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What Are Criminals ‘Supposed’ to Look Like?

28 May 2019

From Crime Reads:

When we got home, our house wasn’t as we left it. We stood for a moment, not yet understanding why all our belongings were on the floor, how each drawer had been pulled out, tipped empty. There was a space where my laptop should have been and there were loose wires hanging from the television unit. Our fridge door had been left open, the fuse had burnt out, our food was turning bad. We were in the middle of an oppressive heatwave.

Such hot weather that, in an attempt to air out our suffocating, tiny house, I’d left a small window open downstairs. Stupid, I know now.

‘Oh my god…’ I said, to my boyfriend, as we took it all in. ‘We’ve been burgled.’

‘Yes,’ he said, flatly. ‘Yes we have. Now, don’t panic, don’t touch anything.’

‘We’ve been burgled!’ I wailed, as I panicked, touching everything.

People say the worst thing about a break in is the intrusion, the idea a stranger has been in your house. Yes, I realised, this is true. I felt mildly disgusted as I looked at my underwear strewn across the bedroom. I pictured a man, pale and rail thin, with a harsh face and mean eyes. I saw him stalking through our house, sweating from the midday heat. At that time it felt so personal, so hurtful. I hated him. I pictured him as vividly as I could so I could hate him properly.

Obviously, I would be able to tell just from looking at him that he was a bad person. Isn’t that how it works? They are different to us. Bond villains have scars, cult leaders have swastikas carved into their foreheads, mass-shooters have that crazed look in their eyes. We find safety in these differences between us and them. When these conventions are broken, when the blandly good looking guy next door turns out to have a human head in a freezer, it shocks us. Shouldn’t we have known?

. . . .

My second book One More Lie follows two adults who are living under new identities, after serving their sentences for a crime they committed as children. In the book the female character, Charlotte, captures the imagination of the public more than her accomplice Sean. Sean is dismissed as “exactly the type” who would do such a thing, an angry child with little adult supervision whose story was inevitable. Charlotte, however, is endlessly fascinating to people, especially the press, as she doesn’t look the type. In fact, she looks almost angelic. Big eyes, beautiful. So sweet. People ask, was she led astray, or is there a cunning psychopath behind that smile?

Sometimes, not looking like a criminal can work in a suspect’s favor. Look at the recent success of Jeremy Ray Meeks, whose mugshot went viral after his arrest for…well, it doesn’t matter anymore, does it? Jeremy is no longer a criminal, he is a supermodel, he dates a billionaire’s daughter. And a quick Google of “hot mugshot guy/girl” shows our fascination with this contradiction.

. . . .

Sometimes, being good looking works against the suspect. Amanda Knox was given an inordinate amount of media attention following the murder of her flat mate Meredith Kercher. In the UK she was nicknamed “Foxy Knoxy,” she was also called, “Angel Face,” and her behavior was monitored obsessively. Was she appropriately sad enough about what had happened? Did she conform to the role of secondary victim, or was she a villain? Either way, Amanda Knox fascinated us and it wasn’t to her advantage. Had she been less attractive, might she have escaped our scrutiny entirely?

. . . .

There were no repercussions for those who expressed an attraction to the idea of Knox as a hot murderer, to the fantasy of a sexy dangerous female. Casey Anthony was similarly objectified during the course of her trial. Both women are now released, they are not guilty, and we have moved on.

Or have we? The Netflix series The Ted Bundy Tapes reignited everyone’s interest for a semi-hot serial killer. A trailer was released for the Ted Bundy movie Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile (will I ever be able to recall the title of this movie off the top of my head?) starring Zac Efron as the man himself. And people were…offended? Yes, very offended, because Ted Bundy shouldn’t be sexualized. Those women who said he was hot should be ashamed of themselves. We shouldn’t portray Bundy as good looking and charming and we certainly shouldn’t fancy him, or even a representation of him.

Link to the rest at Crime Reads

Some time ago, PG went on an unusual binge of examining mug shots of criminals from the Southern California gangster era and other locations at the same time, probably in conjunction with him posting a series of Raymond Chandler quotes.

During this frolic, he decided he might possibly suspect some of being criminals based on their appearance, but wouldn’t have identified others.

John Dillinger

 

Books in General, Photography/Images

4 Comments to “What Are Criminals ‘Supposed’ to Look Like?”

  1. Huh, the third mugshot, of Fiori Guiseppe, looks like a stereotypical gumshoe. Like he just stepped out of Central Casting for the role.

    As for Ted Bundy, I don’t get the complaint. His being allegedly good-looking was supposed to be a key factor in luring his victims. Didn’t some of them think they were going on a date with him? Or he was flirting with them? Are we supposed to believe that if he looked like the man in the first mugshot he would have been so successful at this tactic?

    It’s something to keep in mind when writing villains, because some crimes can only plausibly be pulled off (with certain tactics) by people who are good looking or charismatic in some way. Other crimes hinge on seeming to be “respectable” and “above suspicion.” I think Steven Stayner’s kidnapper called himself Reverend Somebody to buy himself deference and respect whenever someone was suspicious of him, or tried to confront him.

    • Felix J. Torres

      Crooks are like most people in one respect: they use what they have. If all they have is muscle, they go thuggish. If they have good looks or charisma, they use social engineering and go grifting or get into politics.

      • And if they are amoral and computer geeks they make a ton of money founding social media companies or working on the dark web.

        • Felix J. Torres

          Morality is overrated, especially at a time of dueling mores and situational ethics. 😐

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