Since Nikki’s already opened the can on TV chatter with her lovely post on Glee, I thought I’d highlight one of my personal faves, Big Bang Theory. The show is built around a ragtag crew of physicists (read: geeks) and their blond aspiring-actress-waitress neighbor. I recently caught up on a few DVR’ed episodes this season and one of them was so great I felt the need to share. In the clip below, we see Sheldon (nerd-in-chief) driving neighbor Penny to the ER after helping her dress herself after dislocating her shoulder during a slip in the shower:
[Note: If the video link wasn’t working for you, the joke is Penny had a tattoo on her behind that she thought read “courage” but Sheldon told her it says “soup”]
Now I’ll reveal my own prejudices here because I did actually go to college and remember quite well the flocks of co-eds hitting the tattoo parlors on Spring Break and returning to class with scabby red images on the requisite ankle, shoulder, or lower back. I always thought that the whole “I got SO drunk and they dared me to get a tattoo” bit was a little tired, so it strikes me as downright hilarious when I read stories like this one a couple years back from FoxNews:
the fad-following hipsters of a decade and a half ago have graduated to jobs and families, they are going to tattoo-removal specialists in droves, trying to erase an embarrassing reminder of the mistake they made one drunken night so many years ago: They were permanently inked with an Asian-language word that didn’t say quite what they thought it did.
“It seems to be a current in the tattoo studios … where it gets passed on and passed on, and the translations get more obscure until you’re not even putting on your skin what you thought you were,” said James Morel, CEO of Dr. TATTOFF in Beverly Hills, Calif., which is seeing a flood of people asking for their Asian tattoos to be removed because of mistranslations.
Much of this goes back to the idea of co-opting another group’s culture without any appreciation for the original context, and in that sense, I think these folks are getting their just desserts, or soup, if you will. But a lot of it can be attributed to Western fantasies and stereotypes about Asian mysticism and exoticism tangled up in a search for deeper spiritual understanding. The naive mentality of the remorsefully tatted is described this way in the article:
The touchy-feely, quasi-spiritual trend of getting Asian-language tattoos became popular in the 1990s. For many youngsters, or for people who wanted to feel young, a tat with the characters for “peace” and “truth” seemed just the thing.
The whole thing reminds me of the kabbalah bracelets sported in the past by celebrity-types. At BeliefNet Arthur Goldwag writes:
Celebrities are often spiritually needy. Fame and its trappings may be ultimately unsatisfying, and immersing themselves in the study of an esoteric discipline can fill a sense of spiritual emptiness. The popularized Kabbalah, with its red string bracelets to ward off envy and malice, can be especially attractive to people in the public eye.
I completely understand spiritual neediness. I think all of us have that. There’s nothing wrong with seeking truth with a capital T. But if there’s going to be seeking, at least have a modicum of respect for the religion you’re trying on for size. And it wouldn’t hurt to have the discipline to study up a little before you, quite literally, put your butt on the line.