Why Are Attractive Criminals Media Sensations?

Horrible crimes occur every day in Florida and throughout the United States. Most of these crimes and the people who commit them do not become media sensations or even front-page news. However, certain stories involving attractive alleged criminals seem to grab headlines on the Web, in newspapers and on television.

Take for example, Casey Anthony, a pretty 23-year-old from Orlando who is charged with the first-degree murder of her toddler daughter, Caylee. Casey Anthony is currently being held without bail in the Orange County Jail. If convicted, she faces the death penalty. Granted, this case has many sensational aspects that make it newsworthy, but the widespread media coverage given to Casey Anthony is arguably at least in part due to her good looks.

Another case that made a big splash in the media involved Debra Jean LaFave, a beautiful former model and teacher in Temple Terrace, Florida, who had sex with a 14-year-old student in 2004 when she was 23. She pleaded guilty to statutory rape charges in 2005, blaming her behavior on bipolar disorder. Her defense attorney made headlines after making the controversial statement to the media that “To place Debbie into a Florida state women’s penitentiary, to place an attractive young woman in that kind of hell hole, is like putting a piece of raw meat in with the lions.”

So why do cases involving attractive suspects receive so much publicity and attention? One reason is the old theory that “sex sells.” People like to see pleasing images and pretty faces on magazine covers, in the movies and on TV. By putting attractive criminals on their front pages, newspapers and magazines will attract more buyers. Likewise, stories about beautiful but “bad” people on TV news programs and Web sites will attract more viewers. Good news stories need a “hook,” and a attractive perpetrator is just that. Most people are simply more interested in reading about and seeing images of beautiful people.

Another theory is that many people have a preconceived notion (whether it is right or wrong) that attractive people wouldn’t or couldn’t commit crimes, and so it is surprising and fascinating when a pretty or handsome individual is arrested for or charged with a crime. Society may have a prejudice that crimes are committed by average or even unattractive people. So stories about beautiful criminals get people talking. Whatever the reason, if an alleged offender is attractive, chances are good that he or she will receive more coverage in the news.

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