Until a few days ago, 30-year-old Jeremy Meeks was a convicted felon living in Stockton and depending on who you believe, was either a man trying to turn his life around or one of the city’s most violent criminals.
Though the truth may be somewhere in the middle, Meeks has become an example of the worst consequences of our social media-obsessed society. By Friday, his anonymity was destroyed forever when his mug shot went viral, generating worldwide coverage. Why? Because Meeks is a handsome, tall, slim, tatted, blue-eyed biracial Black man with chiseled cheekbones that took one of the most photogenic non-celebrity mug shots in history.
Since then, his family, including his wife, his mother, his brother, his children and everyone associated with him has been put under a microscope while his character, sexuality, criminal history and violent tendencies have been commented on and judged by total strangers.
The attention inspired not just several memes which Photoshopped him into designer ads, but a vicious backlash towards women who liked or commented on his photo, and social media dissertations on the prison-industrial complex, Black people and colorism and speculation that his white wife is a gun moll who’s down for her thug life man either because of, or in spite of, the fact that he’s Black.
As everyone picks apart his life on social media, including those who believe this is a chance at redemption given his previously undiscovered model potential, Meeks remains in a Stockton jail with bail set at a million dollars while the Internet and the world moves onto The Next Hot Internet Sensation, whatever that turns out to be. Unfortunately, as Meeks himself has said in a jailhouse interview, the attention he never solicited and isn’t in a position to take advantage of, doesn’t help him at all.
Meeks’ 15 minutes of fame angered many men who were apparently unaware that they can be just as objectified as most women are used to being on a regular basis. Through the same social media outlets that made Meeks a sensation, these men sniped at women, calling those who said Meeks was “hot” lonely and desperate THOTS who would do anything for a pretty man. We’re sure those women actually exist, since there are several notorious cases of convicted felons with wives, girlfriends and pen pals. But we don’t have the time here to fully explore that pathology.
We’ll go on a limb an say that many women simply took a look at a hot dude in a mug shot and joked about the possibilities of hooking up with him and then went right on with their real lives.
In other words, Meeks experienced what any good-looking woman with attractive Instagram pics deals with every single day. Yes, men, women objectify you, with the same thirst that you do for any hot celebrity chick or Instagram or Tumblr celebrity. Sorry to disappoint you.
As for those who believe admiring the genetic gifts of a convicted felon glorifies thug life – if you‘ve ever watched The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, or any number of other TV shows and movies that deal with anti-heros, crime, criminal activity or murder and violence, then you’ve done the same.
As far as Blacks and colorism – we can’t say that it doesn’t exist. But isn’t the reverse true as well – that light-skinned, biracial Black people often deal with the most sickening assumptions heaped on them by those who automatically deem them stuck-up, conceited, or snobbish, while questioning their Blackness simply by virtue of skin color? We daresay Meeks is proof that being light-skinned and cute doesn’t keep you from being caught up.
Meeks is jailed on weapons charges and has been accused of other crimes. He has not been convicted. His criminal history notwithstanding, he deserves the due process any other person accused of a crime should get. Given his alleged status as a gunrunner, you’d think there would be profit enough for him to get a pricey lawyer, yet he has a public defender and his mother has started a GoFundMe account to help pay his bail.
I can’t possibly argue Meeks’ innocence or guilt and am not trying to. That will happen at his trial, long after most folks have forgotten about him. The sad part is, as many people have pointed out, he’s just a very good-looking example of a multitude of Black men who face incarceration, probation, overcharging, detention, false arrest, imprisonment and racial profiling all across America. That some posters took time away from Meeks’ admittedly mesmerizing baby blues to recognize his possible plight as part of the laughable pattern of criminal injustice perpetuated on Black men is the valuable part of this story.
Meeks may indeed be deserving of all this karma because he’s a violent felon who should be off the streets. Or he could be, like many young Black men, someone who faced limited choices and made all the wrong ones. Either way, he deserves his day in court and his life, regardless of how pretty he is, handed back to him, instead of becoming the latest fodder our social media entertainment.