Visual Culture, Identity & Representations in the Media

Media representation of tattooed individual tend to be limited to dangerous machismo and “otherness”, outlaws and outcasts.

Here are some examples:

Vern Schillinger in HBO TV series Oz (1997-2003) – Aryan brotherhood crime syndicate

Screen Shot 2013-04-10 at 12.56.36 AM

That ’70s Show: Season 3, Episode 22: Eric’s Drunken Tattoo (2001)
The bookish character of Eric get’s a tattoo to prove how masculine and dangerous he is

Psychotic criminal Max in Cape Fear (1991) – classic representation of “other”, machismo and danger

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) represents both outlaw and outcast with her behaviour, her style and her tattoos

Reference

Beeler, Karin E. Tattoos, Desire and Violence: Marks of Resistance in Literature, Film and Television. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2006. Print.

Visual Culture, Identity & Expressions of Subculture Association

Tattooing was introduced to Western culture the 18th century through Captain Cook and his tales of polynesia and the tatau.  Tattooing was then transformed into a visual culture practice for sailors that went to exotic places or eccentric arististocrats who could afford to have someone reproduce this quaint cultural practise as part of their fetish obsessions  the ‘other’  and with orientalism.

By the 20th century, the invention of the electric tattoo gun and the production of tattoo art as ‘flash’ made tattooing accessible to the working classes and less unique. Consequently the practice fell out of favour with the elite as it became popular among military servicemen, the lower, working classes and their so-called “low” culture like tattooed circus sideshow ladies.

Tattooing became more “fragmented” in the 1960’s and the practice was appropriated among subcultures such as bikers, prison convicts, punks and the gay/leather subcultures to create marks of identity. Today. although popularity has resurged among the middle class, the act of getting a tattoo is still connected with deviance and resistance to the mainstream, which in itself can mark a body as different “other”  which is part of identity. In addition to this however, there are specific symbols that are chosen to mark one’s identity within a specific group or a desired association with that group.

Here are some examples:

Lebian

West Coast Gang Affiliation

 

Russian Mafia

Neo-paganism

Hardcore Scene

BDSM

Straight edge

My references and excellent reading about tattooing history and representation:

Beeler, Karin E. Tattoos, Desire and Violence: Marks of Resistance in Literature, Film and Television. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2006. Print.

DeMello, Margo. Bodies of Inscription: A Cultural History of the Modern Tattoo Community. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2000. Print.

Hemingson, Vince, and Lars Krutak PhD. “Tattoo History – History of Tattoos and Tattooing Worldwide.” Tattoo History – History of Tattoos and Tattooing Worldwide. Vanishingtattoo.com, 1999-2010. Web.

Hesselt, Van Dinter, Maarten. The World of Tattoo: An Illustrated History. Amsterdam: Kit, 2005. Print

Mifflin, Margot. Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo. New York: Juno, 2001. Print.

Visual Culture, Identity & Expressions of Ancestral Lineage

I have been reading and researching about tattoos as expression of identities and have found  the history and psychology around this fascinating. Here are some interesting examples I found of people wanting to express their identity through their ancestral religions and lineage:

African

adinkra tattoo

Celtic

celtic

Japanese

Haida

Hungarian

Inuit

Maori

DJ

Nordic

Thai

The Masks We Wear

The Masks We Wear

Revolutionary activist Mohammed Magdy and his bride, wear masks against tear gas and jointly hold a used tear gas container, celebrating their wedding in Revolution Square, the center of weeks of anti-government clashes, in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, Egypt, on March 4, 2013. (AP Photo)

In The Atlantic April 3rd, 2013

Social Identity & Whedon Month

The Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff) played by Scarlett Johansson in the Joss Whedon film: the Avengers (2012)

Interesting expression of fan culture: Joss Whedon Month on Facebook where for the month of April all his fans change their profile pic to one of his characters from his works:

Television

Comics

Film

He also has a free webcomic, titled Sugarshock!, a blog and other collaborates in online media.

As a screenwriter, film/television producer, director, comic book author, composer, and actor, influenced by Jean-Paul Sartre and other writers such as Ray Bradbury and Tim Burton his works is pretty extensive and many of his work have attained cult status. He is also the founder of Mutant Enemy Productions and co-founder of Bellwether Pictures.

