When evil characters don't have skin conditions thrust upon them, they create their own: Tattoos and piercings of rich and infamous...

Tattoos-- Robert DeNiro in the film "Cape Fear". Dermatologists encounter tattoos when people desire their removal. Despite the fact that tattoos are fashionable in Hollywood and elsewhere, in movies they are consistently used to depict evil.

    The precedent of the terrifying tatt dates back to classic literature. Apparently, even Willy Shakespeare found body art a sign of badness. As "Othello", Laurence Fishburne is consumed with murderous jealousy and marked with scalp tattoos. Fortunately, he decided to use just a blue-black hue. This color responds best to most laser for characters who tire of their tatts. The remainder of the rainbow is more resistant to this therapeutic radiation.

    Nicole Kidman, shown here as a conniving TV personality in "To Die For", struggles to conceal her evil. She nearly conceals a small chest tattoo. Women often get small tattoos in body areas where they assume no one is looking. Perhaps they don't realize what good eyesight many men possess.

    "The Illustrated Man" is a film based on the novel by science fiction author Ray Bradbury. In it, actor Rod Steiger is covered with tattoos. His grip on reality is not as tight as his grip here on this unfortunate fellow performer. His groovy tattoos date this movie (made in 1969).

    "The Cell"

    Tattoos are not the only body adornment seen on-screen. In "The Cell," actor Vincent D'Onofrio plays a villain who in one of his incarnations has white skin and little hair (known at this site as albinopecia). The character is noteworthy for his nipple rings--a finding not usually used to show evil. Piercings can be performed safely, though technically there are risks involved. Some people have an allergic reaction to nickel in jewelry giving a red, itchy, blistery rash. Infections can also occur at the time of the piercing or later. Scarring can result long after the ring is removed. Certainly a lot longer than this silly flick remained in theaters.

    Wrong turn on the "Highway to Hell"

     Heard of a bad hair day? You are looking at a bad face day. Movie makers like to feature skin conditions on their villains and will often double up to heighten the dramatic effect. Thus, baldness plus... branding? Scarification? Fight with a type-setter? We realize that a picture is worth a thousand words, but this guy's face has a thousand words. Unfortunately, skin erasers have yet to be invented.




     Jennifer Garner is Elektra-fying as she battles a villain whose wolf tattoo...

    ...develops a mind (and body) of its own.

    Bodice bound Jennifer Garner goes super heroine as "Elektra." Among her adversaries is a typical tattooed terror. The bad guy with body art is something we've seen before, but having his tattoos come to life? That's a new one. Which brings up the question: If there was a chance that tattoos could become the actual objects, would they be so popular? Would Pamela Anderson really want a barb wire around her arm? What if Angelina Jolie's arm dragon started to shoot fire--isn't her career hot enough? And imagine Tom Arnold's tatt of ex-wife Roseanne starting to kvetch under his shirt during "The Best Damn Sports Show Period." We know the next thing that would come to life--the tattoo removal laser. Safe, effective, and scar-free, laser treatments would happen faster than it takes Hollywood to green light silly comic book adaptations.

    "John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars"

    B movie director John Carpenter provides this slice of sci fi schlock. The villain of this outer space caper looks like a silly cross between Marilyn Manson and a hungover KISS wannabee. Carpenter gives a triply terrifying skin whammy with albinism-like pale skin, tattoos, and so many piercings that a desperate jeweler might salivate like Pavlov's dog. Horror directors like Carpenter have kept us busy at skinema.com, though we worry that people may assume that pierced, tattooed, pale white Martians are obviously evil. We'll keep fighting to clarify these outlandish misconceptions.


© 1996-2008 Vail Reese M.D.

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