The Online World of Tattoo’s

As I have mentioned in previous posts, social media plays a vital role in the fan tattoo process. Through further observation of online forums, various fan pages, and musicians/celebrity pages, it is indisputable to notice the demand and engagement for tattoo content.

Individuals in fandoms are intrinsically linked together through the bond of loving the same thing. Whether that be a show, movie series, books or bands/musicians. With celebrities being a significant influence on social media such as Twitter and Instagram, fans and fandoms flock to their pages and create their own, dedicated to their fandoms. My big question about fandom tattoos, why they are shared, created and ideated on online platforms has copious answers.

A notable factor, I hypothesised would be so fans would gain recognition from the person associated with the fandom. For example, I fan may post to their Instagram or Twitter, showcasing their tattoo in hopes it will get retweeted, liked or shared by the people/person the fandom is for. This seems to be the biggest reason why fans will post pictures and their tattoo designs to social media.

IMG_2351In two separate instances, as I was looking through my own social media pages, I happened upon this exact idea. One was on Instagram, a smaller band (not so globally known that is) reposted on their Instagram story the post of someone getting the frontmen tattooed on their shoulder. This is a practice they often do, and many other smaller artists do as well because their social media isn’t saturated with as many fans pining for attention or recognition.

The second situation occurred when scrolling through my home page on twitter (for which I follow a significant amount of celebrities relating to fandoms). I came across a tattoo thread for a duo Jack and Jack. A fan tweeted out a photo of her tattoo asking to see what other fans have gotten concerning the duo and tagging both of the artists and their official band pages. Many fans commented on the thread and were recognised by one part of the pair and were liked and retweeted. Musicians, in particular, are more known for engaging with tattoo content in their name.

The second reason I have come to believe fans share their fandom tattoos online is for other fans. Fandoms, especially online, become a safe space to interact with others with the same interests and similar. In some situations, fandoms can become a sort of family, and they share their ideas, OTP’s and even tattoos with each other. This can be so other fans can find ideas for their own tattoos or get a tattoo that fits more within the aesthetic of specific fandoms. Tumblr especially is a platform that uses threads and hashtags to share their fandom knowledge. Pages are dedicated to fan culture and fandom experiences, where tattoos, stories, drawings, and so much more are shared with one another (I would insert video clips of examples, however much of Tumblr is NSFW).

Then we have Pinterest. As I have mentioned before ‘Holy Grail’ of tattoo ideas and sharing. To not get lost in the tattoo of it all is virtually impossible because of the amount of content it has on the site. Though it isn’t specific pages or fans interacting with each other, there is more fandom tattoo content on here than anywhere else. The idea of sharing tattoos on here is again a part of fans sharing their tattoos with other fans for the purpose of connectivity. By sharing their tattoos with each other, there is a sense of togetherness and belonging. Screen Shot 2019-11-10 at 1.21.29 pm

From a participant, I interviewed about her own fan tattoo corroborated this idea. In a Twitter thread from many years ago, she shared her fan tattoo with other fans asking about which lyrics of Paramore songs they have tattooed. She shared her tattoo, not in hopes of getting recognised by an artist or celebrity but to interact with other fans that had the same interest in the band that she did. Lyrics are a prevalent type of fan tattoo and ones that are a deal more personal. Instead of a symbol of a band, the face of a celebrity, lyrics can showcase certain aspects of the individual’s life and love for band or artist. By sharing specific lyrics, it creates a much stronger bond within fandoms.


Fandoms are very special in the way they communicate with each other, create together and interact with their idols. Fandom tattoos in themselves are interesting as they showcase the absolute extreme nature of fans and fandoms. By sharing their extremes, they can get direct contact with celebrities and the individuals associated with their fandoms. Not only this it is undeniable to see that fans don’t just do this for the recognition but for communication with other supporters such as themselves.


The Inspiration

You never know how much something will affect your life until it does. It can be music, books, friends, family… but in my case, it was a TV show. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It wasn’t just a show to me but something that shaped me into the woman I am today. As the awkward teens on the screen grew up, I found myself growing up alongside them. It wasn’t just a show to me, it was something that taught me, a young woman, that being strong and powerful wasn’t something to be afraid of.

Walking down to the tattoo parlour, jitters wracking my body, tiny sweat beads gathering on my hands, I still had no idea what I was about to get permanently sketched into my body. It had to be something that at least meant something or reminded me of the current period of life I was in. Cycling through all the options, I stopped on an idea. Buffy.

