Show me a scar and I’ll show you a survivor. Show me someone who can proudly exhibit their scars, and I’ll show you a hero.

Michael’s face was adorned with scars. Scars from his acne-plagued adolescence. Scars from his plastic surgery. Michael was riddled with insecurities about his facial appearance. Many of Michael’s idiosyncrasies manifest as a consequence of these scars. His use of long wigs as a masking device. The wearing of a wide-brimmed hat as a masking device. The Aviator sunglasses as a masking device. The mask. A masking device.

Yet he persisted. He continued to show himself to the world.

The days of tattoos as the exclusive hallmark of angry, wayfaring bikers are long gone. Possibly to said subculture’s chagrin.

For at least two decades now the trend for inking one’s heart on one’s sleeve has been prevalent in mainstream society. When the trend began, most people visited parlours and selected from a pre-sketched gallery of quasi-tribal symbols or oriental lettering. The joke being that there must also be people in China walking around with the word ‘LINEN’ or something equally banal indelibly inscribed on a buttock. Proudly wandering around half-naked, oblivious to the bland truth, but satisfied that it definitely increased their sex appeal.

So… what exactly does that wrinkled depiction of Donald Duck on your ankle mean to you?

Well. It might mean that you had the time of your life in Marbella. And there’s no shame in that. For to be enjoying a moment to the extent that one feels compelled to honour it with a permanent visual reminder is a beautiful thing.

Many of us will forever carry these scars. And whilst many of us might also now feel somewhat less confident about their sex appeal, as a needled mnemonic, as a nostalgia spur – they hold a treasured place in one’s personal history.

And therein lies the entire point of tattoos.

In the same way there is a sense of identity in having Michael Jackson as one’s idol, there is a sense of identity in a tattoo. Those prudes that self-righteously ridicule the choices other people make in their attempts to fill the void of self (so long as no-one is hurting anyone else), should probably take a look at what they themselves are choosing in order to satisfy their own vacuum. Those that dismiss The Inked and feel superior in “not having to ‘resort’ to visual reminders” of who they are, are quite simply and very markedly missing the point.

Are you a mother? Then that is a huge portion of your identity. Do you have stretch marks? Those beautiful scars of pregnancy? If you’re in the demographic that judged Paris Jackson for acquiring ink, it’s probable.

To expect Paris Jackson to somehow not be representative of her generation and its trends is both cruel and bizarre. Considering her unorthodox upbringing, it’s a testament to her own strength of character and her dad’s adept parenting that she is.

Paris Jackson is a self-harm survivor. She has emerged from an adolescence the tabloid scrutiny of which can only be rivalled by the experience suffered by her father. Indeed, she exhibits his fortitude. Paris’ tattoos are a proud gallery displaying adornments for her adored and lamented father as well as expressions of her uniqueness. In the same way Michael used love and the embracing of individual expression to combat his insecurities, so does his daughter.

As if it should ever have been the case that the sensitive teenager was forced to defend her choices, Paris remarked:

Today i can look at my inner forearms and see art that has meaning for me. I don’t see a dark past anymore. My scars and past of self-hatred have been covered by loving marks, creativity, ingenuity… and depth.

The pricking pain of the inker’s needle can be a panacea for the burning lungs of an agonised soul. We can be certain that Michael isn’t scowling down upon Paris from his celestial abode. More likely, his brow is furrowed in disappointment at those who would hurriedly explain away his very own atypical, oft-inexplicable choices without a second’s thought, yet assume some kind of right to nanny by-proxy and by-tabloid his beloved daughter.

Judgement under the guise of concern. Isn’t that what Michael had to so-often endure?

It is absurd to deny Michael’s own daughter this assertion of devotion to her father. Especially  from middle-aged whingers whose sense of self is entirely based on Michael as their idol. Paris is his actual daughter for God’s sake.

Of course, there’s a whole other debate to be had about whether or not the trend for tattoos is in itself indicative of an increasingly insecure and terrified world. That the fear of expressing oneself through having an actual personality is instead tentatively made manifest through wearing superficial hearts on sleeves. However, lest we forget the many ancient, more ‘spiritually intelligent’ civilisations that incorporated the art-form of inking skin into their cultures.

Warriors in particular were traditionally well-adorned.

To acquire a tattoo is a courageous decision, irrespective of any underlying reason. Indeed, those that acquire ‘MJ’ tattoos are consciously inviting inevitable ridicule. And perhaps the fact that it was social pariahs such as bikers who were the ones once synonymous with being heavily inked is significant.

Besides, it’s not like Michael ever had any tattoos, eh?


Apart from those on his face.

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The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla is available in paperback and on Kindle at and for all other eBook devices at

Italian translation available here: