Life

Jeremy Meeks and the Trouble with the Viral Mugshot

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On June 18th, convicted felon Jeremy Meeks and three other men were arrested on weapons charges during a police sweep of the Weston Ranch neighborhood of Stockton, California.

As they are wont to do, the police are referring to the sweep as a “multi-agency Operation Ceasefire enforcement mission.” Of course, if mustaches were bullshit filters, any cop would tell you that this kind of thing is really just an excuse for a militarized local police force to justify its SWAT budget while strong-arming racially profiled parolees with overt threats of selective prosecution, but hey, who gives a shit about policy, am I right?

This kind of thing happens every day in America. Nothing about it is remarkable. It’s just business as usual for the revolving door of the prison industrial complex. Hell, the execution of this otherwise unremarkable stack of search warrants wouldn’t have even made the local news if it weren’t for the Stockton Police Department’s deplorable habit of posting mugshots on Facebook and the ridiculously photogenic quality of Mr. Meeks.

10402608_626455670783694_4163022932749562915_nYes, folks. He’s hot. Dude’s got cheekbones that could cut glass and an icy blue gaze so ocean deep, you need a wetsuit just to make eye contact. By any conventional standard of beauty, that man is foine, and since we’re all being honest, let’s not pretend we aren’t a little titillated by the teardrop tattoo. Still, is this man’s image really something we should be exploiting?

We can’t help what gets our nipples hard, and none of us can control what bizarre piece of criminal justice ephemera might raise the waxed eyebrow of our collective consciousness, but we ought to take a step back from this viral moment and recognize how tacky it is to be photoshopping a mugshot into ads for Givenchy, Calvin Klein, and Dolce & Gabbana.

This is not acceptable behavior. It may seem innocent, perhaps even justifiable to those who’ve never had any real contact with the criminal justice machine, but the objectification of Jeremy Meeks amounts to a public humiliation on what is now a massive scale. What’s even worse is that since he is already a convicted felon, we find it that much easier to ignore his presumption of innocence and manipulate his image for our mere amusement.

We should be ashamed of ourselves, and I’m not saying this because I feel the urge to defend Mr. Meeks personally. I have no idea what kind of man he is. He might be a violent monster. He might be good guy caught up in a bad situation. It’s never really that simple anyway. None of us know who he really is, and that’s kind of the point.

We should know better than to engage in this kind of exercise in depersonalization. Making light of this man’s incarceration — or anyone’s incarceration — should be something that makes us sick to our stomachs. The prison industrial complex is the ugliest stain on America’s soul since slavery, and there is absolutely no justification for fetishizing images of people caught up in our broken criminal justice system.