TV | April 23, 2022 7:00 am

New Documentary Revisits the Toxic Legacy of “Girls Gone Wild”

An unsettling moment in pop culture history

Joe Francis
Joe Francis CEO of Mantra Films and creator of "Girls Gone Wild" holds a press conference at the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel on March 13, 2008.
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

There are some moments in pop culture history that seem, in retrospect, like an utterly horrible mistake on the part of all involved, creators and viewers alike. The very existence of the Girls Gone Wild franchise definitely falls into that category; we’re a long ways from “hasn’t aged well” when we talk about it. But the series’s legacy isn’t just one of rampant sexism and awful taste, and a new documentary offers a look into just how bad things got.

As befitting an exposé on all things Girls Gone Wild, the documentary is called Girls Gone Wild Exposed. (It’s part of TNT’s Rich & Shameless series.) A new article at The Guardian explores some of the documentary’s findings — and the word “nightmarish” would not be an exaggeration.

“[T]here are people whose lives are still being impacted,” the film’s director, Katinka Blackford Newman, told The Guardian. What Blackford Newman describes in the interview is a system of unethical behavior and outright physical abuse lurking just below the surface of the series. Some of the women she spoke with for the documentary spoke of never giving permission for their images to be used in the series before winding up featured there regardless.

It gets much worse from there.

There’s also Francis’s history of physical abuse, including his 2013 conviction for assaulting a trio of women. More recently, he was arrested on charges of domestic violence. But Francis’s ties to numerous celebrities are also well-documented — something Blackford Newman told The Guardian she hoped to address in the documentary. The heyday of the Girls Gone Wild series is long behind us, but — unfortunately — the legacy remains.