Smooth criminals: The new celebrities

Lauren Cassidy bemoans the emergence of the celeb criminal.

It is becoming more and more common that people are disregarding the need for a degree to work in certain jobs. Michael Price wrote in the Huffington Post: “We’ve reached a point in human history where higher education no longer works.”  In his article, he insisted that the key to landing the job of your dreams lies in hard work, determination and the right mindset.

Dropping out of secondary school in order to pursue a craft apprenticeship? Justifiable.  Waiting on tables whilst finishing a potential best-selling novel? Fair play. Serve a prison sentence while your mug shot goes viral? As if.

But for one criminal the consequences of his crimes did not hinder his job prospects. It enhanced them. Meet “Felon Bae”.

Jeremy Meeks has a criminal record spanning over 10 years. According to Hollyoodlife.com, his rap sheet consists of identity theft in the second degree, resisting arrest, gun possession and robbery. Probably the most serious of all is the beating of a minor to a pulp in 2002. But recently, he strutted down a catwalk in New York City, sporting the designs of Philipp Plein, savouring his new-found modelling career.

You would think that his crminal actions would cause outrage in a society that has grown to be offended by the slightest whiff of social injustice. Surprisingly, we instead swoon at the sight of blue eyes and essentially turn a blind eye to a violent past in favour of a pretty face.

One can only imagine the resentment of any struggling model, actor, singer etc. trying to make ends meet while searching for their big break. All the while a criminal sits in jail, his mugshot plastered all over the Internet and a massive opportunity awaiting his release.  Karma must be taking a gap year.

The media spotlight has fallen on Jeremy Meeks in such a way that has perhaps diminished the severity of his crimes. He walks away from his life of crime with notions of being a “heart-throb” attached to his name and a new career on the cards that most may only dream of. Meeks no doubt owes his fame to hundreds of women and gay men alike who religiously shared and liked his famous mugshot across social networks in the days after its release. But would the same prospects have cropped up had “Felon Bae” been a woman?

Researching “celebrity criminals” for this article, there was one name in particular that continuously turned up: Amanda Knox. This was unsurprising given the media circus that ensued throughout the entire proceedings of her trial.

For those of you who may not be aware, Amanda Knox was one of three suspects (the other two of whom were male and were not christened by the media with nicknames) in the murder of Meredith Kercher in 2007. At the time, Knox and Kercher were both students and shared a house in Perugia, Italy. The legal saga lasted almost six years and ended in Knox’s guilty verdict being overturned in 2015.

“How dare they eroticise the person who had been accused of taking my friend’s life”

If you have not already watched the Amanda Knox documentary on Netflix, you may not be aware of the pivotal role the British media, and Nick Pisa (Daily Mail reporter) in particular, played in creating the promiscuous, gun-fanatic “Foxy Knoxy”. Despite being deemed not guilty by the Italian courts, public opinion regarding her innocence remains on the fence. 

Yes, Knox was sexualised by the media similarly to Meeks, but the nickname “Foxy Knoxy” was not associated with a woman with beautiful eyes and it certainly did not land the physically attractive felon a modelling gig in New York Fashion Week. Is this the difference between male and female criminals: the creation of “anti-heroes” and “black widows”, where men are pardoned for their good looks but the physical attributes of women criminals are key components of their criminality?

What has the creation of these glorified media villains done, however? Aside from making a spectacle out of loss and/or hardship suffered by any family or friends involved, attention has been unjustifiably diverted from the ones whom society should be more concerned with – the victims.

“When I arrived home to see ‘Foxy Knoxy’ emblazoned across the tabloid front pages, I hit the roof. How dare they eroticise the person who had been accused of taking my friend’s life. How dare they.”

Monique Rivalland, a close friend to the late Kercher, recalls her disgust at the celebritisation of Knox in “My memories with Meredith Kercher”, a memoir published in The Guardian in 2012. Rivallant is an apt example of those overlooked in these criminal cases. 

In the case of Jeremy Meeks, the young man he brutally attacked may not be any better off financially, psychologically, emotionally or physically. Yet, here he may find himself subjected to reading about his attacker, rubbing shoulders with the high rollers at New York Fashion Week and wallowing in the lifestyles of the rich and famous, not for hard work, determination or any kind of experience, but for a leaked mugshot on his criminal record.

There you have it, kids. If you disregard societal principles, break the law, lie, cheat, steal …  Well it does not really matter as long as you are pretty.

What an example!

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