I had no idea what I wanted from the show, though. Seven seasons condensed into one tattoo is hard to incorporate, so I took to Pinterest. Pinterest, a social media platform saturated with tattoos, especially ones for fandoms. I typed in Buffy tattoos, and I could scroll for hours looking at the plethora of ideas and tattoos other fans had already gotten.

An iconic character associated with Buffy popped onto my screen. Many will know just by the phrase Grrr… Ughh… I describe him as my little zombie dude. The next thing I know I’m in the shop, sending through my design, running down to the mall to grab the cash and going under the needle. Lying on my stomach, all I could hear was the hum of the needle getting closer and closer to my skin.

Many people think the tattoo is silly, they don’t understand the reference or the meaning, but I know what it means to me and it acts as an identifier to other Buffy fans. It’s a symbol that connects me to the Buffy fandom and now forever connects Buffy to me. It may just be a tattoo of a silly little zombie to some people, but to me, it means strength, love and power. That is what Buffy represents, and now what I represent.

Though I may have been caught up with the whole tattoo of it all, I look back on the experience and realise the importance Pinterest played in that very moment. Of course I am a fan of the show and know the ins and outs of every scene of every season, but the tattoo artist or I could have come up with our own idea on what I wanted because a) he didn’t know the show and b) I was far to nervous for my creative brain to function. This got me thinking, why were there so many uploads of Buffy tattoos on the site and do other people use social media in the same way as I did to find these fan tattoos.

Fan Tattoos, History v Pop Culture

From what some of you may have seen from my pitches about this research topic, fan tattoos is something that genuinely interests me. Tattoo culture in itself has gone through a significant shift in society. Throughout histories and cultures, tattoos have represented a point of significance within particular communities. Wallace (2013), in her book Drawing with Great Needles, describes that in Native American tribes, altering the natural body through body decoration (both body paint and tattoos) projected their social role to the outside world. This is the case for many culturally centred tribes and peoples. Tattoos could identify a warrior, healer or another form of vital status to make it easier to identify the individuals and their importance to the tribe. However, from this point in history, tattoos have gone through a life cycle effect.

From tattoos being a sign of importance and respect, changed over the years due to westernisation and colonisation, the ideas and significance behind them shifted. Tattoos became a symbol of deviance and criminalisation. Australian culture is uniquely situated in tattoo culture, as many of the convicts that were forced to migrate to Australia had tattoos. Sutton (2016) described “at least 37 per cent of males and 15 per cent of the women were tattooed when they arrived.”. Tattoo culture in the convict era translated to gang affiliation and prison tattoos. A considerable amount of stigma around tattoos evolved from the stereotypes that associated tattoos with some sort of criminal activity. For many years that stigma existed, and to this day still sticks; however, many more people in today’s generation accept tattoos as meaningful symbols and works of art.

Perraudin (2018), investigated tattoos shifting from subculture to pop culture. From previously having tattoo parlours and shops being in hidden alleyways to tv shows dedicated to tattooing, it is hard to deny the significant shift. A part of this transformation comes the concept of fandom tattoos. Finding out where fandom tattoos all started, why they became so popular, the reasons why they are shared on social media platforms is extremely hard as there are no real accounts of how and why they emerged so quickly and became so popular on specific social media platforms.

tattooBy exploring multiple social media pages, sites and hashtags, it is undeniable to notice not only the unlimited content of tattoos but, especially those associated with fandoms. Pinterest is the biggest platform that I have found that produces all kinds of specific pages for fan tattoos. You can type any fandom in front of the word tattoo and a plethora of tattoo sketches and examples. Over on the side is just a few examples of doctor who tattoos that are found under the search “Doctor Who Tattoos”. You can get lost for hours in the enormous mass of tattoos that can found under this search alone.

Though Pinterest can be seen as the ‘Holy Grail’ of tattoo ideas. A quote I have heard many times, even from my own mouth, but equally Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter are brilliant platforms to source all your fan tattoo needs. It just about where to look.

Fandom Tattoo Pitch – Part 2

When conducting research projects, it is essential to think ethically and how your research could affect those you choose to include. Whether that be through interviews, surveys, photography or validity and reliability of research, there are standards that a researcher will have to adhere to. The MEAA Journalism Code of Ethics showcases various ways to remain ethical when publishing research and especially respecting those that choose to be an interviewee or involved in the research process.

Some codes that stand out for my project, in particular, are (MEAA, 2019):

  1. Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts. Do not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis. Do your utmost to give a fair opportunity for reply
  2. Do not allow personal interest, or any belief, commitment, payment, gift or benefit, to undermine your accuracy, fairness or independence.
  3. Use fair, responsible and honest means to obtain material. Identify yourself and your employer before obtaining any interview for publication or broadcast. Never exploit a person’s vulnerability or ignorance of media practice
  4. Present pictures and sound which are true and accurate. Any manipulation likely to mislead should be disclosed.

tenor.gifAs I plan to include various photographs of fan tattoos and interview them on their purpose, where their ideas came from, and whether or not they shared their tattoo on social media. Potential interviewees may have some sensitive material on the background of their tattoo, which will need to be dealt with utmost care.

