How do you feel about how the media displays the modded?
Voice your opinion on the Round Table topic in the Reader's Response section.



moderator of the BME mailing list, photographer/reviewer for Modified Modified Mind. Featured in BME/Art.

Well this has to be one of the biggest questions/issues that is out there today. Bear with me here people, as I may go off on a few tangents along the way, but the ride should be worth it.

How do I personally feel about this topic..? Being from a country other than that of the USA, I have a slightly different view on this. The media down under seem to leave the modded community pretty much alone over here. I am sure that there have been reports, both pro and con the industry, but they are few and far between. Television journalism on the other hand, has always, and I feel will continue to have a fascination with this particular art form, as it a very visual, in your face kind of thing. Currently showing at the Queensland Museum is a show/tour called Body Art: A History of Body Modification. It has been travelling around the country for nearly a year (?) now (For more info). Some of the crew from Brisbane went down late last year for the official launch, which featured a superman suspension among other things. The media portrayed the event in a glowing, almost praise like way. I feel that the fact that the Australian Museum was involved helped to add a long awaited sense of approval to whole event. With images that cover body art forms from tattooing, to piercing, to painting, through to the lesser publicly seen art forms of scarification, branding, and body sculpting aka corsetry the overall presentation has been second to none. The book was released last year, and has already sold out of the first run (?). To support this with every town that the exhibit visits, local studios are asked to include images that they feel will add to the collection, truly representing the art form down under. The coverage of the exhibition has been widely reported in the local papers, with yet again studios being asked for their "personal" feelings, opinions etc. From what I have seen, this has been only good, with none of the bullshit one-upmanship that is usually associated with some of the studios in town.

As far as magazines, and the like..? Australia is a barren, barren place when it comes to actual press dealing with mods on a regular basis; we are fairly much reliant on the import stands of the local newsagency. Most of the magazines that are actually Australian based are predominately tattoo based in there content. For many years Australia has had a very strong tattooing industry, with a very good reputation. Piercing, scarification and the other arts have less of a following and even less of the press. This is a situation that I am hoping to remedy in the near future. With access to the World Wide Web, we here down under have had access to BME and associated sites for many years now. They are well known, and respected by most, although not all, of the studios that I know of. But there is a need; at least I feel that there is, for a magazine. Something that everyone that is interested can get his or her hands on. Something that is widely available. All I have do know is find the time, and the finances to get it off the ground.

As I said before, I can speak from personal experience only in relation to my own country. But I will discuss what I have seen/read/heard via many means of communication of the wider argument. Having been furnished with several copies of American docos, TV specials, and Ripley's re-runs, I feel that the way that mainstream society, in the States particularly, treats body modification is still up for debate. Whilst the docos like Human Canvas showed to the world, a professional, clean and attractive approach to the community, Ripley's Believe It Or Not! still seems to treat it like a sideshow oddity. I guess that this is to be expected, considering the roots of the show, but still . . .

Having said this, I feel that all of those that I have seen interviewed, and there are still quite a few that I have not yet seen, and will reserve my judgement on those till then, but the practioners of our industry have come across not as the dumb, drug fucked idiots they are taken for, but sane, honest professionals. My god, they even sound intelligent *Shock Horror *. Sorry bout that let myself get a tad carried away. People of the ilk of Steve Haworth, Keith Alexander, and to a lesser extent people such as Skitch (sp?), and our very own Shannon Larratt have come across as well read, happy, socially adjusted individuals.

I feel that the formation of the Church of Body Modification will be probably the biggest plus for the industry/community. Yet again I can speak only from the point of view of a virtual outsider, but the formation of the Church has garnished some very interesting opinions down under. It is a professional looking organization, which unfortunately these days takes precedence over the quality of the organization itself. By now you will all be familiar, or should be with the Church's activities. Several meetings have been held, a wedding has been performed, and from what I can tell membership is going from strength to strength. I keep a lurking eye on the Church's forum on IAM, but not to close an eye.


mod enthusiast, assisted in Loco interview for Modified Mind.

The majority of the media usually displays the modded in a negative light, and basically sterotypes people with mods (ie piercings, tattoos) as "bad people". However, there are some exceptions: Ripley's Believe It Or Not!, and an old television series called Northern Exposure.

