Smooth Criminal: Good-Looking Men, the Internet, and Feminists

Sunday, June 29, 2014
By Phil Elmore

jeremymeeks“The hottie mugshot proves that crime pays—if you’re a man,” sniffs The Daily Dot. Chris Osterndorf, writing for the Internet gossip sheet, further laments that the viral mugshot photo of one Jeremy Meeks of Stockton must somehow be further proof of man’s pervasive victimization of woman (Women? Womyn?). “Jeremy Meeks might be objectively good looking in the traditional sense, but the fervor over his handsome face seemingly stems at least in part from his criminal past, rather than in spite of it,” speculates Osterndorf, who goes on to assert that Americans are obsessed with crime and even “attracted to it.”

This is the flimsiest of premises for the conclusion(s) to which Osterndorf hurries, but then, his (hers?) is not an objective analysis of the viral fame Meeks’ “handsome mugshot” achieved for him when people began passing it around online. Rather, Osterndorf started with her (his?) conclusion that all this attention for a good-looking man (a MAN, for God’s sake) must somehow be hurting a woman somewhere (and preferably many of them).

Osterndorf vacillates between whining that our society doesn’t take violent women seriously, and complaining that sexism is somehow holding back a greater understanding of women as antiheroes. While society seems willing to “fetishize” female sociopaths and other deviants (such as mentally ill women who drown their children or even murder them to achieve Internet fame), evil, evil, unspecified but omnipotent men are conspiring to marginalize and exploit these exponents of grrl power. One has to wonder why such strong, empowered, clever, capable, sassy, complex, in-your-face females are forever being so easily dismissed and misused by their patriarchal oppressors. Could it be that Osterndorf is projecting onto our culture’s love of crime stories a gender bias and sexism that simply isn’t there?

Tyranny of the Beautiful People

Osterndorf even manages to claim that “classically good looks” are “more often than not a part of what makes a criminal considered ‘attractive,’ as is the case for most people. Keep in mind that Meeks isn’t the first Internet phenomenon that is indicative of this. There was another ‘attractive convict’ meme that preceded him.” Bizarrely, Osterndorf conveniently ignores that this previous meme was a mugshot of Florida’s Meagan Renea McCullough, a woman addrested for DUI. The fact that the McCullough meme was every bit as popular as the Meeks mugshot, preceded Meeks’ Web fame by four years, and featured a woman, not a man, would seem to undercut both Osterndorf’s argument and the impetus to write it (as one presumes there isn’t a four-year-old Osterndorf piece decrying our collective and chauvinist fascination with hot women who drive drunk).

Or is it the “traditional,” even “classic” notion of beauty that Osterndorf disputes? What standard of “good-looking” is the Daily Dot’s author using if not the one the rest of us are applying? Any idiot, even a straight man, can look at Meeks and identify features that any heterosexual woman would find appealing. Why this obsessive-compulsive need to qualify descriptions of Meeks’ appearance, if not to allow for some other standard of attractiveness — one of which Osterndorf presumably approves? Is Osterndorf simply ugly? Is his or her entire article simply a means to lash out at society’s judgment concerning who is handsome and, by omission, who is not?

So it would seem, for Osterndorf then cites figures claiming that good-looking people receive better treatment by the legal system than do ugly ones. It’s common knowledge that good-looking female teachers receive less harsh punishment than do ugly females (or males of any standard of appearance) who have carnal knowledge of their students. This, however, does not rise to a level Osterndorf considers worthy of notice. No, this is about the beautiful people running roughshod over the the Osterndorfs of the world, leveling their smoky gazes and strong cheekbones at our legal system’s cameras and flouting their misbehavior under our collective noses. “This is why we aren’t interested in female criminals the way we’re interested in male ones,” the author somehow manages to write — completely forgetting that media personalities like Nancy Grace have built entire careers chronicling the crimes of female perpetrators. (Wait, though, were those criminals too good looking? Maybe they don’t count.)

So, are the Meeks inheriting a patriarchal Earth? Are good-looking men being given a pass despite their violent behavior?

How Crime “Pays” For Men

Let’s look at how well “crime pays” for men. You’ve heard these figures before. “Women are charged fewer times than men for violent crime, convicted less when guilty of the same crimes as men, and are given shorter sentences or simply receive probation,” according to Men’s Defense. “Judges are reluctant to jail women; while men are arrested 4 times as often as women, they are imprisoned 24 times as often…”

Men’s Defense goes on: “Practically every time a man and woman get into a physical fight, regardless of who is the aggressor, the man is blamed. If married, police usually throw him out of his house. As 17-year Seattle family law attorney Lisa Scott explains, ‘From top to bottom the current domestic violence system won’t let women be anything but victims and can’t see men as anything but batterers. And from the moment a 911 call is made there is practically no such thing as an innocent man. It doesn’t matter that you’re actually innocent. Or that she attacked you first. Or that you both went over the line and that both of you want to put it behind you and work it out. The system will prosecute you and persecute you until you’ve confessed your sins—even if you’ve none to confess. And you’re not cured until they say you’re cured—even if you were never sick to begin with.'”

What about non-criminal activities? Surely “male privilege” and institutionalized sexism must be giving men a better deal in the society and in the workplace than women get. It stands to reason, doesn’t it? One has to wonder, then, why it is that in almost every country, men commit suicide more frequently than women. They perform more of the risky jobs, and die from the risks more often, than their female counterparts, too. Men accounted for 54% of the work force but 92% of all workplace fatalities in 2007. And of course, men have always shouldered the brunt of military casualties; from 2002 to 2014, men accounted for almost 98% of military deaths. Why, clearly, this is male privilege. Combined with all the advantages men seem to be enjoying in the field of crime, it’s a wonder we don’t spend more time extolling the virtues of our glorious patriarchy.

Manufactured Outrage and Projected Insecurities

Fasination over Jeremy Meeks’ mugshot isn’t rampant sexism at work. It isn’t even particularly symptomatic of a legal bias in favor of attractive people (even though, let’s face it, good-looking people generally have an advantage that ugly people don’t). It certainly doesn’t show that society romanticizes male criminals over female ones, or that we as a collective group aren’t somehow stopping female criminals from getting their cultural due. Instead, outrage over the Jeremy Meeks meme is manufactured. It is the fantasy of those eager to see the phantom of institutional sexism under every annoying orange and behind every grumpy cat. A meme need have no logic and it need not portend anything sinister.

Sometimes a good-looking man is just a good-looking man, no matter how uncomfortable that makes Chris Osterndorf.

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