For as much progress as society has made since the “Me Too” movement erupted, all it takes is one sex scandal to remind people things haven’t much changed.
Such is the case with the Police Girl meme, in which pictures of former Tennessee police officer Maegan Hall were used to make sexist jokes about her sex life.
In January 2023, a local news story went viral about a group of officers in the La Vergne Police Department who were under investigation for having sex on the job, on city-owned property. The lone female officer in the investigation was rookie Maegan Hall, who was given an exponentially higher amount of scrutiny from the internet and the press.
Making things worse for her was the revelation that she was married while all of this was happening, her husband unaware of what she was doing.
Her actions were frequently juxtaposed with photos available of Hall, which internet posters used to claim the scandal didn’t make sense.
Some people online were very quick to claim—without reasoning—that Hall does not conform to the image of a type of person you might expect to have multiple threesomes at work while her husband’s unaware.
“They risked it all for THAT?” one popular, rude tweet reacted at the time, with “they” being the male officers and “THAT” being a picture of Maegan Hall.
The phrasing here truly encapsulates the meanspiritedness of the meme; the tweet mocks Hall’s looks and actions, whereas the male officers are critiqued just in terms of taste. That connotation is prevalent thoughout posts.
In this meme, Hall’s misdeeds are a moral failure that needs to be punished; the male officers’ misdeeds are just a dumb risk they took.
Although Hall’s actions were outside of acceptable police conduct—which she was disciplined for—the widespread mockery of only Hall felt fairly malicious in nature.
The subsequent scrutiny of her personal life from tabloids and social media users also started to feel cruel and disproportionate.
It was made worse by the power imbalance between officers—most of the men Hall slept with were her superiors—as well as the later revelations that Hall was dealing with significant mental health problems that the officers were exploiting, something memers neglected to reference.
All in all, four male officers and the police chief were fired for their actions. According to reports, the police chief received nude photos of Hall and was soon removed from his position for impeding the initial investigation.
Hall was let go, but is now suing the department, alleging she was groomed, coerced into performing sex acts, and mistreated.
The Police Girl meme
Popular versions of the Police Girl meme use Hall’s picture as a sort of reaction image. “Don’t push, you can’t take the whole squad,” reads the top section for one popular gaming macro; it refers to a common dilemma in multiplayer shooter games, where trying to shoot down the whole enemy team at once is an inherently risky move. Hall’s photo in the bottom section is labeled as “my teammate.”
The joke is an unsubtle double-entendre: Everyone knows that one videogame player who prefers to risk it all in a shootout rather than play it safe, Leroy Jenkins-style, but we also know that “squad” is a euphemism at Hall’s expense.
Most Police Girl memes basically function as jokes about Hall taking a common saying too literally.
A quintessential version is the one where the hip-hop group N.W.A are in the top image with the caption “Fuck the police,” a lyric from their infamous song. The bottom image is a smiling Hall with the caption “ok.. ;)”
The internet seemed to love this approach to the meme, with most of the memes serving as dirty wordplay jokes with Hall’s face attached.
In an interview, Hall discussed the popularity of the memes, saying, “No woman should ever have to endure this type of abuse. What happened to me at LaVergne Police Department should never happen to anyone,” she said.
Overall, there are precious few Police Girl memes that aren’t meanspirited.
The vast majority of them are just vicious slutshaming with clear misogynist vibes. It’s part of why the meme quickly received some backlash on meme-heavy subreddits, with many users wondering why this random non-celebrity’s personal life was being turned into such a spectacle.
“It’s been five days and I’ve been over this joke for 5 days,” wrote one redditor at the time. When more details came out in subsequent months, revealing that Hall was far more of a victim of a corrupt police department than the initial news and memes made her out to be, users lost their taste for it even more.
Unsurprisingly, the memes about her have gradually died out throughout 2023, which is probably for the best.
Not every viral meme is a winner, and Police Girl never really should’ve been a meme at all.