Ripley's Believe It Or Not! doesn't show a bias when they do a segment on piercings/tattoos. (Please note that I didn't get to see the most recent Ripley's, which would have shown a segment on Cat.

Northern Exposure was a television series that, in my opinion, tried to give their own version of "Don't judge a book by its cover": A very rich guy on the show had purchased a very expensive clock and there was only one person that could maintain its delicate mechanism. When the clock worker came to service the clock, he had a bit of piercings. The rich guy didn't want to take the clock worker seriously because of the piercings, but after he saw how the clock worker maintained the clock and how he was very proficient with clock mechanisms, he realized that his first impression of the pierced clock worker was completely wrong, and in turn apologized.

I think that the media cannot be totally to blame for its representation of modded people. The media usually tries to represent people the way that Joe Q Public wants to see them. The funny thing about it is that, wouldn't that be considered "politically incorrect"?

I wonder if there were to be an organization of modded people that aggressively wrote the media and stated how they are displeased with the negative sterotyping of modded people, and would make a point of boycotting their shows, if maybe that would work to change their representation of modded people. Every other group of people makes a point of letting the media know their feelings on being sterotyped- why cant we???


retired staff member of BME's QOD. Interviewed on both Modified Mind and BMERadio.

I think that the main thing to realise here is that very few things are portrayed accurately by the media, they write for sensationalism and when considering those who are modified there is plenty of opportunity for this. Perhaps we are asking for too much too soon to be recognised as we want to be, perhaps it is enough for now that we are simply recognised. The media's main concerns are ratings and sales, and to simply document something isn't, in their eyes, enough.

I know that I feel a certain sense of relief when someone asks me about my implants for example, and then responds with a comment that they saw something like that before on television or in a magazine. They don't care what light it was portrayed in, all they know is that it isn't entirely alien to them. While I would agree that the modified are not always portrayed in a favourable or respectful light, I would also agree that the very fact that we are out there is something. It's hard to say if I feel that the media treats me unfairly, I just try to remember that the only thing that really makes an impression in regards to me is my own actions and my own words, for now that is enough.


young mod enthusiast, staff member of Modified Mind.

The media are by definition a conglomeration of many different organisations, each formed by people with their own opinions and guidelines. For this reason, it is hard to define exactly what the media think about modification.

I think that the more mainstream modifications, like piercing and tattooing, are regarded in two main ways: either as a youthful rebellion, or in association with a particular job. Obviously, this is a gross over-simplification and as such it appalls me. However, the only way that this will change is if more professional and older people are willing to show their tattoos and piercings off, and prove the stereotypes wrong.

I think that over the next few years, piercing and tattooing will become ever more mainstream, and therefore accepted by the media and the general public. Who knows which will happen first? The media inform the opinions of many people and have a great influence, and gaining their support (or at least stopping the stereotyping) would be a huge step forward for the modified community.

I think that the internet is going to be revolutionary in the way that people perceive modifications. With its advent, the public have been exposed to things that most people would not consider possible, and this can only continue. I hope that greater knowledge will promote greater acceptance

However, I don't think that more "extreme" modifications, such as tongue splitting and implants, and even nullification and amputation, will ever be accepted by the media. The shock value and the temptation to sensationalise is simply too great. Remember, these are things which are not even accepted as valid self-expression by a significant proportion of the modified community, and I think in the foreseeable future they will be still be regarded as 'freakish', even in the more liberal media.


the mind behind BME.

I'm going to assume that you mean mainstream media. However, before I get into that I want to say that as someone who gets millions of hits a day, I feel that I can say with confidence that no matter what, the non-mainstream media is at this point powerful enough to provide effective counterpoint to anything the mainstream wants to present. With the success and quality writing on zines like Modified Mind and SPC, I see this trend continuing. In addition, we are often used as resources by the mainstream media, so we do have a certain amount of power over how the modded are presented.

Overall I've been quite shocked at how positively the media has presented the modded. Shock shows like Ripley's have presented even the most bizarre -- and often psychologically questionable -- characters (modded and unmodded) with remarkable amounts of respect. TLC and Discovery channel have produced a number of very responsible, accurate, and positive reports on a wide variety of mods and mod-related ritual activities. Even small-town papers have done their best to present mods fairly.

