The recent ‘tattoo renaissance’ has seen what was previously considered
largely as the mark of the deviant progress into mainstream culture. Tattoos
are no longer the province of the outlaw; marks of resistance have become
inscribed within the very ideology that historically they appeared to
contest. Contemporary tattoo culture finds itself caught in a paradox.
Although more lucrative than ever before, the allure of an outsider art is
tarnished for many practitioners by tattooing’s seeming ubiquity. This
chapter explores the relationship between social deviance and consumer
culture in depictions of three contemporary US crime dramas: Criminal
Minds, CSI: NY and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
Given the tattoo’s longstanding connection to criminality, it is hardly
surprising that such shows should embrace the ‘tattoo renaissance’.
Importantly, this is a genre that strikes its own balance between
marginality and the mainstream; these series rely on the repeated
reinstatement of normality in the face of the pathological. This chapter
argues that the depiction of tattoos functions not simply as a reactionary
gesture of demonising the tattooed, but also as a way of retaining the
tattoo’s potency as the mark of the outsider in order to facilitate its
usefulness to consumer culture.