Sunday, July 3, 2011

Do Tattoos Show Individuality or One-Dimensionalism?

I'm still in Hawaii and I notice that almost all of the people under 35 have tattoos here... Well, I mean, the young ones who don't have what I would classify as a "good job" or the ones I see hanging around the streets doing basically nothing.

Why do so many young people nowadays have tattoos? It's a question that I've often asked young people. When I hosted a very popular morning music radio show, we often had parties for our fans so I got to meet a wide variety of young people from a wide segment of society.

Many of them had tattoos. Well, in fact, it seemed that most of them did. Often times, in a certain clique all of them did.

The Smithsonian has an interesting article on tattoos here.

Humans have marked their bodies with tattoos for thousands of years. These permanent designs—sometimes plain, sometimes elaborate, always personal—have served as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and even forms of punishment. Joann Fletcher, research fellow in the department of archaeology at the University of York in Britain, describes the history of tattoos and their cultural significance to people around the world, from the famous " Iceman," a 5,200-year-old frozen mummy, to today’s Maori.

The article would have been better if Joann had touched upon today's youth and tattoos. I'd guess that, in Hawaii, about 80% of the young people have tattoos. Of that 80%, I'd say 1/2 have Chinese Kanji that has no meaning or is written incorrectly. Or, if it is written correctly, it is, well, stupid.

If you sell lots of records like this guy (Tim from
Rancid) then you can do as you wish.

Yesterday, I saw a guy who looked to be about 35-years-old who worked as a car parking valet that had a mis-written Kanji on his leg. Both my Japanese wife and I looked at it and guessed said, "Doryoku" 努力. It was spelled slightly wrong. (Doryoku, in English, means effort)... 

I guess he doesn't really have that much "doryoku" as, if he did, he certainly would have a better job than parking cars at minimum wage... Having a backbone beats having a jawbone any day. There is a big difference between doing and saying.

As a funny aside, "Doryoku" is a really dumb thing to write on yourself. It makes little, if any, sense. Perhaps he would have been better served with, instead of "Doryoku" it should have said, ”常識無い” "Jyoushiki nai" (Which, in English, means lack of "common sense".... I mean, neither he - nor his tattooist - certainly have any fashion sense, that's for sure.)

One other REALLY stupid guy had "大麻" written on his forearm. This is in Hawaii no less! Hawaii is full of Japanese run companies. "大大麻" means, in English, "Marijuana." Smart move, Einstein. Think he'll ever get a job better than parking cars with marijuana written on his arm? 

What did Dean Wormer say in the movie Animal House? 
"Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son."

In Japan, I'd guess that under 10% of the youth do have tattoos. But you can bet that 95% of the fans of Punk Rock, Hip Hop or skateboarding have tattoos in Japan.

The reason that tattoos are not so prevalent in Japan's youth, excepting a niche, is because tattoos have a historical meaning that relates to crime and criminals. Even to this day if you have a tattoo most sports clubs will not allow you into swimming pools as tattoos are a sign of the Yakuza.

Amy Winehouse has tons of tattoos. Good that
she sold tons of records too!

I've asked many people why they have tattoos and, invariably, they will all say the same thing; "To show my individuality."

I have no tattoo. Though I have thought of getting one before. I like tattoos though I am too much of a wimp for pain. So there you go: Tattooing is a painful process so I don't have one.

I have a curious thought though; Since so many young people today have tattoos, then does that show individuality or does it show conformity? 

Just a question.

How did it become this way when so many of today's youth, in certain segments of society have tattoos? Are they conformist or individualists?

I am beginning to think that they are conformist. Here's why.

Who are the role models for these youth with these tattoos? Am I confused when I think the role models are musicians? I can't think of any other group of people can get away with having tattoos like musicians do. It seems to me, in the music business, having a tattoo has become a sign that means, "I am a professional musician and I support my lifestyle with my music." 

It's cool that these musicians can do as they please and still eat. Of course most people can't do that. I think a huge percentage of young people who get tattoos come to regret it later in life when it becomes a detriment to a better paying job or career.

Musicians have no responsibility to society. Only to themselves so you won't hear me making any claims that they shouldn't have tattoos. They can do as the please. It's the youth who emulate these people who should think long and hard about what they are doing before they get a tattoo that might harm their future employment chances.

Fact of the matter is that musicians are one dimensional people. I don't mean that as a criticism, just as an observation. Think about it. What does the typical musician do? They make music. That's it. Do you see these widely tattooed musicians starring in TV dramas or big Hollywood movies? No you don't. That's because they have been pigeon-holed. They are one dimensional. They do one thing.

There's nothing wrong with doing one thing as long as you are world class at it like a professional singer or baseball relief pitcher who can strike out three guys in a row. If you can do your one thing, and be the best in the world at it, you can have a job. Unfortunately, most people can't be the best in the world at one thing. Most businesses require multi-skills and multi-tasking... Most business require flexibility and multi-dimensional skills.

I'm beginning to think that tattoos are a sign of a cliquish mentality, one dimensionality and a definite lack of individuality.

