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Face tattoos will become normal.

by Buck Hardcastle 17 days ago in Pop Culture

Having any tattoos was once taboo, now it’s normal. Face tattoos will follow suit.

Rick "Zombie Boy" Genest

Generation Z is unlikely to have any idea how uncommon tattoos once were. As a case study let's look at the Space Jam movies. The recent Space Jam 2 sparked multiple controversies, but the fact that star LeBron James is covered in tattoos was not one of them. Nobody cared about that.

James' portrait of a dedicated family man and savvy businessman would have been derailed by the presence of so many tattoos in the past. 2021 they didn’t even warrant mentioning.

Contrast that to the original Space Jam that came out in 1996. Only the clean cut Michael Jordan could take on that role. In contrast Jordan’s heavily tattooed team mate, Dennis Rodman, would be cast in the 1997 Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle Double Team. That R-rated movie was so un-family friendly that they blew up a tiger with a landmine. Many of the so-called jokes in the movie are just pointing out Rodman’s odd appearance.

Rodman was possibly the greatest rebounder in NBA history, yet he was better known for being weird, and a big part of that was the fact that he had a bunch of tattoos.

I mean, the tattoos weren't the only reason

Rodman’s tattoos were so infamous that t-shirts were sold that had all of his tattoos on them. Looking back at the shirt from 2021, it’s kind of underwhelming. I would have thought his arms would have been “sleeved” (100% covered in ink) but they’re not. His tattoos look small. LeBron’s ink is more impressive. Though Rodman has gotten more tattoos since those shirts were made.

Tattoos used to be something where a solider might have one indicating their branch or unit, but beyond that they were something that criminals had. For decades tattoos were a hint that you were an ex-con or a member of a biker gang. Nor was this a strictly American viewpoint: tattoos in Japan used to be synonymous with the yakuza (mafia). Celebrities like Rodman helped bring tattoos into the mainstream.

Your author got a small ankle tattoo in 2001. At the time none of my friends or family members had tattoos. It was kind of a shocking thing to do. Nowadays I barely even count as someone who is tattooed. Though 20 years on I do still have relatives who ask me what my tattoo means at family gatherings.

I wouldn’t have guessed tattoos would become so popular because for one thing getting them is physically painful. That was originally part of the appeal to criminals: they proved that you were tough. I mean, you bleed as part of the process.

Yet body ink has gone mainstream. You see tattoos openly displayed on respectable professionals such as teachers and doctors. That would have been unthinkable in the 1990’s. Hell, moms in Disney cartoons now have tattoos.

Most Disney moms could actually have tattoos, it's hard to know since they all tend to be dead.

Body ink is mainstream. Face tattoos are still seen as extreme though. It probably hasn’t helped that the most famous example of a face tattoo was seen as not just weird but a really bad idea.

Mike Tyson was one of the greatest boxers of all time. For years the biggest criticism of him was that fans didn’t get much of a show because he knocked his opponents out so quickly. However, by 2003 he was in decline. He had been prison for three years on a rape charge and when he came out he started losing. When he showed up with a new face tattoo days before his next fight, it was widely speculated that his opponent should aim for the tattoo as it might be an opportunity to draw blood. However his opponent, Clifford Etienne, was a tin can given to Tyson as an opportunity for a much needed win--Tyson knocked him out in 49 seconds.

It didn’t matter though, the tattoo was still seen as a mistake. In fact the tattoo was still a punchline in 2011 when a character got a copy of it as an example of peak regrettable drunk behavior in The Hangover 2.

Of course watching The Hangover 2 is in itself pretty regrettable behavior.

It’s likely only a matter of time before face tattoos become more common, they just need better ambassadors. There are celebrities like Kat Von D that have face tattoos, but she rose to fame as a tattoo artist. Face ink will probably never reach the same level of acceptance as body ink. They’re too distracting from the information we get from facial expressions. Though neck tattoos have already become more common.

Pop Culture

Buck Hardcastle

Viscount of Hyrkania and private cartographer to the house of Beifong.

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