--have certainly long made use of tattoos to express specific concepts or to signify group membership, but this has never been true of tattoos in general. Tattooing has forever been decorative as much as it has been simply narrative, with many tattoos lacking a specifically expressive story-telling component to the design. Nevertheless, tattoo TV both depends on and reinforces the preconception that the skin is a screen for its generic formula. For so ingrained is the connection between tattoos and stories that without the traumatic sob-stories of death and loss attached to almost every tattoo, the shows would feature little more than shots of the tattooers high-fiving one another.
For more of this excellent read, you can order Paperweight, print & digital, here.
[For more on NY Ink, see the blogs of Ami James and Tim Hendricks.]