Hollywood stars need to be multi-dimensional.
Quick name a Hollywood star with tattoos! (Answer below)

Think about this: Compare, say, a rock musician to a famous Hollywood actor or actress. The Hollywood actor or actress, in order to survive and be a success, must be able to be flexible and to play a variety of parts. The musician only needs to play his music. 

The Hollywood star must be able to play a wide array of characters and to play them convincingly. The musician needs only to do one thing.

Can you think of one famous and successful Hollywood star who has many tattoos and can only play one role? I can't.

Maybe this is why Hollywood stars don't have tattoos that are widely visible on their arms, legs and neck?

In this day and age of a tough economic environment, perhaps thinking about future employment should be a more important factor in deciding if a tattoo should be had? 

Perhaps in this day and age, the multi-dimensional Hollywood star is a better role model than the one-dimensional rock star?

-------Quiz: Quick name a Hollywood star with tattoos! (Hell, I can't think of one either)


Anonymous said...

Sean Connery has a tattoo. I think only one movie showed it. Then again, he has been bald for a long time. He always wore a toupee.

I am not and advocate of having a tattoo. 1. It is against my religious beliefs. I am an artist. Why should I have someone else's artwork permanently on my person? 2. Tattoos styles change over time and they "age" as you get older.

I feel sorry for these people. They want to stand out and be stared at not for their own accomplishment(s), but for someone else's accomplishment...someone else's artwork!


Anonymous said...

Getting further over the proverbial hill on an almost daily basis, I've recently thought about having "do not revive or resuscitate" tatooed on my chest in as many languages as possible.


Andrew Joseph said...

Mike... it's because everybody is an individual... but me, all by my lonesome am not. It's a wonderful paraphrasing of a joke from Monty Python's Life Of Brian.

It's like, if you didn't have Air Jordan's, years ago, you weren't cool. Or if you didn't wear over-sized jeans without a belt that showed off your underwear, you weren't cool. It's all pretty funny to me. People desperate to be part of some cool IN crowd.

Just imagine what the retirement home is going to look like in 30 years: old broads with fake tits, guys and gals with tats that are wrinkled or saggy. Hah! Tit for tat! Imagine women with tats on their tits when they are 60? Ugh!

I don't have a tat... but I do like tits. Like yourself, I thought about getting one but don;t want the pain - as well as the fact that I could think of nothing I would think was cool and individualistic that might still be the case five years later (not top mention 20 or 30 years later!)

Tats, scarring, piercings... if that's your thing, good for you. It's not mine. I'm not cool, though, but personally I never gave a crap what others thought about me. I just knew I liked myself in the present time.

I, too have seen maybe 50 people with erroneous kanji... people who have never been to Japan or China... like, what is wrong with you? At least I've been there and respect the culture enough so that if I did want some art, I could simply buy it and look at it myself rather than force others to look at it via a tat. Or, you could be like so many people I see and just cover it up.

When I was a kid, the only people who had tats were Holocaust survivors, sailors, bikers and the Maori. Now, it's nerdy kids and adults hoping they will look cool. Gan batte kudasai!

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Thanks Andrew and Anonymous... I really do appreciate it. I thought I'd get lots of "Grumpy old fart" comments for this one.

Anonymous said...

Mike, you're wrong. Lots of Hollywood stars have tattoos. They just cover them with makeup when the role calls for it. Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp are just two. There are plenty more.

Murasaki Shikibu said...

The Beckhams have tattoos with Hindi that is not entirely correct. If you're gonna get a tattoo, make sure you get it right. Misspelled words on your skin forever is kind of sad.
@Andrew Joseph: Cosmetic surgery is a given these days in certain circles. It's mostly catering to the way women are appraised, i.e. their looks. I won't pass judgement on these women. Compare me with no cosmetic surgery and the woman who had breast implants or other surgery and married a wealthy guy. When I am worrying about paying the bills or my pensions or working my sorry derriere off, she's getting her nails done. Now who's the idiot? ;)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous is correct about one thing. Way wrong about another. Hollywood stars do have tattoos (not nearly at the rate that musicians do - for the reasons you stated) and Hollywood stars are some of the few people who can afford to have them removed which is a way expensive process and QUITE popular recently.
- Trent

Steve 'Poots' Candidus said...

Personally I am not a fan of tattoos, body piercing or even jewelry for that matter, but I think that everybody should be able to do as they please so long as they don’t force anyone else to do the same.

I am a good salesman though and I have a sales and marketing suggestion (didn’t this blog start out as that?) for tattoo parlors. They should hang out a sigh that reads:




Anonymous said...

In some instances tattoos can serve as a illustrated expression for some. Especially if its something they designed. People have their reasons for doing whatever it is they do. Many may share a common reason, as is probably the case with getting a tatto. Balking at trends is somewhat of a trend itself. I knew people who abstained from doing things simply because they thought it was too trendy, too "mainstream". Do what makes you happy and be prepared to live the consequences of the choices you make (especially those hard-to-remove, misspelled tattoos).



Top 3 New Video Countdown for May 6, 2023! Floppy Pinkies, Jett Sett, Tetsuko!

   Top 3 New Video Countdown for May 6, 2023!!  Please Follow me at: Check out my Youtube Channel: ...