Do all criminals have something in common? Are there certain characteristics that society associates with criminals? In her article, “Buff and Busted: Criminalizing Men”, Linsdey Feldmen (a current PhD student of socio-anthropological studies at the University of Arizona) discusses the case of Jeremy Meeks. An apparent social media phenomenon over the last few months, Meeks has grabbed the attention of social media for not only the crime he has committed but something much more valued by society today: his appearance. Frequently called “hot mug shot guy”, Meeks has attracted much attention by his pale blue eyes and arguably fantastic bone structure. Feldman challenges the concept of masculinity and hegemony in this article – Would a woman be noticed and recognized in the same way if she too were beautiful and wearing that infamous shade of prison orange?
The answer is mostly likely no. Feldman comments on Meek’s male sexual prowess as a complete game changer regarding his social media attention: “As much as classifying him as a felon or criminal is dehumanizing, the fact that he’s a hot male felon at least gives him something to build from” (Feldman). This circulates around hegemonic masculinity: a social hierarchy in which not only the most dominant men benefit from but any man “is capable of drawing on the ideals and ideologies of the top hegemonic level, thus always being complicit in male domination” (Feldman). Meeks does indeed receive benefits from his social media attention.
These observations lead directly to the discussion of stereotyping and idealizations. Society frequently characterizes men in prison as evil, ugly, and mean. This does not distract from the crime Meeks has committed, but according to Feldman, affords “Meeks and other hot, busted dudes a small leg-up in this regime of cauterization and social branding”. Meeks, though he does indeed satisfy the “tough” prison standard complete with tattoos on his body and face, demands more attention. Criminals are not “supposed to be” handsome (through society’s ideals), much like homosexual men are not “supposed to be” and are not immediately accepted as masculine, as frequently discussed in C.J. Pascoe’s Dude You’re a Fag. Feldman argues, “…the way masculinity operates–as something that may help justify or correct–always seems to be the same”. It is that same justification that leads people to think twice (or not think at all) about stereotypes that involve masculinity and the benefits they allow.