Thursday, 7 February 2008

Slow Afternoon - An Essay on Miami Ink

Aah Lovefilm. After three glorious months, I am now shelling out £12.99 a month for lots of dvds, which is something of a double edged sword. On one hand this is alright, I hate owning loads of dvds as I don't have storage room for them and I am renowned for never watching films more than once, if that.
On the other hand, I am renowned for never watching films more than once, if that.

Something about sitting down for a hour and a half watching a drawn out formulaic story is not only crashingly boring once the ending is evident, but makes me remember in an epiphany style *gasp* that I am wasting my life. And I resent being reminded of that on a bi weekly basis, particularly by a big movie star doing their Oscar turn in that bit of the film just after the middle where everything seems to be going wrong, only for it to be resolved at the end.

So I have basically become the Queen of the boxsets.

This was initially ace as I was able to witness the greatness of the Wire without shelling out for whatever obscure cable channel it is on, and watch every singe episode of Fraiser you can currently rent.
Unfortunately now I am up to the series of Fraiser where it has begin to jump the shark*, so I have been forced to look further afield for new brain sweeties.

Enter Miami Ink.

The premise is simple to the point of 'duh' - five guys who are renowned tattoo artists set up a parlour in Miami and tattoo people. We see how one tattoos and hear the stories behind each tattoo they do.

The initial laughs come from the hilarious stories of the tattoo shop patrons. Basically it appears you can't just get a tattoo for the hell of it, it always has to mean something and this itself means one of two things.
Either you get people who get full out epitaphs and portraits of dead loved ones on their legs or chests (snore) or you get the hilariously tenuous excuses for significance, which always go along the lines of : 'Well I want to get a pirate ship on my stomach as it symbolises that I am a free spirit, and because I swear I was a pirate in a past life, and I can really relate to their ethos, y'know?' or 'I want to get a flaming skull on my back? Because it's like mortality yeah? Tico is a skull now, and by putting it on my back it is the past, and it shows I am moving on, and putting things behind me'**

So that's great, but if that were not enough, the programme is obviously edited for multiple adverts, which means in each show you get the (usually bereaved) patron earnestly telling the same story ("Chico was only twelve when he choked on KFC") at least three times, each time in tears but with a slight variation of word order, followed by the tattoo artist musing on their customer ("to lose a kid like that, to chicken y'know man...Das hard")

The greatest lure of Miami Ink however is undoubtedly the tattoo artists themselves, particularly the 'owner' Ami James, who is (apologies for the lazy simile, but hardly anyone watched The Armstrongs) like David Brent, but if he were American and in charge of running South Beach's most famous tattoo shop.
Ami does the voice-over for the series, which mean we get gems like 'Ever since I was young, I have had problems with my anger' spoken over footage of him completely flipping out, kicking things and shouting at the other guys like a testosteroned lunatic and 'I guess Andrea's idea is a little unusual' as we see him look utterly disgusted and confused at someone's tattoo request.

Then there is the way he treats his 'apprentice' Yoji, a fully grown man, who we see getting married and becoming a father during the course of the series. Ami ritually abuses Yoji in a way which could be shown in schools as a textbook example of bullying, complete from demasculising him by making him do inane tasks like clean Ami's car, to just constantly and cruelly ripping the piss out of him while the others look on and laugh.
And yet Yoji has apparently been subjected to this low paid abuse for the last five years, on the vague promise (vague, but repeated about ten times an episode) that he will one day be 'a real tattooist', said in a voice which makes you wonder if they edited out the words'...the blue fairy will come and make you.....' ,
So perhaps he deserves it somewhat, as surely no one is THAT stupid.


The next great thing about Miami Ink, is the way it is filmed. I love American 'documentaries' such as M.I and The Hills etc, as they are in fact so scripted and completely contrived it becomes fun to actually try and see the truth lurking deep underneath. For example, there is the internet rumour going around that Ami is gay, which makes for great analysis - not because I care whether he is gay or not - but to see the looks he gives the beefcakes who stride in to get their chests tattooed, and to listen out as to whether he ever refers to his 'partner' in the masculine form.
Another example of my inferences of truth is that I think that Chris Garver doesn't like Ami at all. Chris is far and away the most talented tatooist, and is also far and away the least 'tv' of the tattooists. In the segeway group shots of them striding down South Beach to funky music and bizarre camera angles, he generally keeps his shirt on, and he appears less prone to overblown statements a la Ami 'I knew den. I had made. A friend fur life' James.
He also appears hugely uncomfortable whenever Ami is around, and can often be seen lurking in the back of shots looking like a man embarrassed or occasionally exasperated.
Then again, maybe Ami is gay and he is a raving homophobe. I am just inclined to believe the former because I am shallow and I think he is fit.
Whatever the case, he does draw great tattoos, and I suppose, grudgingly, that after all the David Brentisms, propaganda style editing, contrived situations and repeated sob stories, the process and resulting tattoos are quite interesting in themselves.


*on an incidental note, did you see the episode of Two Pints of Lager where Johnny died by attempting to jump over a shark? HO BLOODY HO YOU BUNCH OF SELF REFERENTIAL CUNTS, an episode where the entire cast was obliterated by the ebola virus (played by guest star Daniel Day Lewis) couldn't make TPLAAPC anything other than the worst fucking thing my eyeballs have ever seen.
** the former is true, believe it or not.

1 comment:

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