In a pretty startling move to many, Disney Parks changed their stance on what they refer to as the “Disney Look”. For those unfamiliar, Disney Cast Members have to go by a bible known as the “Disney Look Book” which dictates what they can and can’t wear. Thanks to Disney’s focus on inclusion, they decided to revamp almost every single policy in their appearance manual.
Many changes were made from how many earrings one can wear in one earlobe to nail polish. Today, we are only going to cover what is arguably the most controversial: Disney Cast Members can now show their tattoos while in costume and working. Keep in mind, these are not characters like Cinderella or The Mad Hatter. Those performers are covered by a different set of policies.
Now anyone can show a tattoo if you are an hourly employee or salaried (manager). However, there are some stipulations. According to the new “Disney Look Book” it states the following:
Visible tattoos are permitted, with the exception of placement on the face, head or neck. Tattoos must be no larger than the Cast Member’s hand when fully extended with the fingers held together. Undergarments, which include matching fabric tattoo sleeves, are permitted for coverage of larger tattoos on the arms. Tattoos that depict nudity, offensive or inappropriate language or images, or violate Company policies (including policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, age, disability or any other protected category) are not permitted.
While that may sound like a pretty strict list of rules for most people who have never worked for Disney, it’s actually very ambiguous. For a company that is all about making sure their reputation is always squeaky clean (you know, the one that took down the penis-like structure in Epcot’s Morocco pavilion that has been there since 1984?), it seems they are opening themselves up to a lot of issues. Keep in mind, the examples I am about to give you are not tattoos on current Disney Cast Members (that I am aware of), but can easily be accepted under the new guidelines.
No doubt, we are going to see a lot of Disney inspired tattoos. Some will be straight up copies of favorite characters. Others will be slight interpretations of characters and imagery from Disney lore. Assuming the tattoo above is shrunk down a bit to meet the appropriate size requirements, what do you see?
Well, since you’re reading a website about theme parks and Disney, you know this is a Snow White inspired tattoo. What if they just see a dagger through what is maybe a heart? An Apple? I don’t know, when they’re loading you onto a boat at it’s a small world, you’ve got maybe ten seconds to get a good look at it.
Oh here’s a fun one. The Simpsons is now under the Disney umbrella. Now you can watch every season of the show on Disney+. Why not a Homer tattoo? Well, this one throws a tiny bit of religion in there. Praise Jebus? Is that making fun of Jesus? Christianity? Sure, it may be harmless to you. Without question though, to someone who is very religious, this could come off as offensive. Assuming this were a smaller tattoo, should it be allowed?
Who can forget Jessica Rabbit? Arguably the sexiest Disney character ever designed. Is oozing sex appeal from a branded Disney character considered nudity? Probably not. Is it offensive? That is always in the eye of the beholder. Considering you can get merchandise with almost this exact same image… maybe not?
Here’s something else to ponder. A Jessica Rabbit tattoo on a guy versus seeing it on a girl? Can just by default give off a different kind of vibe. Should it? Nope, but that’s not how people react and behave. Here’s another fun one.
What about an interpretation of a Disney character? It’s one thing to copy an outfit and a pose that we’ve seen dozens of times on Disney branded merchandise and films. It’s another to take those and spin them into new incarnations. Disney Pinup is quite popular amongst tattoos. They don’t exactly show nudity, but the idea is to titillate for sure. Then again, so is the red dress she wears in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Which of these Jessica Rabbit tattoos is “offensive”? Both? Neither?
Oh you didn’t think I was going to go there? Let’s get into political tattoos. Here’s a Captain America/Donald Trump mashup. Again, yes I knew this exact image is too big. Assuming it can be shrunk down (and it can), would this Donald Trump tattoo be offensive to some people? No?
What about this one? Sometimes the depiction of the subject makes all the difference. After all, art is subjective. Tattoos are without question a form of art. Just like any form of art, some folks will like it while others can’t stand it. Sounds like how people view politicians these days, doesn’t it?
Who doesn’t want to make America great? This one stands for something we can all agree on. Not even sure why I put it in here. Really this was just a test to see if you were paying attention.
I just wanted to end on a totally innocent tattoo and more like the ones you’ll see on Cast Members in the parks. In reality, small tattoos like the crown above have special meaning to those who display them. Often times, we won’t know their meaning and it’s potentially very personal.
Gotcha! That tattoo photo above is from the “Gang Awareness Guide” from the state of New Jersey. It’s a symbol of the Latin Kings gang, one of the most notorious in the United States. To the average person, that’s just a crown. But to someone else, they could interpret it extremely differently.
I want to make this extremely clear. If you have a tattoo, it doesn’t mean you are a bad person. The image of people with tattoos has changed drastically. Penn Jillette has my favorite quote about how tattoos have evolved in the public perception over the years. “Back in the old days, if you saw someone with a tattoo you used to think they maybe did time in prison. Now it just means they went to the mall.”
The steps forward Disney has taken in order to not only open the doors to acceptance, but also to retain some individually should be commended. However, the policing of what is “offensive” and what is not could turn into a nightmare. Not only could guests be upset, Cast Members who are told to cover up their MAGA tattoo could take the mouse to court. Oh yes, it could happen.
To say that guests won’t be offended by these examples means you’ve never worked at Walt Disney World (or nearly any customer service job). Not only can this happen, it absolutely will. The question is: how will Disney handle it? Will they apologize on behalf of the Cast Member? Will they explain the situation? Will the guest receive compensation for being upset? It’s definitely about to get really interesting, that much is for sure. Your thoughts?
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