A Recent History of Free #PrisonBae Campaigns and Backlashes

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The Internet momentarily lost its mind when a mugshot of Jeremy Meeks, a super hot 30-year-old arrested for five counts of gun possession and one gang charge, was posted on the Stockton Police Departments Facebook page. According to the Associated Press, the picture garnered 33,000 likes and comments "praising his high cheekbones, chiseled face and striking blue eyes." 

Since then, as The Root explained, #PrisonBae, #FreeJeremyMeeks and #FelonCrushFriday have become active memes, where fans have photoshopped Meeks into the high fashion campaigns he possibly could have booked if he wasn't "one of the most violent criminals in the Stockton area," as a Stockton PD representative told the AP. Meanwhile, there's a GoFundMe attempting to raise part of his $900,000 bail. No one has donated. After Meeks' wife (sorry, everyone) told him how popular he's become, he said he no longer has gang affiliations, is innocent, and hopes he doesn't have to go back to prison again (he previously served a nine-year term). His mother also maintains he's innocent, writes Jezebel and is trying to raise money for his defense.

Meeks isn't the first suspect to draw sympathy over his good looks. In the last two years, two men in particular — accused Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar "Jahar" Tsarnaev and Colorado movie-theater gunman James Holmes — have developed followings among lovestruck women who were more focused on their looks than their crimes.

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2014: #FreePrisonBae

Compared to past felon crushes, the Meeks backlash has been relatively mild. Most women seem to be joking. "He can kidnap me anyday... Hold me against my will lol," one woman wrote. The problem is the Stockton PD Facebook page, the epicenter of the meme, also has a memorial dedicated to a fallen officer, as The Washington Post notes. Some people understandably find it upsetting that a jokey meme is getting more attention than a deceased cop.

2013: #FreeJahar

After Tsarnaev was arrested in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing last year, a group seemingly made up of teenage girls on Tumblr and Twitter obsessed over him the way teenage girls obsess over Justin Bieber. As we explained at the time, there was a noticeable overlap between actual Beliebers and people who though Tsarnaev was attractive. Even Rolling Stone played into the idea of Tsarnaev as a likable person with a cover many people thought glamorized terrorism

2012: #FreeHolmes

Hybristophilia is the word used to describe people who are sexually attracted to killers and/or violent criminals. Even there are teens on Tumblr who write that the Columbine shooters were cute and misunderstood. But the fans of James Holmes, the alleged gunman in the 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting, shocked the country by starting dozens of Tumblr blogs dedicated to him. Holmes was charged with killing 12 people and injuring 58 others, something his fans seem willing to ignore. "Holmies are fixated on every minute detail of Holmes', from the plaid shirt Holmes was caught in to his bright-red hair, to the few childhood photos that have surfaced," Gawker's Adrian Chen wrote at the time. Several of the blogs have been deleted, but if you search the "Holmies" tag on Tumblr there are still updates on the case, posts about his family and posts in support of him.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.