i might try doing something like this to make money. it sounds like fun. imagine getting paid to film babes as they show you their boobs in public places! on the other hand maybe my other dream of being a director of porn movies is a better idea because i can probably get laid in the process which is much more fun than looking at some girls boobs. - the webmaster
Video crew finds girls to go 'Wild'
Dave Cruz/The Arizona Republic
From left, Chandler residents Erika Vega, 24, and Anna Pack and Jennifer Vanaman, both 22, join in Girls Gone Wild fun.
By Megan Finnerty
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 1, 2003
Joe Francis has made millions by videotaping young women peeling off their clothes. But he says it's not porn. It's just Girls Gone Wild.
Critics say the video series, which features cameramen and liquor-soaked crowds cajoling "real girls" to lift their tank tops and pull aside their thongs, exploits young women who do things they never would if it weren't for alcohol, peer pressure and cameras.
But call it porn or call it reality television, there's no question that Francis' 83-video series has contributed to a cultural shift among many young women.
The videos are hugely popular. Francis' company reports it did $90 million in sales last year and has signed a deal for a feature film. Girls Gone Wild has helped redefine ideas about self-expression and pornography as the mainstream success of such programming has diluted taboos about public nudity and brazen sexuality.
Related link 12 News video: ASU's 'Girls Gone Wild'?
"I have seen a noticeable change in society in the last five years," said Francis, 29, who took his video cameras to the Tempe nightclub Graham Central Station on Thursday as part of a two-month, 31-city tour.
"Girls are much more free and open now than they were before I started," he said. "Girls wouldn't think about doing that kind of thing, and a guy wouldn't think about asking for it in the past. As far as I see, almost every girl will do this at some point."
Outside the bar, 18-year-old Shannon McGuire was one of about 20 women selected to hang out on the Girls Gone Wild tour bus before taping.
The women drank Finlandia vodka and Red Bull energy drinks, bouncing and singing along to rap hits.
However, McGuire, an Arizona State University freshman, said she wasn't sure she would strip.
"I just wanted to get on the bus," she said. "I think it's cool, but I don't know if I want to do that."
Eternal spring break
Girls Gone Wild creator Francis lives in a world of eternal spring break, populated by young women who accost his camera crew, begging for a chance at immortality. But on a recent Saturday night on Tempe's Mill Avenue, some women questioned how "real" Francis' world is.
"I would do it in a heartbeat!" exclaimed Kari Bernhisel, 26, a Phoenix retail associate.
Bernhisel stood in line with three friends to get into a club.
"It's just fun. They're having a good time and enjoying their bodies," she said.
"I see it as degrading," said her friend, Amy Stevens, 22, an ASU student from Tempe.
"You're like my mom," Bernhisel said, laughing.
"It's all about horny guys. No, it's not. It's all about control. The girls have control."
"It is about control, and the girls are out of it," Stevens said. "They're always so drunk."
Kevin McCarthy, 19, a college athlete from Washington state in town for a fantasy baseball camp, said he has downloaded videos and doesn't think they're degrading.
"I'd think it was cool if I knew a girl who did that," he said.
But Daniel Bernardi, 38, a media arts professor at the University of Arizona, doesn't think it's cool. He said that, although the women choose to "go wild" for the camera, they are also participating in a tradition of exploitation.
The problem is not the content of the tapes but the context.
"People are entitled to go to a beach and have fun and get crazy," he said. "The problem is when it's filmed, put into a narrative context, i.e. the 'reality of Girls Gone Wild,' and downloaded onto a server so that people everywhere can see women as exploited body parts instead of women who went to a beach and had fun."
Bernardi argues that, although the videos may not exploit individual women, they do exploit women as a group.
"Irrespective of an individual's motive, they are participating in a cultural exchange," he said. "The way they are being represented is as sex objects. The answer is not censorship; it's criticism."
Yet Francis insists that Girls Gone Wild titles such as Ultimate Spring Break, Craziest Frat Parties and Sexy Sorority Sweethearts don't qualify as pornography.
Francis, who got his start in 1997 with Banned From Television, a macabre collection of amateur videos depicting car crashes and a shark attack, , said he edits things from Girls Gone Wild that go too far, including graphic sex and women who are "too" drunk.
Furthermore, the videos aren't marketed as porn, and the women featured, by and large, wouldn't consider doing professional pornography.
On Thursday, once the chosen women made their way into the Tempe club (flanked by a VH1 camera crew, several Girls Gone Wild cameramen, Francis' entourage and hundreds of chanting men) they walked into a private area where filming began.
Suddenly, three young women wearing only jeans and strapless bras were laughing and gyrating in a cage. They took off each other's bras, giggling and tipping over and hugging as the camera crew shouted directives.
One of the flashers, Erika Vega, 24, of Chandler, said this was the first time she had done anything like that.
"It's just fun," she said. "It's not like I'm a porn star."
Change of mind
But others have changed their minds after "going wild." Women in several states have sued Francis, saying they were too drunk to consent or didn't know how their images would be used. He said that he has won in court every time and that women can call and ask to be removed from upcoming titles.
At Graham Central Station, dozens of large signs alerted partyers that by entering they consented to be filmed and to appear in videos or commercials. However, although tour producer Dave Graham said the crew asks each prospective flasher her name, age, whether she knows what Girls Gone Wild is and if she consents to be filmed, the screening process was spotty at best.
With or without giving verbal consent, dozens of women flashed the cameras on Thursday. But raw nudity isn't what Francis thinks makes his tapes so popular. The key part is in the push-pull between the cameramen and the girls.
They ask a woman to flash her breasts. She demurs. They ask for a peek. She explains that she's not that kind of girl.
The cameramen tease, the crowd gets wild, and the knowledge dawns on her that she is just one of hundreds of half-naked girls in the videos.
"If I just showed body part after body part, there's nothing special about that," Francis said. "There's a relationship that develops in each segment where you get to know each girl. It's about having fun, not exploitation."
As evidenced by the tapes, it's also about alcohol. Beer bottles clink at the women's feet. Drinks are put down to free up skirt-lifting hands.
But it's not just alcohol getting these women to loosen up. It's the camera itself.
Since its debut in 1997, the series has sold young men the mistaken idea that it's normal for "real women" to take off their clothes at parties.
Scott Parrish, 20, another Washington baseball player, said Girls Gone Wild represents reality: "I've seen girls at parties take off their clothes, dance with each other, make out."
But when pressed, Parrish acknowledged that the one time he saw women get naked, cameras were involved.
"There were guys there (at the party) with cameras who said they were with Girls Gone Wild," he said. "They weren't."
He laughed about the stunt.
On Thursday at the club, where men outnumbered women 20-1, cameras made all the difference. As soon as the crew focused on a few girls dancing in the big cages, they stopped gyrating and started stripping each other. They buried their faces in each other's chests. They simulated sex. All while hundreds of men screamed encouragement.
Grace Parker, 18, a student at ASU, did a strip show.
"I told my friends I would do it," said the tan, petite blonde. "I feel great now; it was fun. But give me 20 minutes and I'll probably regret it."
The night culminated in a talent contest in which one "wild girl" was selected to represent Tempe on a pay-per-view Girls Gone Wild show.
Her inhibitions overcome, it was ASU freshman McGuire, jumping up and down in her jaunty white newsboy cap.