Pretty is as pretty does, except perhaps for one Central Valley inmate who is making the Internet swoon.
Jeremy Meeks is being held on $900,000 bail for assorted gang and weapons charges like being a felon possessing a loaded firearm and ammunition. Not so attractive. But the man’s face? Based on the viral reaction of the Internet and television media you’d think Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Denzel Washington collectively got popped by the fuzz and took a shirtless group booking photo.
The 30-year-old Meeks was nearly immediately nicknamed by TMZ (and I’m not making this up) Dreamy McMug after his booking photo was posted on Facebook by the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office and became social media eye candy. The sheriff also released three other men arrested as part of its Operation Ceasefire aimed at robberies and shooting in a particular part of town. The other three must of been less blessed in the genetics department because Meeks is the only one at the center of attention.
Oh my goodness, the world cooed. How could a man like that be a criminal? Oh, he can steal my heart anytime!
Among the best posts: “I would go to prison for aiding and aBEDding him” and “What is he guilty of? First degree sexiness!”
Set Meeks’ alleged crimes and criminal past aside. The crazy reaction is less about him having the face that launched a thousand tweets — #FelonCrush, seriously? — and more about how nutty and fickle the world can be. Or rather, some of the folks in it.
The Jeremy Meeks Fan Club is not just individual admirers barely three degrees away from being prison pen pals and Death Row groupies but also national news agencies. There is TMZ and Inside Edition but there is also less info-tainment outlets like television news stations, New York Magazine and USA Today jumping into the fray. The Daily Mail in the United Kingdom. Yes, crazy has jumped the pond. Just yesterday, new reports say a few modeling agencies claim Meeks can command thousands of bucks because “gangster models” are a hot commodity in haute couture.
Widespread attention to mug shots is nothing new but usually it’s because of the celebrity involved. Any number of B-list DUI shots. Hugh Grant’s sheepish picture for the infamous Divine Brown encounter. The super-grinning former House majority leader Tom DeLay.
Notice often comes too because of irony. The man arrested for child abuse wearing a “world’s best dad T-shirt” or the intoxicated driver sporting a shirt that reads “one tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.”
Crazy eyes, weird piercings and facial tattoos also muster some viral trends.
And for his part, Meeks does have plenty of tattoos. There’s a lovely Crip tattoo on his arm. Some indistinguishable images or names on the sides of his neck. Another image is a teardrop which carries various meanings, including an indication that the bearer has killed someone. In Meeks’ case, though, that inky droplet is right next to a pair of pretty blue eyes in a face that, with varying degrees, the world seems to find attractive. He might not be America’s next top model to everybody, but compared to the typical mugshot — in which often even the pretty people aren’t exactly looking their best — he is a treasure.
At Meeks’ arraignment, reports say his family appeared but so did television cameras. A case that wouldn’t otherwise get more than blip on the police blotter is suddenly the hottest criminal ticket since Justin Bieber and Lindsay Lohan had their respective run-ins with the law. And for what? Because he’s pretty.
There’s a reason why we save the butterflies and swat at the moths. And there’s a grain of truth in the idea that beauty carries a lot more weight than a stellar personality or moral compass. Take Meeks’ resume on paper without the photo and he’s just another poster child for the thug life. But flash his face and for some the only thing criminal about him is his level of hotness.
The question is how long cyberspace’s newest man crush will last before being replaced by a piano-playing cat or celebrity selfie. Meeks better enjoy his 15 minutes of fame because if prosecutors get their way he’s looking at a lot longer time than that behind bars.
If so, maybe he’ll make a model inmate.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. Follow Michelle on Twitter @michellemdurand What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com.