“Tattoo Nation” at SMC


Tattoo Nation Poster

Michaela Korges and Ben Smith

Superstition Mountain Campus held its screening of “Tattoo Nation,” an award-winning documentary about the history of tattoos in America, on Wednesday, October 11th. The documentary screening was accompanied by a brief survey on attendees’ attitudes towards tattoos, as well as a selection of pictures of local students’ own tattoos, asking students to rank them as either “beautiful” or “vulgar.” In addition to the surveys and screening, there was also a small discussion about the film’s attitudes towards tattoos, and how audience members responded to those attitudes.

The event, though scheduled for 6:30, began about 20 minutes earlier in the hall outside the event room.  Phi Theta Kappans spent that time distributing paper surveys for audience members to take; these surveys asked questions about students’ perceptions of tattoos as a viable art form. There were also pictures of SMC students’ tattoos posted on the wall outside the room, as well as the question whether each tattoo was “beautiful” or “vulgar.” Students were given Post-It notes to place on the “beautiful” or “vulgar” sections so Phi Theta Kappa could tally up the results once the event concluded and all audience members had given their responses.

Once the surveys were concluded, the film began promptly at 6:30. “Tattoo Nation” documented the history of the tattoos in America from the veterans of World War II to the streets of 1980’s Los Angeles. The film specifically focused on the rise of tattoos in the Mexican American culture from hand poke and prison tattoos to seven needle machines. Recognizable names such as Ed Hardy and Danny DeVito made an appearance in the film to talk about the stigma that surrounded tattoos for generations.

Audience members responded well to the film, showing audible signs of surprise or shock when certain styles of tattoos were shown off. Audience members also responded to the section of the film discussing the tumultuous history of tattoos, such as the period when they were outlawed across the country.

The film concluded around 8:10, and the Phi Theta Kappans administering the event began the audience discussion which lasted for about 15 minutes. This discussion included questions about what surprised audience members the most about the film, or whether they responded particularly well to any of the tattoo styles displayed.

Similar events took place on Maricopa, San Tan, and Signal Peak campuses.