Findings

Taking the Extreme to the Extreme: Rico “Zombie Boy” Genest

Model. Actor. Sideshow freak. However you chose to label Rico Genest, also known as “Zombie Boy,” it would be hard to ignore the white elephant—excuse me, white skeleton—standing in the middle of the room. Or the carnival.

After watching the above YouTube video, my initial thought was, “To each his own.” This is a man who has taken the concept of a tattoo and has blown it to an expansive level. It is hard to miss that many of his tattoos are of the bones and muscles inside his body: brain, skull, rib cage. All are an outward reflection of what is inside the body. He comments that he appreciates true beauty and that you should be who you are. He’s pretty much nailed that down: just by looking at him, I’m not sure if I’m looking at skin or an exo-skeleton.

Rico is the same as a librarian. He has taken something he loves and has made it his world. Isn’t that what librarians do? They love books. They make books their world. They surround themselves in books. Rico, a man who loves art, has surrounded himself in ink. The only difference is that books remain on the shelves and do not manifest themselves onto the body while tattoos cling to the skin and reveal something much more personal about the bearer than silent books left on the shelf reveal.

Rico (right) next to Lady Gaga (left) in Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" music video, courtesy Google Images

Rico (right) next to Lady Gaga (left) in Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” music video, courtesy Google Images

He appeared in Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” video in his regular zombie-tatted self alongside a newly fake mirror-imaged zombie-Gaga. She dances around him and struts her, well, stuff. I found it curious that his entire appearance in the video is of him simply standing and staring. Lady Gaga dances around him and makes different facial expressions while he, on the other hand, remains stoic and unchanging. In this way, Lady Gaga is treating Rico as the center. Much like the Earth revolves around the sun, she revolves around him, making it appear that Rico’s thoughts about staying true to yourself and doing what makes you happy are as important and life-sustaining as the sun. Without each, you lose yourself.

Rico "Zombie Boy," Courtesy Google Images

Rico “Zombie Boy,” Courtesy Google Images

In “Born This Way,” Lady Gaga celebrates the differences of human beings, making the case that it is okay to be different. When Rico is showcased, his purpose is clearly to acknowledge just how different people can be. But…Rico was not “born that way.” Getting the tattoos was something that he chose to do, a personal and external alteration of the body. Instead, then, I argue that Lady Gaga celebrates the differences of decisions that human beings can make. While Rico was not born with a tattoo of a brain, rib cage, or skull, his choice to take on those tattoos is what shapes who he is as a person, what comes naturally to him.

Upon making the mistake of scrolling down the page to read the YouTube comments, I found that there was a clear division in how Rico was accepted. Several women acknowledged that he was attractive and sexy. Several males countered that he was a freak and was not to be taken seriously. Of course, YouTube comments are usually not meant for the weak of heart: f-bombs and other offensive comments appeared, revealing just how polarized people are when thinking about Rico. One person insulted Rico’s “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” comment, attesting that Rico is trying to be deep but is using a cliché. He also threw in a choice word, but we’ll leave that out.

After looking at the comments, and rolling my eyes at the vast typos (nothing better than trying to take someone seriously when they have about as many typos as the ideas as they are insulting), one thing was clear: This man straddles the idea of what you can do to your body. As stated, librarians surround themselves with books. Lawyers surround themselves with clients. Athletes surround themselves in fitness. And Rico? He surrounds himself with what makes him happy…tattoos.

 

The man of the hour, courtesy Google Images

The man of the hour, courtesy Google Images

 

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Where in the world is Rachel? My Research Progress

Courtesy Google Images

Courtesy Google Images

I’d like a map, please.

At this stage in my research, I have completed the following:

  • Completed two in-person interviews
  • Completed two online interviews
  • Received two extra e-mails from teachers with tattoos stating their experience
  • Attended the Skindustry Expo in Allentown, PA
  • Read articles pertaining to tattoos
  • Researched videos that pertain to tattoos (emphasis on YouTube)
  • Have made arrangements to meet with a tattoo artist at a local parlor and have him walk me through a routine visit

After pooling responses from both the in-person and online interviews, one thing is clear: I would like a map, please.

After speaking with an administrator and a teacher for my in-person interviews and corresponding with two teachers with tattoos via e-mail, I have noticed a pattern: tattoos are not Public Enemy number 1. The teachers commented on how they have never had a bad experience with having a tattoo, and one teacher went as far as explaining how she uses having a tattoo as a learning experience for her students.

Thus, I am thinking about putting a positive spin on my article on tattoos in education. Before, I planned on fighting for the idea that having a tattoo doesn’t make one less capable. Yet, it seems a lot of people are already there. So, I will jump ahead with that mentality and comment on just how positive tattoos can be in education.

I already have quotes from people who are okay with teachers having tattoos. Now, I am working towards getting a balanced article by getting quotes from people who are adamantly against tattoos (perhaps in general, or perhaps strictly on teachers).

I am feeling somewhat apprehensive about the direction of my article. All of the research is spinning before me like a whirlpool, and it is overwhelming. I would love thoughts and feedback on my plan for discussing the positives of tattoos in education. Thanks for your help!

The Happiest Place on Earth

Cinderella's Castle behind a statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in the Magic Kingdom. Picture from my 2007 visit,

Cinderella’s Castle behind a statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in the Magic Kingdom. Picture from my 2007 visit.

Minnie and Mickey. Donald and Goofy. Cinderella and Prince Charming. And a…neon-haired Disney worker?

Walt Disney World’s website “The Disney Look” clearly outlines appropriate appearance for all cast members, prohibiting several “’cutting edge’ trends or extreme styles.” Some of these extreme styles include nail polish that is black, silver, gold, or neon. Prohibited styles also include shaved eyebrows, women’s finger nails exceeding a quarter of an inch, and, aha! Tattoos.

According to their website, tattoos “must be discreetly and completely covered at all times” as “costumed cast members are a critical part of enhancing the experience of our Disney show.” Their website indicates that taking pride in your appearance conveys the “attitude of excellence that has become synonymous with the Disney name.”

And I could not agree more.

While I am all about self expression and personal choice, I firmly believe that Disney workers need to maintain a professional demeanor. Despite the fact that some of their restrictions sound just as extreme as the styles they prohibit, (such as: “mustaches must not extend onto or over the upper lip and must extend to the corners of the mouth, but not beyond or below the corners.” What? I needed to reread that to make sure I got everything.) there is a reason that Disney made $5.7 billion in 2012.

Talk about the little things! Eeyore and me, from my 2013 trip in the Crystal palace

Talk about the little things! Eeyore and me, from my 2013 trip in the Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom

Having been to Disney World seven times (not counting a trip planned for this July), I have experienced first-hand the truly magical feeling that sweeps over you for the entire Disney trip. Whether or not Tinker Bell has sprinkled you with pixie dust, their website suggests that it is often the little things that make the trip meaningful, and it is often the little things that can take away from the experience.

Never have I seen a worker on a cell phone, chewing gum, or anything else that takes them out of their character. Could you imagine Goofy telling a five year old to hold on while he takes a call from AT&T? “Yeah, sorry about that, big guy. I was on hold for half an hour.”

Tattoos would be no exception. There’s nothing wrong with tattoos, but any worker (costumed or not) displaying a tattoo would shatter the bubble that separates visitors from reality. Why? Because it goes back to the idea of permanence. It reminds them that, at the end of the day, the workers are actual human beings, too, with lives and responsibilities and commitments.

Visitors know that their trip will not last forever. They know that, at some point, they are going to have to round up their souvenirs, pack their bags, and say good bye to their hotel room, dragging their suitcase sluggishly behind. There will always be bills to pay and appointments to keep, but for those magical days, visitors do not want a reminder that the “real world” exists. (Unless you’re John Mayer.)

Truly, the Happiest Place on Earth! Main Street USA. Picture from my 2007 visit.

The Happiest Place on Earth! Main Street USA. Picture from my 2007 visit.