Black Ink Crew

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Black Ink Crew TV Poster Image
Harlem tattoo parlor reality focuses on bickering, romances.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

There's some attempt to serve up inspiring messages, but mostly the focus is on interpersonal drama.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Some cast members have gone from living a rough street life to becoming professional tattoo artists. Characters behave wildly, but some show heart and perseverance. Some of Caeser's staff behave unprofessionally.

Violence

Arguments break out between staff, friends, and others. Some folks cry out in pain while getting tattooed; at least one artist claims to enjoy inflicting it. Tattoo designs include images of AK-47s and other weapons.

Sex

People are sometimes shown in their underwear when getting tattooed. One artist claims to enjoy tattooing women for this reason; others flirt with female clients and staff. References are made to women being out of control during their menstrual cycle. Pregnancy and illegitimacy is discussed. The crew goes to a strip club; pole dancing is visible.

Language

Words like "piss," "ass," "bastard" audible; curses like "bitch," "f--k," and "s--t" are bleeped. One tattoo artist uses "O' S--t" as his nickname/alias.

Consumerism

The series is a promotional vehicle for Black Ink Gallery and the Black Ink Tattoo Parlor; the gallery's logo and phone number is visible.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Employees and clients drink champagne, wine, beer, and mixed drinks at the shop, bars, and social gatherings. Tattoos sometimes feature people smoking weed. Cigar smoking is visible.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Black Ink Crew features interpersonal drama between staffers of a Harlem-based, African-American-owned tattoo parlor. Expect lots of strong language, some sexual humor, and mature themes, including scenes in strip clubs, and conversations about child illegitimacy. Drinking and cigar smoking is visible, and arguments are frequent. Tattoos sometimes feature weapons, drugs, and other adult-themed imagery.

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What's the story?

BLACK INK CREW is a reality series about the day-to-day antics of the staff at an African-American-owned and -operated tattoo parlor in Harlem, N.Y. It stars Ceaser Emanuel, the owner of Black Ink Gallery and Tattoo Parlor as he inks clients and oversees his staff, including Puma Robinson, the gallery's wild public relations manager; Alex, the parlor's fiery receptionist; Sassy, the event coordinator; and Walt and Ted, the shop's managers. Also joining the gang is the talented O' S--t, and Dutchess Lattimore, the shop's only female tattoo artist. From inking creative tattoos on colorful clients, to partying and arguing with each other, the group is working together to build the business into something that they can be proud of, and where they can be both coworkers and family.

Is it any good?

Like most tattoo-themed reality shows,  Black Ink Crew offers a glimpse at the kind of artistry that goes into creating images and inking them on clients. But the show's real focus is on the personalities of the crew, and the somewhat dysfunctional way they interact with each other both professionally and socially.

Some of clients are interesting, but there usually isn't enough focus on them and/or their personal stories to make them stand out. Despite some references about the tattoo parlor's role in the African-American community, the show doesn't delve into this, either. Overall, its the cast's constant bickering and flirtations that make the show mildly entertaining.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about tattoos and tattoo parlors. Why is getting a tattoo a big decision? What are some of the stereotypes  associated with people who get them? How does the media portray the culture of tattoo parlors?

  • Do you think the way the staff behaves on the show is the way they act when actually running the business? Or is their behavior a way of generating some reality show entertainment?

TV details

For kids who love creativity

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