There’s no doubting that tattoos have become more mainstream in the past decade than they’ve ever been before – most people could point to a friend, family member or even a parent who now has ink somewhere on their body. A new three-part series from the BBC estimates there are now as many as 20 million tattoos in Britain alone, but the reasons for getting them seem to be much more international in nature.
My Tattoo Addiction’s title is a little misleading. It’s not just a series about people with piercing fetishes or unconventional lifestyles, but an exploration of the real personal needs tattoos fulfil. Though motivations come in all shapes and sizes, the narrator draws our attention to the idea of identity very early on:
“Whether it’s an impulse or an obsession, a tattoo is a statement of intent, an extension of our personality … the chance to feel part of an exclusive club [or] a way to feel normal.”
If you already feel that tattoos range from mistake to misuse of a healthy body, you’ll find plenty in the opening episode to confirm your opinion. Among others is middle-aged father Paul who has decided to have his entire face covered with tattoos. Most of the participants in the program maintain that the body art they have is for themselves and they’re unworried about other people’s reactions. But it seems fairly clear that Paul at least is hiding behind his designs. “I got picked on as a kid, so I suppose it was trying to make me different,” Paul tells the camera.
You can find the same identity theme influencing even the most ludicrous tattoo ideas: the holiday and relationship decorations. In the party city of Magaluf twenty-somethings are getting drunk and getting inked with gay abandon. Here tattoos act as an attempt to weld the good times, the good friends to their idea of themselves. The same could be said for people who use tattoos to declare their love. But as Lee the tattooist notes, the designs often outlast the relationships:
“A good 60% of customers get a name on them. They always think, ‘We’ve been together for less than 24 hours now and we love each other, so let’s have a crack at getting them.’ It never lasts.”
Personally I’m not opposed to tattoos, even the use of them to help define ourselves. People have been doing the same with hairstyles and cars for just as long. What sets them apart, though, is their permanence. If you want to use them to support your idea of yourself, then you’d better to be very sure about what that identity is based on. The saddest examples My Tattoo Addiction has to offer are people who have made the body art itself the foundation of their identity. They’ve settled for something that is little more than a portable idol, and ultimately just as unsatisfying. I think you can tell a person who has no real certainty about who they are because they’re always talking about their next tattoo. It’s no surprise then that when the Bible encourages us to forge an identity, it offers something far more powerful and permanent:
“If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ…”
Now, there’s a foundation that will outshine the most beautiful design, and outlast even the most resilient ink.
Release Date: Wednesdays, 9:30 PM (premiers July 16)