The Real Controversy With ’13 Reasons Why’ Is How Many High School Students Have Tattoos

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There’s been a lot of debate about Netflix’s new series, 13 Reasons Why, in which a teenage girl chronicles the reasons that led to her suicide. The obvious argument is whether or not this glorifies taking our own life, but as I watched the 13-part show I was more confused by the number of high school students they portrayed that were covered in tattoos. I mean, covered.


Let’s get something straight right away: I like tattoos. I have a pretty prominent tattoo on the outer side of my right arm. Basically, a career at Walt Disney World is not in the cards for me.

If you haven’t see 13 Reasons Why, let me explain. There are three main characters who have extremely prominent tattoos. We’re talking Mr. Rogers urban legend level tattoos. These kids are 17 and they have neck tattoos, full sleeves and statements across their chests.

First of all, there’s Tony (who is affectionately referred to as Unhelpful Yoda). His character shepherd’s the tapes depicting Hannah Baker’s 13 reasons through the world. He’s into classic cars and is kind of a bad ass. He’s got a cross tattooed on his forearm, stars behind his ear, and two other massive tats on his upper arms.

Then there’s Skye. She’s a minor character, but the most inked. She’s got several neck tattoos, full sleeves, etc. Apparently she paid for these with salary at the local coffee shop, Monet’s?

Then there’s Justin Foley, the 17-year-old with a chest tattoo.

In most states, you have to be 18 years old in order to get a tattoo. And the big tattoos, the sleeves and those with intricate details usually take more than one sitting. So, that begs the question how do these kids have the time, money and permission to be covering their bodies in ink? They can barely drive.

Maybe it’s because the actors have those tattoos? Well, no. You may not know this about me, but I actually have a Masters in Film. Tattoos in movies/TV shows need to be cleared. Basically, if a tattoo artists creates an image and inks it to your body, they own it. You can’t broadcast it without their permission. This is why a lot of career actors say that they won’t get tattoos, because you have to spend several extra hours in makeup every day to cover them. That said, most of the actors in the show do have real tattoos, but in most cases they’re not the ones you see on the show. Check out Refinery 29’s story on that here.

All this to say, how do you feel about high school students being depicted with copious amounts of tattoos? Is that true to life? How old were you when you got your first tattoo?