ALLIGATORS IN A HELICOPTER

a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Sunday, March 19, 2006

What's With Gang Tattoos?

Every time I read a script about a street gang, they inevitably have their gang name or symbol tattooed in some readily-visible place.

And this ultimately does more harm than good, because there's usually a moment where one is being questioned by a cop, who sees the tattoo, and knows that the character is in the gang.

And I'm wondering if real street gangs are this dumb. You don't see Mafia hitmen with "MADE" tattooed across their fingers.

Doesn't it make it obvious if you are caught with a spray paint can next to the same symbol on a wall that's on your wrist?

I get it if you are part of an organization that isn't considered automatically criminal, but if the cops are going to give you crap just because you are in a violent, drug-dealing gang prone to drive-bys and violence, don't you want to make it a little harder for them -- or for the rival gang that wants to kill anyone in your gang?

Just once, I want to read a script in which the newest member, told to get this tattoo, tells them how stupid this is, and how it really helps with the whole plausible deniability thing if you don't have a gang tattoo on your arm or your hand.

Or he brings up that, because the gang only has 10 members and they all live in the same neighborhood, that it doesn't even help for IDing members of the gangs.

Better yet, why can't they get random tattoos, just to blow the cops' minds?

Instead, writers have characters walking around who might as well have "arrest me" stamped on their foreheads.

At least if you have the leather jacket with the gang name on the back, you can choose not to wear it. Or you can claim it's your boyfriend's.

Plausible deniability.

16 Comments:

At 7:42 PM, Anonymous James Patrick Joyce said...

Sounds like the writers just took it for granted.

I always thought it was about pride. If you got into a gang, you tried to. It was an accomplishment. Something you are proud of.

Putting a tattoo in an easily identifiable place would seen as brave, etc..

Of course, if they’re tattooing their faces, well that’s just silly.

What if it was explained, in the context of the story, what the tattoo symbolized?

 
At 7:58 PM, Blogger Erik said...

And I'm wondering if real street gangs are this dumb.

Most of them. Forearms, hands, biceps, and even face. That's in addition to chest and back. Many of them aren't afraid of the cops, so they don't care if their tats are visible.

Just once, I want to read a script in which the newest member, told to get this tattoo, tells them how stupid this is, and how it really helps with the whole plausible deniability thing if you don't have a gang tattoo on your arm or your hand.

A little wannabe gang might at least hear him out. A group like MS-13 might beat him to death. (But then, MS-13 branches often require you to have murdered or raped someone to join, so they're not the friendliest folks around.) In general, if you weren't willing to take part in the gang's rituals and markings, why would you try and join?

 
At 9:05 PM, Blogger Julie O. said...

Sigh... Scott, if you have to ask, you're probably not gang material.

 
At 9:16 PM, Blogger MaryAn Batchellor said...

Hey, thanks. I was wondering how to identify my character's wife to the naval fleet. I'll tattoo a big scarlett "A" on her boob. Okay, maybe a little one depending on the actress who plays her.

 
At 4:46 AM, Blogger The Gambino Crime Family said...

Yeah, I remember, back in the day, when I was involved in gang life, we used to have these nifty warm-up jackets and baseball caps. Sheesh. Kids these days...

 
At 4:59 AM, Blogger Whaledawg said...

Actually I think the point of the tatoo is to identify yourself to other people on the street. So they know that if they mess with you there will be retribution.

I mean, you join a gang for protection. Other people have to know you're in the gang for that to work.

 
At 6:17 AM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

Without tattoos how will I identify a fellow Cryps (Crips?) member from the Boise chapter?

Sheesh!

 
At 8:12 AM, Anonymous emily blake said...

Erik's right. I teach gang kids in South Central and they do indeed tattoo their gang symbols in visible places, particularly if they're in one of the bigger gangs. I have a student who's uncle has a tattoo on his neck that says "Fuck LAPD". He's currently in prison.

 
At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Vlad said...

Leather jackets with the gang name on it? Only if your script takes place in the 50's or 60's a la Grease.

 
At 8:37 PM, Blogger Writeprocrastinator said...

Scott,

"Just once, I want to read a script in which the newest member, told to get this tattoo, tells them how stupid this is, and how it really helps with the whole plausible deniability thing if you don't have a gang tattoo on your arm or your hand."

Then he wouldn't get into the gang nor would he be afforded the protection that the gang brings. The tattoo means that non-gang members are less likely to mess with him or they will face the wrath of that gang. It also is a red flag for other gangs, law enforcement and a convienent excuse for potential employers to hire somebody else. A fun little Catch 22.

My cousin lived in Lynwood and all the way up through his early twenties, he was pressured into joining either one gang or another. It got to the point that they weren't going to let him take the bus to work, much less walk to the store. My aunt had to buy him a car that she couldn't afford or lose her son, period.

Three people that I've worked with over the years have tattoos on their hands and they still refuse to talk about it even decades after(one is in his early sixties). The tats are fairly superfluous details for a script, but they have a basis in reality.

 
At 7:53 PM, Blogger wcmartell said...

What if all of the gang members had tattoos that formed aq gang symbol when they laid next to each other naked?

Would make for an unusual scene.

- Bill

 
At 5:30 AM, Blogger The Moviequill said...

show me a guy with Love and Hate tattooed on his knuckles and I'll show you a guy who nods 'hello'

 
At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't you get it? It's a symbol of pride and respect for your 'hood and your fellow members. The tattoos show acomplishment or loss they tell others your rank and achivments. If you aren't willing to be proud of your tattoos and the things you did to earn them you don't deserve to be in it. Sure, it's easy for cops to identify them but your brothers and your pride matter more then some jail time.

 
At 5:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

why do people whant to wear tatoos? eny whays whats the point of it?!?

 
At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a way of description and belonging. It shows pride in your gangsta family! But you wouldn't understand nothin' about that Bitches!

 
At 11:16 PM, Blogger Jeff Smith said...

nice post love reading it.
Leather Coats

 

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