“You Won’t Regret That Tattoo“, a 2013 short film by Angie Bird, is a wistful collection of anecdotes that examines several individuals’ rationale for their inking of tattoos, as permanent reminders of the pivotal events in their lives. Throughout this discussion, the interviewees talk about the trenchant significance of these indelible symbols, and the inherent social stigma that comes with them.
Most often utilized to chronicle life-altering events in people’s lives, Bird’s film explores the psychological weight of the emblems etched onto the skin of those who have experienced major upheavals: the death of a spouse, the birth of a son, the survival of an illness, or prison (in the latter, a tattoo removal as a result of.) Equally examined are tattoos of a more transient whimsy, in modes of drunkenness or impulse, that are no less documentary of lives lived, of youth consumed.
In spite of their potency as affirmations of the human condition, this specific iteration of expression, though beloved by the film’s subjects, often divides them into one category of a binary distinction—those with a tattoo, and those without. Although personally empowering as annals of life history, there is a social disapproval that characterizes each wearer into a homologous coterie, that deprives the designs from the frequently intimate motives of their creation.
Whether it is the permanence of tattoos or the cultural association of them with certain personalities or professions, the onus of clarification seems to rest with those whose intents do not align with the popular concept of what tattoos signify. Yet, as the film has readily demonstrated, these stories are not for the pleasure of the casual observer, but rather the compassion of a patient, impartial beholder. The infinite power of this body art is a private affair, and it is only skin-deep when left unmeditated on.