The following story has less to do with cam than it does with the power of memes and their capacity to skew wider understanding of IRL communities. Let’s consider…
For those of you who may not know, “Florida Man” is a meme of sorts that was popularized all the way back in 2013. In practice, news stories – especially those of which feature “Florida Man” in the headline – were submitted to the Twitter account @_FloridaMan. The account would then, in turn, highlight select unusual or strange crimes or events occurring in Florida.
For instance, here we see one about a “Florida Man” wearing a dog costume:
— Florida Man (@_FloridaMan) February 12, 2019
The meme has been considered extra clever for calling attention to Florida’s (supposed) propensity for unusual events. The Miami New Times, however, noted in 2015 that freedom of information laws in Florida make it easier for journalists to obtain arrest details. This access – not an actual higher number of “unusual” events — is in turn responsible for the plethora of “Florida Man” fodder.
So, put simply (and controlling for population size): Were laws a bit different, there would likely be just as many “Texas Man” or “North Dakota Man” stories going around.
Interestingly, the “Florida Man” Twitter account retired earlier this year. Freddie Campion, the person behind the meme, spoke to The Washington Post about the account and why he’s opted to stop sharing the stories moving forward. It’s a fascinating read that, in sum, attributes Campion’s decision to retire the account to his growing unease with making light of some truly horrific occurrences within wider humanity.
— Florida Man (@_FloridaMan) July 15, 2019
Despite Campion’s change go heart, the “Florida Man” meme has long since taken on a life of its own. As such, we can still find timely-and-terrible news stories that trigger the “Florida Man” response, even some that are connected to webcam.
For instance, I recently saw the following headline via Newsweek, published August 13, 2019: “Florida Man who Killed Parents and Brother for Cutting Off His Relationship with Webcam Model Avoids Death Penalty.”
According to Newsweek‘s coverage:
A Florida man who killed his family after they attempted to end his relationship with the Bulgarian camgirl he funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to has avoided the death penalty for three counts of first-degree murder.
Grant Amato, 30, of Chuluota [Florida], will instead spend life in prison without parole after [last week’s] verdict by the Seminole County courthouse jury, which decided after three hours of deliberations not to recommend a death sentence, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Amato shot dead his parents Chad Amato, 59, and Margaret Ann Amato, 61, as well as his brother Cody Amato, 31, at their home on January 24 following an argument about stealing the money he had sent to the webcam model.
I did not dig through the feed to find it, but all signs point to this being perfect fodder for the “Florida Man” timeline when it originally occurred.
Amato had told police that his family gave him an “ultimatum” when they found out about the money he had been sending — $60,000 (and guns) stolen from his brother and $150,000 from his father, including a loan taken out on his parents’ house. The ultimatum included seeking treatment for internet and sex addiction or leaving the family home. Consequently, Amato began a 60-day treatment program, but he did not complete it.
Upon returning home, Amato’s father gave him a list of rules to follow. Among them was that he break off contact with the model. When Amato continued to stay in touch with her, he was asked to leave. Cody Amato’s girlfriend told police that her boyfriend feared his brother would “kill everyone” — which, obviously was a real fucking fear.
Here’s the thing. Just like the “Florida Man” in the dog costume, it’s easy to get caught up in the Can you believe these people?! aspects of these stories. Like, haha, of course this “relationship” was with a “model” from Bulgaria. (Bulgaria!) And hahahaaaaaa of course that guy was wearing a dog costume — but what if he’d been wearing a cat costume?! That kooky “Florida Man”!
In distancing the ourselves from the truly sad and horrific nature of these “Florida Man” stories — which is easy to do via the filter of the internet — we minimize the actual crimes. Murder is not funny, and neither is beastiality or stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Nor, truly, is the distressed mental state another human person much be in to commit any of these crimes.
On top of all that, it’s also easy to begin shoring up troubling stereotypes — be these stereotypes about batshit weirdos that clearly take up the entire state of Florida (not true) or the predatory nature of cam models, Bulgarian and otherwise. Also, not true, but readers don’t know that.
Erika Chan is a sex positive people watcher (and writer). Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Header image by Nextvoyage via Pexels. Image of Grant Amato via Seminole County Prosecutor.