Tattoos: Art or Taboo? by Kristen

An aspect of today’s pop culture that really intrigues me is the emergence of tattoos.  Not to say that tattoos are a new by any means, they are in fact ancient forms of art, but the wide spread popularity among the western world is nothing short of a phenomenon to me. Everywhere you turn you seem to see peoples entire bodies covered with colorful forms of line work and detail. It is just not like it was in the olden days when the only people that had tattoos were military men and gang bangers.

Where I would like to start with this topic would be to trace back the roots of tattoos.  I have not yet done too much research, but I do know that tattoos have been around in some cultures since the Neolithic time where they were believed to have originally been used for some sort of identification method.  I have found it interesting when reading a brief history of tattoos that it is not just your stuffy old mom that is disapproving about your newest ink, but historical greats such as Julius Caesar have also weighed in on the controversial subject of tattooing! In Japan tattoos go back even 10,000 years with many different methods being used that ranged from putting ink in the skin with a needle, such as we would traditionally do, to cutting the skin and rubbing it with ashes. Also in ancient Japan, facial tattoos were the most prevalent. While there are always exceptions, here in America facial tattoos often denote gang activity and are certainly not what I am talking about when I say that tattoos are really very much part of our popular culture today.

But in today’s popular culture we are not using tattoos as a way to identify ourselves, are we? Well as I ask that I think that perhaps we, just like our ancestors in ancient times before us are indeed doing just that. But I also believe tattooing to be a really amazing art form.  People are using their bodies as a canvas and there is no limit to what people will put on there! Tattoos have grown to be so casual and no longer carry the shock value that they once did. The cashier at the grocery store has a cheeseburger smoking a cigar on her arm? Yeah, whatever, it doesn’t even faze us because it has become the norm.  It is no longer the rebels smoking the Marlboro Reds with slicked back hair that your parents always warned you about getting them either. It is now like a right of passage for every 18-year-old girl to get a star on her hip or a butterfly on her lower back.

What I would like our class to delve into a little deeper is the how, when, where, who of the whole matter. When did tattoos in America transition from taboo, to the norm? Was there a particular trendsetter or a conglomerate of artist that just ran out of canvas and thought, “well, I’ve always got my back.”?


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I like to run.
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