Feb201404
Tattoo Cliches Through the Ages
10:02 PM
tattoo_milwaukee-sentinel.jpg
Headline above from Milwaukee Sentinel, 1933.

When I first started blogging about tattoos in 2003, I was amazed how so many media outlets around the world were rehashing the same line (often the first line) in their articles on tattoos:

"Tattoos are no longer for sailors, bikers, inmates ..."
When I complained about these constant tattoo cliches, my friend Dr. Matt Lodder, art historian (with a particular specialty in tattoo art), schooled me on how they have been recycled for over a hundred years -- with the first "tattoos...are not confined to seamen only," appearing in the NY Times in 1908.

Matt got to address the media directly about these tired tropes when he spoke to the BBC for their article "People always say the same thing about tattoos," which was published yesterday. As with most articles that feature Matt's tattoo expertise, it is a wonderful read, not just for the history lesson, but also for his discussion on the relationship between tattoo culture and the media. Here's a taste from the article:.

Lodder compares media representations of tattooing with the film Groundhog Day where Bill Murray's weatherman finds himself living the same day over and over again.

"Sure, tattoos are not confined to sailors, bikers or convicts. My point is that they never have been. And strictly speaking, when the media says tattoos were 'once associated with bikers and sailors', that's true - they have been associated, but by the media.

"It is like same old, same old," says Lodder. "It is like, 'Wow tattooing is the new big thing, it used to be like this but now it is like this.'

"But what I can't quite work out is why that is the case, and why these myths persist. My working hypothesis is simply that if people can't empathise with somebody who has a desire to mark their body then it comes as a surprise and they go, 'Wow, that's weird and strange and people are actually doing that.'

In addition to more of Matt's thoughts on the media's tattoo fascination, there are also interesting examples of tattoo news articles over the past century.

Read more here.

1926 article on tattoos.jpg



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