Skin flicks: quantifying the Disney tattoo phenomenon

I do not have any tattoos. This is because I am afraid of pain, and also because I worry that permanently advertising one of my enthusiasms on my body would open me up even further to scorn and ridicule from strangers. However, many people do have tattoos, and many of those people have tattoos of licensed Disney properties.

Which begs the question: which Disney property has inspired the greatest number of tattoos? I’m glad you definitely asked, because the scientists employed by the website Online Bingo have worked it out, based on the number of Instagram hashtags that correlate with each Disney movie. Will this methodology provide us with the most accurate data? No. Why is an online bingo site wasting its precious resources on counting hashtags? Nobody knows. Will this change anybody’s life in the slightest? No it won’t. But, look, we’re already two paragraphs into this thing, so we might as well see it through.

Anyway, the answer is Alice in Wonderland. According to the research, almost 70,000 hashtags have been created by people desperate to show off their Alice in Wonderland tattoos. From a perusal of Instagram, these include lots of Cheshire Cats, one with the quote “I’m as lost as Alice and as mad as the Hatter”, one that miraculously looks like an embroidered patch, and one where Alice drops a tab of acid.

What’s most impressive, perhaps, is that Alice in Wonderland is now 70 years old. Disney has produced dozens of animated movies in the intervening years but, when it comes to making people want to get tattoos, every single one of them is an abject failure.

Number two on the list, surprisingly, is Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. What’s unusual about this film isn’t that it strays from the tried and true Disney animation formula, but that it’s so seasonal. There are only really a couple of months each year where a Halloween-based Christmas movie is chronologically relevant, and those months are so cold that you’ll probably be covering your skin up with clothing anyway. The almost 30,000 people to use a Nightmare Before Christmas tattoo hashtag on Instagram clearly haven’t thought this through. My suggestion would be to trust none of them.

That said, there is a certain amount of sense in getting a Disney tattoo. If you’re going to get any movie tattooed on to your body, it’s much safer to make it an animation. In the current climate, the risk of attempting anything else is just too great. Imagine enduring hours of agony getting inked with, say, a Usual Suspects tattoo, only to watch as its star and director are forced into hiding thanks to several accusations of horrific sexual violations. A tattoo like that would be a curse you’d have to carry until your death. Say what you like about Alice in Wonderland, but it’s statistically very unlikely that the Cheshire Cat would ever be cancelled for forcing himself on vulnerable young actors. The only way anyone could get even close to this level of outrage via Disney would be to get a Song of the South tattoo, which at this point would probably be a very deliberate choice.

The Lion King came third on the list. Beauty and the Beast came fourth. Peter Pan came fifth. We live in a society that celebrates the infantilisation of adults, and everything bad in the world is a direct consequence of this.

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