Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Mugshots, A Disorganized Rant

I actually had at least two different posts in semi-stages of completion heading into the end of this week. “I’m in good shape,” I said to myself. “No problem this time around. Just, which post do I go with?”

Until yesterday happened.

Actually, what happened happened two days ago. On that day, International Talk Like A Pirate Day, border agents cried out, “Avast! Prepare to be boarded!” to singer/songwriter, Fiona Apple. They climbed aboard her tour bus and found some amount of hashish, which Apple claimed as hers, and arrested her.

The news hit yesterday morning, all sorts of jokes going around playing off the lyrics of Apple’s song, Criminal, from way back in 97. That didn’t bother me. The jokes were obvious, and my world wasn’t rocked by the arrest: I like her music, but wouldn’t consider myself a ‘fan’, exactly. What happened later, however, did bother me.

Sometime in the afternoon, the deejay at one of my favorite radio stations (a deejay who actually featured Apple during the lunch hour last week) posted Apple’s mugshot on the station’s Facebook page. The Criminal jokes being all used up, she commented on Apple’s height–or lack thereof–instead. Not too many people commented, and the comments were largely neutral or mildly supportive of Apple, but the whole thing rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it was the TMZ watermark across the mugshot.

Now, I’m no celebrity apologist. I’m not going to defend Apple, or claim she was set up or unfairly targeted. Nor am I going to turn this into a soapbox about the drug laws in this country. Simply put, she broke the law. She made a bad decision, and now she has to pay the consequences, which will include lost revenue (I understand she’s already had to cancel one concert), the possibility of prison time, and public ridicule. I wouldn’t worry about her alienating her fan base; fans are pretty forgiving. Apple is going to have to suffer the consequences of her actions, and that’s the way it should be. What bothers me, though, is that mugshot. My initial reaction, upon seeing it, was, “How did they get that? That’s just not right.”

It’s silly, of course. We’ve seen celebrity mugshots before: Nick Nolte, Robert Downey, Jr., Mel Gibson, Lindsay Lohan, Lindsay Lohan, Lind– err, sorry. Anyway, it’s nothing new. None of those mugshots bothered me all that much; perhaps Apple’s was sort of the last straw for me, or maybe there was something different about hers, I don’t know. Anyway, I know that mugshots are part of the public record. Depending on the criminal, it may be the only photo readily available for the news. What bothered me, though, was how exploitative this felt, and how unnecessary. Maybe because it wasn’t in service of the news.

In a curious case of convergence, later in the day, this story splashed its way across my home page, and this bothered me even more than Apple’s rather pitiful mugshot. The short end of it is, if you’ve ever been arrested for anything, spitting on the sidewalk in Sheboygan, DUI, driving without insurance, whatever, there’s a good chance your mugshot is out there, prominently-displayed on one of those websites. Think about that for a minute. Again, it’s a matter of public record, but it just feels wrong to me, especially when said websites will remove it–for a fee. That feels even more exploitative to me than using Mel Gibson’s or Lindsay Lohan’s or Fiona Apple’s mugshot to drive traffic.

5 Responses

  1. Well that's the whole problem in a nutshell in this country, and a few others: everything is open for entertainment purposes. That's all it is, the basis for a laugh, a joke, a reason to tune in, maybe feel better about yourself for being less of a loser. Just look at cable news. There's no substance, just talking heads hired to argue & bash any and all those in the public eye. And people tune in, the very same who scream that nothing ever gets done in government. But they're the reason. They don't really want compromise & closure. They enjoy the display; it's entertainment for them. When will Americans stop putting celebrities on a pedestal then laughing and pointing when they fall off. It's disgusting and I'm embarrassed to be a part of this society. People really need to get their priorities straight. Sorry, rant over.

  2. People can be shallow and cruel. There is something About celebrity-Dom that makes people believe that they have the right to rip the person to shreds when they cross a line or make a mistake. As if we don't make mistakes ourselves. as if we would want to have our transgressions in the spotlight so we can suffer public humiliation.

    Recently what bugged me was what happened to Kristen Stewart. I mean yes, she had an affair it was stupid, but it was also being placed at her door completely. Everyone got behind the Trampire thing, and seemed to forget it was her producer and an older man at that . I have no particular love for Kristen, but I think what happened was wrong

  3. I'm not a fan of the idea that celebrities are targeted with mug shots and stuff when they do something wrong more than normal people. Everyone makes such a big deal when a celebrity gets in a bit of a pickle, but there's not so much hype when your every day fella does it. Not unless it's something REALLY big. *sigh* The warped ways of society…

  4. Thanks for the comments, all. Nancy, no need to worry about ranting. It isn't just celebrities, though. Just this weekend I noticed a sidebar ad on a page somewhere, wish I could remember what it was, but it touted finding anyone's arrest records. It was presented, though, as some sort of joke, like 'funny arrest records' (and not as the sometimes amusing 'things people say in court' or 'world's stupidest criminals').

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