One could say there’s a terrible tattoo epidemic sweeping the country. I’ll be the one. I’ll say it. People are getting some really dumb tattoos these days. I’m not talking about poorly executed ink, I’m talking about the tattoo is stupid as shit from the jump.
So why are people getting awful ink? According to a psychologist, it’s to fit in and because we’re all afraid to die.
“I’m interested mostly in what you’d call ‘the anthropology of self-esteem and identity,'” Dr. Kirby Farrell, a University of Massachusetts professor specializing in anthropology, psychology, and history told Vice. “So I’m thinking of tattoos as a method people use to try to feel significant in the world.
Here are a few more interesting observations from Farrell’s interview.
So how does that translate in to an epidemic of bad tattoos?
I guess a lot of people would say they’d get a tattoo as a memorial to remember somebody or some event. For example, getting song lyrics as a tattoo. The phrases, of course, turn out to be unbelievably suffocating clichés. So they’re urging you to be a strong individual by imitating all the other animals who are out there putting clichés on their skin.
So where do those two paths cross where, on one hand, people want to do something that brings out their sense of significance and self expression but end up doing the exact opposite by getting what we’d consider a “bad tattoo,” or a “clichéd tattoo”?
I think the fantasy of being special and unique and important and heroic, which we’ve been talking about, is complicated by living in a culture that celebrates those values. We’re constantly bombing other countries in order to preserve our “freedom,” which presumably means individuality. But at the same time, our culture is intensely conformist. You have businesses constantly trying to imprint a brand on the public awareness. So, for example, if you’re tattooing some nitwit cliché from a pop tune, like “I’ll love you forever,” or “Don’t be an imitator” or something, in effect you’re branding yourself with industrial entertainment, because rock groups, as we know, are basically money-making machines, fronted by models, funded by the entertainment industry.
That last line though…BOOM! Nailed those asshole rock stars. Those same asshole rock stars with bad tattoos of some other band’s lyrics tattooed on their torso.
As with anything else in society, the cycle continues. The bad tattoo cycle continues to turn because every human, at some point, is young and dumb.
A lot of tattoos seem shortsighted. How do people rationalize the permanence of a tattoo in relation to their own mortality?
A lot of people, especially when they’re young, imagine that they’re going to be young forever. After all, if the magic that we’re talking about in culture really works, then you can feel invincible and immortal, so to speak. And its kind of cliché that teenagers imagine that they’re going to live forever; that’s why they take crazy risks and do drugs and so on. They can’t imagine that they’re gonna grow up and look differently than the cultural ideal. You never have to worry about being sick or infirm or in trouble. You never have to worry about being older and having to come to terms with diminishing prospect, diminishing powers, diminishing fantasies.
Young, dumb and full of…ink.