When I decided to get my tattoo that correlates with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it was a spur of the moment; however, the show itself had a significant impact on my life as a teen that helped shape the woman I am today. This is the primary reason I decided on the tattoo that now resides on my left shoulder blade. Though I didn’t share my own tattoo online, it is how I came across the idea when I searched for ‘Buffy tattoos’ on Pinterest.

tattooThe fact that I have a deep personal connection to the tattoo, it’s meaning and my experience with interacting with other fans in the online platform, I am fascinated to see the process other fans go through when deciding to get a fan tattoo. Furthermore, this is why I will be using a mix of autoethnography and online observation and interviews to gauge the trends that seem to appear with fandom tattoos.

Coming across a blog by Susan Kresnicka (2016) really solidified the motivation behind this research project. The quote states “You don’t get that tattoo because you are a fan of something in the book, you get that tattoo because that book is a fan of something in you.” from a close friend of Kelly Sue DeConnick regarding the plethora of tattoos, related to her works, she was being emailed. Tattoos are memories, artwork, commemorations and full of meaning. By dedicating research into media fandoms and how they create and share accordingly online will allow the space to navigate its real implications.


Kresnicka, S 2016, ‘Why Understanding Fans is the New Superpower’, Variety, weblog post, 2 April, viewed 12 October 2019, <;

MEAA 2019, MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Oct. 2019].


Fandom Tattoo Pitch – Part 1

IMG_2229When thinking about a topic I wanted to conduct my Ethnographic research on, I automatically was drawn to the lecture on fandoms. I myself are a part of many and have become increasingly fascinated with the idea of fans and participatory culture. Studies of fans, their participatory culture, the way they behave online and various other notable areas have flooded the research forum and produced an influx of knowledge in that particular field. However, areas such as taking fandom culture to the absolute extreme are lacking. For example, fans exceedingly dedicated to their fandom, whether it be Harry Potter, Supernatural or a band/artist, some will opt to ink their bodies in commemoration or love for whichever fandom they choose. Examples of fan tattoos can be found all over social media networks, especially Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. By exploring fan behaviours and thoughts in sharing their tattoos on online platforms, we may be able to gage why they engage in this form of participatory fan culture. 

Though there is little academic literature on fan tattoos and their motivations behind getting them, there are many media articles regarding the extremes fans go to participate in their fandoms. In an article from The Week, Kelli Marshall examines what tattoos can inform us about modern fandoms. Marshal articulates, “while fans apply tattoos for various reasons, the tattoos virtually always represent something significant in their lives.”(Marshall, 2014). In the article, a woman is interviewed about her Gene Kelley tattoo, and she furthers the notion that these tattoos represent not only something they love but something that has shaped them by saying, “tattoos are expressions of things you love and how you’d like others to see you.” (Marshall, 2014).  

One book in particular carefully studies the use of Pinterest as a platform of ideating, sharing and connecting fans with each other, especially tattoos. The book, Television, Social Media and fan culture looks at a case study from which Buzzfeed shares ’50 fantastic ‘Doctor Who’ Tattoos’ that are all found on Pinterest (eds Slade et al. 2015, p.309). A significant idea that Slade et al. (eds, 2015, p.309) mentioned was that sharing tattoos online had become a trend, so much so that there was enough evidence to compile a long list of fandom tattoo, in their case, Doctor Who. As a pattern has been identified, it would be interesting to research and understand why people, a) share their fan tattoos online and b) the determination behind getting a fan tattoo.

Die-cut vinyl sticker_ Mutant Works LogoFrom the End of Buffy the Vampire SlayerFrom my own personal experiences with obtaining a fan tattoo (a little character from the end credit scene of my favourite show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), I already have some insight on why someone may choose to showcase their fan tattoos online and to participate in that form of extreme fan culture. From what I have begun to read, there is some decent background information that I can use to start my focus on the online platforms fans use the most when sharing tattoo ideas and their own completed works.

Stay tuned for part two that goes into ethical considerations, methods and report format!


Marshall, K 2014, What tattoos can teach us about modern fandom. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Oct. 2019]. 

Slade, A, Narro, A, Givens-Carroll, D (eds) 2015, Television, Social Media and Fan Culture, Lexington Books, New York.