Blame it on Brad.
Brad is an old friend from way back. He also is a true scholar, and when I was working on my Redneck Riviera book, he was quick to volunteer to toss a mullet with me.
He also took it upon himself to help me find material I needed for my study of coastal culture. So it followed naturally that when I told him I was looking into the “Girls Gone Wild” controversy that erupted at Panama City Beach in 2000 (and sent the owner of GGW briefly to jail), Brad went out of his way to check adult toy and video stores to find a copy of “Girls Gone Wild: The Seized Video” for me. Even watched it himself to make sure it was relevant.
But I am getting ahead of the story here.
Although spring break at PCB has always attracted the young and the restless, in 2000 the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau launched a campaign to attract even more. So it followed that on a cold, dark, damp, winter day, college students opened their campus newspaper and out fell a slick, colorful insert that, when unfolded, revealed a poster of a bikini-clad young lady and the invitation to come on down and “play out your Spring Break Fantasies.”
Although the advertisement was aimed at young men, the advertisers knew that girls went “where the boys are,” so the message would reach them, as well.
And one of the girls it reached was Lindsey Bullard, a 14-year-old from Georgia.
Now, high school (or, in her case, junior high) students were doing spring break at the coast years before it became a college ritual. And local law enforcement say they are more trouble than the college kids because they are less concerned about the consequences of their actions.
Which gets us back to Ms. Bullard.
And my buddy Brad.
A few weeks ago, my ever vigilant friend, recalling my interest in spring break doings, sent me a link to an article. The headline immediately caught my eye.
“State high court hears arguments in ‘Girls Gone Wild’ case.”
Well, naturally, I thought the state was Florida and the case was tied up in some way with the previous charges against GGW for filming underage girls without their shirts on.
I was half right.
Like the previous cases, this one did involve an underage girl being filmed. However, it was Georgia’s high court that was hearing the case because that is where Lindsey Bullard is from.
What happened was this.
In April 2000, Ms. Bullard (who then was known as Lindsey Boyd) went to Panama City Beach for spring break. While there, she was walking with two girls when they were approached by a couple of guys with a video camera. The guys asked the girls to show them their breasts, Bullard did, the guys took pictures, and in return they gave the girls some plastic beads.
No thought of the consequences.
So the guys sold the pictures to GGW and the next thing Ms. Bullard knew, her image was on the cover of the “Girls Gone Wild, College Girls Exposed” with a banner — “Get Educated” — covering her “naughty bits.”
The image also appeared on TV commercials and online advertisements.
Naturally, her fellow students and teachers saw her and she got picked on — “bullied” according to the article — which caused her to suffer “great mental anguish.”
Now, I can see a 14-year-old boy surfing the web for GGW clips and finding Ms. Bullard and bringing it up to her at an inopportune time, which, of course, any time would be. However, the thought of a teacher watching GGW ads and videos (except for research purposes) and then admitting they did by harassing the girl they recognized doesn’t quite pass the stupid test.
So she sued.
That was 2004.
For the next eight years, the case wound its way through the Georgia justice system until it reached the highest court in the state, where soon a decision will be rendered.
Now, I am not going to comment on the merits of her suit, which revolves around her image being misappropriated for commercial purposes. Georgia law is, as one judge wrote, “very scant” on the subject.
Instead, I am going to use this as an instructive example of why 14-year-old girls (including the one who lives in my house) should keep their shirts on — especially (but not exclusively) if there is a guy with a video camera lurking about.
Actions have consequences, as Lindsey Bullard has sadly found out.
Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. Email: email@example.com.