The only real problem I've seen stems from a few closed minded "experts" that they interview. It's not unusual for a doctor talking out of his ass about mods to be treated as an expert, or a psychiatrist who's treated some troubled teens as understanding the entire modded community. They're presumably smart people, so you'd think they would realize that the small number of people they come in contact with only represent the extremely small percentage of people who have had problems. Luckily as time goes by these people are becoming educated and are making fools of themselves less often. Some doctors are even going so far as to put their reputations on the line with extremely pro-mod comments.

Anyway, sorry this is so short, but I'm not sure it's a question with a long answer anyway. To sum up, especially in the last twelve months, the media's presentation of "the modded" has been positive, and most importantly, fair and open-minded. Of course there are negative exceptions, but they are in the minority.


former staff member of BME's QOD, moderator of the BME mailing list, apprentice at Stainless Studios in Toronto. Interviewed on Modified Mind.

It seems that our media presence is growing every week. This is funny because just a couple of hours ago I was watching Ripley's Believe It Or Not!, where they did a longer segment about Cat, the man who has been actively changing his appearance in more and more extreme ways for 20 or so years now. While I don't believe that Ripley's has the best of intentions as far as our portraying our community in a positive light, they do bring major media exposure to many extreme forms of body modification. And who can blame them? They're in the business of shocking people (of which I don't believe that they do a good job).

If all goes well, The Learning Channel/Discovery Channel will be visiting Toronto to do some interviews and hopefully film a suspension or two as well as some other fun stuff. This has become a bit of an issue for some members of our suspension group who do not wish to be on camera. I, for one, do not have a problem with this. The Human Canvas series has done a fairly decent job of portraying our culture in a positive light. If people are not exposed to such acts, or do not have the opportunity to meet the people attached to the hooks, they will remain ignorant of a huge, growing community. The public needs to realize that the people doing this range from their grocery bagger to bank president! That's where I can see the most positive aspect of all this. As the public sees more and more extreme acts or modifications, eventually they may become less prejudiced against us "freaks." I'm not sure if that's a good thing, but it is true that we are slowly becoming co-opted by the media. I've seen the same thing happen to skateboarding: when I first started, we were "anarchists" and ne'er-do-wells. Now, we influence fashion, other sports, media and are a multi-billion dollar industry. As for the modification scene, this can happen as well, at least to a lesser extent. Again, I'm not sure if this a good thing, but I do know that I am proud of my modified friends when I see them in the media.


retired staff member of BME's QOD. Interviewed on Modified Mind, BME, & BMERadio.

For the record I probably see a lot of what everyone else does through slotted windows. I don't pay specific attention to media so my perception of it isn't always honed in on the obvious or what not. I'd have to say though that the news media itself doesn't seem to have too much of a Hate-on for the modified. We get shown, and represented fairly well. In regards of media like talk shows and what not, I'd have to say that they seem to be trying to push ignorance back onto people, and cause people to become confused as to why people are doing this even after they've already come to terms with it. Talk shows and the such are still finding even the most minor things shocking and are rebreeding simple ignorance into our minds. One thing that they are having a bit of a trouble doing is dumbing us down. Luckily, we as a group have managed so far to come across fairly intelligently in at least a few occasions that have stood out in people minds. As long as we keep up the smart thinking, and rational behavior we will help cleanse more and more of the bad media out. As to movies, well I think they take anything shocking whether it be mods or just obese people with chainsaws, and make it look "oh so unusual."

It's the the negative portrayal of the modified that I think is the issue. It's the issue of encouraged ignorance that is the problem. You still see people pushing the issue of how queer something comes across, or how they just can't relate to something that is different. It's this that I think tells people subconciously that it is wrong to accept difference, and from there all the stupidity arises again. And shock, I mean come on, how shocking is what we are doing? I mean, we see it on various programs, movies these days are doing things well beyond that. Look at Star Trek with all its trekkies, I mean what we are doing could just as well be a manifestation of years of sci-fi movies, and horror flicks. Who's to say that the rippling green muscular visage of The Hulk chasing a villain didn't instill a desire in one of us as a child to work out and follow a the path of hero out of inspiration? It's not the portrayal that is important I think. It's the reaction to what is presented.

Return to Round Table