Category: Visual Communications

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

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

Video Games and the Construction of Violent Masculinity

Much of the research I have read on this topic (and I have exhausted myself doing so as I have two children who play video games and one of them is male) suggests no “direct” cause only correlations – in other words it is complicated, and the propensity for violence cannot be blamed on any one factor just like listening to heavy metal music, or reading comic books does not “make” you a sadist however if you already are, you are likely to enjoy the masculine and violent themes of much of that media and the same goes for games like Grand Theft Auto or Doom.

So producers wash their hands of the issue saying they are just catering to the consumers. The problem is that culture and media are so imbricated that there is no pinpointing of ONE source of messaging – it all works together to send hegemonic messaging to citizens that women want manly men, and you are supposed to want a woman, therefore you must be a manly man, and to do that you must be tough, and then there are various interpretations of what that means.

Social and evolutionary psychology studies suggest that the drive to procreate, and to survive underlies all this, then of course there are the factors that affect your psyche before you are seven. By then the messaging from your family, your community, your society and your culture are well embedded in your brain, before you have the capacity to think critically about it. As youth or adults we can laugh at some of these themes and assess them for the ridiculous fantasies that they are, but as children we cannot and if this is the main messaging that we are sending to our children, then we cannot be surprised that these concepts are so deeply engrained in our culture.

Anthropologists and psychologists will also argue that what was appropriate for the survival of aggressive nomadic sheep herder tribes (like the Britons and Celts – who many White Canadians are descended from as opposed to more peacefully-oriented agricultural societies) are not always the same skills we need to navigate contemporary society…so there is our ancient, inherited knowledge and belief systems, along with our individual drives, our cultural values, media messaging, family, community and school dysfunctions (that likely have included violence on some level), mentors or role models, hormone levels of testosterone and personal goals, abilities and resources that all factor into whether or not a man, or a woman for that matter, is likely to be more or less violent and aggressive.

My point is – that humans have the unique capacity to over-ride their lizard brain urges with frontal-lobe critical thinking, which is what makes more so-called civilized, chivalry and gentlemanly conduct possible, but it is slower and takes more effort, and is sometimes impeded by chemicals (drugs, alcohol, etc) or different physiological/psychological abilities. So there is no one answer to this issue.

Personally, I limited outside messaging (TV, Internet, Magazines and newspapers) with the youngest members in our household and when it was allowed, it was never restricted, but always mediated and deconstructed by older family members that usually resulted in interesting discussions. I think this is the key because I don’t believe in censorship or “molly-coddling” children – they need to learn about the world and know the ugly and the beautiful parts of it, so they can deal with it. Therefore, I think that training children to think critically is more important for personal empowerment and the future of humankind than blaming media.

nb: My son and daughter are now in university, seemingly well-adjusted and generally doing well in life. Although they spent a few early years annoyed with me for the differences in our household when compared to that of their friends – by middle school they were more appreciative and could quickly recognise biast messaging. 

Custer’s Revenge – Atari 2600 Game (1982)

Custer's Revenge - Atari 2600 Game (1982)

These are the kind of games that today’s game makers grew up with… sold in a leather case with a lock on it (someone should have thrown away the key). In the game the player must guide General Custer across a mesa littered with falling arrows and prickly cactus to enjoy raping a bound and submissive native woman named Revenge – reinforces “noble savage” stereotypes as a path to sexual ecstasy, romanticizes violence and trivializes rape. Luckily this game maker went out of business.

Online education potentional

civilization 3 - screenshot

  Kevin Schut suggests that games like Civilization might be useful in teaching history with the understanding of its hegemonic framing that involves misogynistic, chivalrous and violent masculinity, solipsism with capitalistic solipsism and technocratic tendencies – but I would argue that Civilization is far too ethnocentric and essentialist to be useful as an educational aid. I would also argue that it is difficult to avoid the hegemonic framing – as seen in World of Warcraft (WoW) and Second Life (SL) where it has been seen that users have more agency, but end up reinforcing and even contributing to their own marginalization.

Experts in virtual spaces such as Sherry Turkle believe that the role/s that identity play/s in worlds like multi-user dimensions or domains  (MUDs), MUD object oriented (MOOs), and other virtual spaces such as Second Life (SL) are complicated. Turkle asserts that the “anonymity of MUDs . . . provides ample room for individuals to express unexplored parts of themselves” (xii). These spaces have great potential for dynamic identity exploration, and self-expression without the risks of condemnation, rejection or isolation that could result in real life.

Michael Rymaszewski et al. plainly state that SL is a place for living out fantasies, to be someone else or to work out who you are (301).

In this way many people can play the game with an avatar of a different skin colour, or represent a different gender or class to experiment in a virtual life in a way that is not possible in reality. I think putting these three key ideas together – software could be developed that has the freedom of Second Life with an open-source history-content focus, like Civilization but with input from different regions of the world, from different genders, classes and races. Within this framework students could create time traveller avatars to visit different time periods, learn about the history of different regions. There could be a contemporary period included where student could ‘virtual travel’ to different parts the world and have their text automatically translated to have a peek into a day in the life of someone of a different race, class or gender in a different geographical location.     Continue reading