What I find particularly interesting is the frenzy and loyalty of fans who identify with his characters especially at the multi-genre comic con conventions to the point of living their lives (often in meticulous detail) for a short or long period as their interpretation of one of these characters. Having the icon of your Facebook page is not as involved as “identify performance” – but it could still be seen as a way of extending one’s identity through fan culture.

There are also similar events such as Renaissance festivals and Cosplay conventions where adults dress in fantasy costumes in a way that would be expected of an adolescent  exploring the “possible extensions of self” (Elliot 1986, quoted in Kaiser 1996:162). So what is so intriguing about this type of performative identity for adults? Is this is a way to avoid a horrible reality of a suffering psyche in a way that is less self-harming that crack?, a fetish thing? or just a way to alleviate a dull 9-5 life? or?

Susan B. Kaiser asked the question of whether role-play dress is important “in terms of providing some means for ‘escaping’ from mundane daily routines,that could also be an expression of creativity,” but discovers that there is very little academic literature about this and that too “little is known about fantasy dressing; this is an area with a great deal of potential for contributing to an understanding of creativity and self-expression” (1996:163).

Jen Gunnels has also explored this area and found that the “behavior isn’t necessarily mere escapism”. She argues that “adults engage in costumed role-play to explore an identity that may not be practicable in everyday life”. She also notes the social, and communal nature of such events. For example, she observed members of Generation X  revelling in and comforted by the popculture of their childhood at a Star Wars convention she attended in NYC . Gunnels reasons that “Star Wars helped socialize this generation and may be providing a template for their own parenting, especially because current socioeconomic issues are not dissimilar to those of 1977. In this way, cosplay, as a performed identity, can provide a means of permitting individual agency and social commentary on current and past social stresses.” (2009).

Scholars, such as Joseph Campbell (1968) and Bruno Bettelheim (1991), claim that fairy tales and myth are vehicles for the interpolation of social norms for a society. In our post-modern world, these fairy tales and myths are expressions of popular culture such as films, television programmes and video games. Since these events are particular to industrialized  nations, perhaps this is our contemporary way of re-connecting to old world socialization and interpolation through performance art in the way of Shakespearean theatre or masks and dance used to?

So my questions remain but now I have new ones: Is dressing up as Buffy or Black Widow  perhaps just one of our tribal masks that help us illustrate our society’s meta-narrative?, or could it be a way to resist those narratives and find empowerment in an over-mediated society?…or perhaps it is just about escapism, alleviating boredom and sex?

References

Bettlelheim, Bruno. (1991). The uses of enchantment: the meaning and importance of fairy tales. New York: Penguin.

Campbell, J. (1968). The masks of God: creative mythology. New York: Viking Press

Gunnels, Jen. (2009). “A Jedi like my father before me”: social identity and the New York Comic Con.Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 3

Kaiser, Susan B. (1996). The social psychology of clothing: Symbolic appearances in context. 2nd ed. New York: Fairchild Books and Visuals.

‘Race Shifter’ In A Post Racial World?

'Race Shifter' In A Post Racial World?

“…is this racial shifting a good thing? Is it a genuine sign of progress, or is it just an easy way to avoid dealing with the serious issues of racism and intolerance that still linger?”

“It could be easy for people too easy: “Look at Dwayne Johnson. He doesn’t make race an issue, so why do you people still have to?””

excellent questions – what do you think? Click on the photo to read the whole article from *Shadow and Act* – cinema of the African Diaspora

Oldest Cover Girl Ever and Still Hot

tt vogue

At 74 Tina Turner (aka Anna Mae Bullock) on the cover of Germany’s Vogue magazine has reset some expectations – or has it?

She looks impossibly young for 74, as if gravity or elastogen deterioration were some urban myth – and light, free flowing, straight tresses and a very overall pale golden colour, she looks very different from her photos of the 60s and 70s

Is this cover breaking barriers? Or maintaining the status quo? What is the message to young women? older women? and men? What are the effects on identity?

tt 1975-2010 tina-tur-10tt 1962