When 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.
From 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] Theweek.com. Available at: https://theweek.com/articles/445000/what-tattoos-teach-about-modern-fandom [Accessed 7 Oct. 2019].
Slade, A, Narro, A, Givens-Carroll, D (eds) 2015, Television, Social Media and Fan Culture, Lexington Books, New York.