For thousands of years, men and women around the world have gone to redundant lengths to change their natural appearance of their bodies in an attempt to make themselves feel more attractive, to get attention, to conform to new customs of their particular cultural group, to attract a mate or sex partner, to show of their wealth or social status, or to just make an outgoing statement about themselves. Is body art really a pop culture?
Our dissatisfaction with the human body and its covering is expressed in endless change. This results in the desire and adoption of a trend, these trends are shown through ways such as piercing, body painting, and tattoos,
Body piercing has grown in popularity over the past five years especially among American teenagers who pierce just about anything that can be pierced: ears, noses, tongues, and navels. The most conventional form of piercing in the United States today is ear piercing, and it has become more mainstream for both sexes than it once was. Ear piercing can range from single hole in one or both ears to holes along the entire rim of the ear, but why has piercing become so popular? Given the name as Generation X youth today are known for being unable to follow a “Normal Persons” life and so express, and exaggerate their body until they feel comfortable, but being comfortable has become a bizarre competition, to see who can stretch their ear lobes the longest, or who has the most earrings too who has the craziest piercing, thus creating a mass trend in body piercing throught the worlds youth. Ear piercing struck America during the punk era, as a way of rebelling against parental figures and their ideas of “good kids”. And now during the 90’s ear piercing has yet again became a popular culture, due to the influence of show business and their perspectives of beauty.
Tattooing is probably the most popular form of body art in America today. The reason behind tattoos in society is to exaggerate the human body e.g. Intricate tribal armbands attract attention to men’s biceps, and simple small designs attract attention to various parts of the female body especially on the lower part of the back and around the navel. The designs can be small and discreet or large and obvious. Many people prefer discreet designs that can be concealed for certain occasions. The reason for tattoos becoming such a pop culture is due largely to Hollywood films and TV celebrities. The professional wrestlers of the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) have not only become coarse, they have become body art fashion statements for our youth. Tattooed armbands, and Chinese lettering are seen so commonly that one would think that they are birthmarks. Although tattoos have become today’s pop culture, tattooing has actually been practiced since the time of the ancient Egyptians. H.G Wells stated, “In all ages, far back into prehistory, we find human beings have painted and adorned themselves…” In some cultures tattoos are considered a sign of maturity, or nobility. In the American culture tattoos are a sign of individualism and fashion.
When most people think of body painting, the image that come to mind is more likely that of a Massai worrier. Yet we all paint our bodies for reasons of identification, ritual or beauty. Pop culture comes into body painting when we talk about cosmetics. A daily ritual for most women, consisting of early morning applying, afternoon touch ups and nighttime removal has become a necessity and addiction for most women today. Wearing cosmetics is undoubtedly the most prevalent type of body painting in the world. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry, with an increasing male market as well. On the top level, makeup is used to cover up zits, scars or pimples. But on a deeper level, there are other reasons for using makeup. Some would argue makeup mania in American society is a product of the media, and that American men, women, and children are constantly presented with attractive images of models, movie stars, and musicians and desperately want to imitate the way they look.
Taking in all the evidence past and present on body art, from an anthropological view point what is pop culture in today’s world, has been popular culture for a millennia.