Sunday, April 26, 2015

Body Art in the Media

Portrayal of body modifications seems to vary from one medium to another.  Some media seems to be more receptive to ideas, while other media takes a more varied approach.  For instance, the internet largely celebrates the idea of body modifications, while television and film seem to present them differently based on the program.
In terms of the internet, there seems to be limited discourse about body modification in and of itself.  While there are absolutely message boards and articles that host heated debates about the topics, that does not seem to be the primary focus on the internet.  More so, the internet is used as a means of exploration, ideas, and support.
There are a number of websites, particularly for tattoos, that act as photographic blogs.  In this medium, artists have the opportunity to share their portfolio and establish a presence within the industry.  Other internet users look at the photo blogs for inspiration for their next piece.  Other websites seem to foster a body art and modification community.  When website deems itself the church of body art and modification.  It goes into the history of different body modifications, has forum communities where people can discuss and collaborate on modifications, and acts as a hub for information pertaining to where the industry is going.
Film and television seem to take a slightly different approach.  While there are documentaries on body art and modifications, these are definitely not mainstream films.  Instead, the majority of what is consumed is made by major movie studios.  There are very few films in existence that focus primarily on body art or modifications.  Actors and actresses who have tattoos often have them covered throughout the film.  When they are featured primarily, it is usually shown as a sign of being an outcast or a rebel, giving them a negative connotation.  However, when it is a primary character, tattoos seem to often have a pivotal purpose or representation for the character.  The tattoo or modification will react in certain scenes, as a sign of power or revelation.  They can also be used as a tool to show that the character has gone through a lot of tough times in their lives.  These devices seem to play into the classic stereotypes of tattoos and other modifications; that tattoos always have to be a symbol of importance to the person, or they represent a rough and tumble life.
Television is deep in a reality and docu-series phase.  There are a barrage of shows documenting body art and modification.  LA Ink and Miami Ink show the inner-workings of different tattoo shops throughout the country, playing on the art and the dynamic of the work-place.  Just as with any reality show, the drama is hyped up, which ends up giving negative perceptions of tattoo artists.  There are also a number of plastic surgery programs, most recently “Botched.”  This show chronicles two Beverly Hills doctors performing surgeries for both mild cases and big plastic surgery characters.  For the more mild cases, viewers are supposed to empathize, while the show is set up for gawking at the more eccentric procedures.

Overall, there is no general pattern for representation of body art and modifications in the media.  The online world acts more as a place for community building and ideas.  Movies largely ignore body art, or use it for some form of symbolism or storytelling.  Television, on the other hand, documents body art, and is carefully produced and edited for the viewer to leave with a certain perception.

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