By Timothy Dillon
Joe Francis, founder of Girls Gone Wild. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Beads. To young adult heterosexual males, they are a primitive form of currency. You can only buy one thing with them, and that’s a glimpse at a most sought after commodity. One whose supply is strictly controlled and whose security is trusted to the ever supportive Victoria’s Secret. This mindset can be attributed to the ’90s but moreover it is the brainchild of Joe Francis.
Francis is the founder of the Girls Gone Wild film franchise. The films depicts young women in a compromised state, which is to say, likely inebriated and being persuaded into partial nudity in exchange for the admiration of those filming her and those in her immediate vicinity. The objectification of women has arguably never been more blatant, and for a while, Francis was able to capitalize on this market of human dignity with undeniable demand. What could go wrong?
A Changing Scene
Forgetting Francis’ legal troubles for a moment, one thing that the company has faced trouble with was adapting to a new crowd. When Girls Gone Wild began 1997, the social media revolution was still a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye. Francis had no way of predicting the taming effect that sites like Twitter and Facebook would have. Granted, the site did introduce a blog and eventually adopted a Twitter handle, but to no avail.
Now, the franchise is comprised of more than just breasts on the street videos from New Orleans’s Mardi Gras and celebratory occasions. Since the rise of the internet, the company has been quick to adapt, moving to online sales, softcore, and hardcore pornographic series, as well as an array of compilations. In an industry with constant demand, somehow, their niche market of depicting girls breaking with their former plain demeanor in favor of topless antics fell apart. No doubt the companies legal troubles are to blame.
A Night To Regret
During an altercation involving three women in his home, on January 29th, 2011, Francis assaulted one of the women and held them against their will for an extended period of time. Francis now awaits sentencing, which could leave him serving up to five years in prison. The press has not been good for the company, which, as noted, had already declared bankruptcy, likely to deal with financing the legal defense for Francis.
It doesn’t look good for a company that objectifies women to have a CEO who also assaults them, but this is hardly the first brush with the law that Francis has had. In 2007, Francis spent a relatively brief stint in jail, just 35 days. In addition, he has experienced well documented money problems, from tax evasions (which he settled with a plea deal) as well as refusing to pay a gambling debt to a Las Vegas casino.
In regards to his most recent legal trouble after his conviction, Francis told E! News, “I have done nothing wrong. This is a total joke. It did not happen and that mentally challenged jury should be put in jail.”
While the franchise has certainly left its mark on a culture of people who stay up past midnight watching television (the normal time frame for Girls Gone Wild ads), the company hasn’t been completely void of emotion.
Not All Bad
New Orleans, the epicenter of Mardi Gras shenanigans and beads for breasts exchange, was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. In response, the company decided to give back to a city that had given so much.
Girls Gone Wild issued a statement saying they would donate 100 percent of the revenues from Mardi Gras themed DVDs as well as Doggystyle, the company’s most successful film. The donation was said to be addressed to the Red Cross to help in the disaster relief and amounted to the tens of thousands.
Beyond this act of kindness to a city that has given them so much material, back in 2004, they decided to give women a break. Guys Gone Wild was a brain child of the company looking to provide equal treatment of the sexes. The only problem was this didn’t really do that. The original film series typically depicted girl on girl make out sessions, but in the guy equivalent, there was none, despite being a large market for male homosexual pornography. The series was marketed to young heterosexual women, and so while it was keeping with bringing a fairness in terms of content, it lacked the financial gains the company could have hoped for.
Are the Wild Girls Gone For Good?
In the end, with a poorly behaved CEO, a shifting market, tamer crowds, and generally bad business decisions, no measure of finding equality for the sexes or altruistic act is going to be able to save this business, though the brand still survives. Theoretically they could be bought out and incorporated by a similar business, but with so much bad press still fresh, it will interesting to see who would want to adopt the now thoroughly gutted franchise.