Tattoos and Car Alarms

April 6, 2010

I read an article a few days ago that bemoaned the increasing proliferation of tattoos and piercings in people near my age. In this author’s telling, this was a sign that my generation was completely full of conformists who get tattoos and piercings just in order to fit in. In fact, whereas tattoos and piercings had once been a sign of transgression, the author thought that people like me– folks without tattoos or piercings and no plans to get either– represented the true transgressives in today’s society. This was news to me. Silly me; thinking that the fact that I don’t have a tattoo or piercing stems from me being transgressive and against the grain not from a healthy(?) phobia of things expressly designed to pierce my skin.

I think the author of the piece, a link to which I’m not able to locate, has got things slightly off kilter here. I think this has less to do with a shift to a different kind of transgression than to the total abolition of any idea of transgression in our culture. I’m not going to argue that my buttoned up appearance is transgressive, because it blatantly isn’t. The only slightly transgressive attributes I embody are a hostility to logos and a skepticism of advertising.

The illusion that I might be representative of a shift in norms has come about precisely because the people who market such things to us have done such an unbelievable job over the last twenty years of bringing transgressive images into our living rooms and defanging them. There’s nothing particularly threatening about a person with tattoos or piercings anymore because the very idea has been so thoroughly tamed. For evidence, I suggest we look no further afield than the hit show NCIS, in which a “goth” girl is a main character and is one of the most lovable members of the cast. I’m not sure this would have been possible on a network, primetime program even ten years ago, but the “goth” look has been so subverted by marketing as to render it cuddly. This is a case of the leaders coming back to the pack rather than the running order being inverted.


Last night I was treated to the dulcet sounds of a car alarm going off for what seemed like the better part of the night. This prompted me to ponder the utter futility of car alarms in Russia. The vast majority of people live in enormous apartment blocks. Provided a person doesn’t live on the first floor– which, odds are, they don’t– it is going to end up being nearly impossible to get out to a car in order to prevent any vandals from escaping with loot. Vandals have to know this, too, so it is difficult to see what sort of deterrence alarms really provide.

But almost every car here has an alarm. From the crappiest Lada to the swankest BMW, nearly every vehicle boasts a security system of some sort. I wonder, then, if this isn’t a form of conscience salve adopted in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union. Once personal possessions and consumption became a significant part of the Russian economy a car became a sort of symbol of the future. As good as the public transit systems are here I’m not even sure most people have cars, which would make cars an exceptional possession. So perhaps the alarms are there mostly to make owners feel like their investments are safe rather than to actually secure the investments.

One Response to “Tattoos and Car Alarms”

  1. Bearss said

    As a person who has tattoos, and at one time more piercings than the simple gauges I now adorn by their lonesome. I would say that piercings are more of a way for the youth of today to discover who they are in the world, and then when that is completed, remove said piercings, and be ok with simplistic green gauges that you can easily see through. How about the now 8 tattoos that I have? They are art, at least I would say so. And I like art. I like it on my body. ‘Nough Said. Does all of this make me a rebel in disguise, or as this apparent article would suggest, a conformist? I think not. For one, I am completely an academic, I love to learn and follow things. This goes from Hockey to Futbol, to learning about ancient Roman architecture to try and solve Mori’s latest puzzle. I think it is quite possible and probable that most people with tattoos and piercings are not at all rebellious, but now have the ability to fully discover themselves in ways that were not available a decade ago.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: