The Everglades National Park
FIU IDH 4007

South Florida: Rated R For Adults


Larissa Patten
IDH 4007
Spring Semester 2005

   Reading "Skinny Dip" by Carl Hiassen was like taking a microscopic view into the clichés and stereotypes of South Florida. Subtly, Hiassen introduces some of the dramatic themes of his story- sex, money, and corruption while softening the blow with humor and witty sarcasm.

   What most people don't know is that there is a lot of truth lying beneath the humor regarding South Florida's scandalous reputation. There have been several attempts to shine light on the fact that South Floridians are obsessed with sex, money, and public corruption scandals. Take for instance Hollywood's spin on life in South Florida. Motion pictures have done an outstanding job of exaggerating the already existing clichés that surround our towns and neighborhoods. Such movies as Scarface, Miami Rhapsody, Bad Boys, and Some Like It Hot, highlight South Florida's reputation for being less than casual about its "rated R" atmosphere. It's not exactly part of the alluring charm that draws seventy year old tourists every winter. Scarfaceuncovered the truth behind drug use, mainly cocaine, and trafficking in Miami during the 70's. It also heavily touched on the subject of Cuban immigration which is still a highly controversial topic even today. Miami Rhapsody depicted the unconventional love life of an American family in Miami. The mother's adulterous relationship with a younger man, the daughter's secret obsession with the same man, and the brother/son, who was struggling to maintain a healthy marriage in light of his numerous affairs and obsession with models. This storyline would seem more hypothetical if it didn't take place in South Florida. But, given the highly sexual, and often eccentric lifestyle of South Floridian residents, the plot demonstrates what a typical family might encounter and the sexual tendencies of tropical urbanites. Next, Bad Boys brought us an insider's perspective on money laundering, violence, and espionage in the conflicted world of Miami drug trafficking. This story outlined the lives of two policemen and their fight to resist corruption among their own men and the temptation to choose money over justice.

   Now, I know what you're thinking. Movies are just that... movies, they are not real life. However, after some careful researching, I found that there is some truth behind these Hollywood blockbusters and their plots certainly do reflect a certain level of reality here in South Florida.

   First of all, there is a subsidiary of the organization, Office of National Drug Control Policy, called High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA). The purpose of this concept is to closely monitor South Florida's extensive drug trafficking, money laundering, and violent crimes due to drug use. In the hopes that most of these crimes can be reduced, the goal of HIDTA is to eliminate the impact of illicit drug use in other parts of the country. I don't know about you, but it sounds to me, as if South Florida is responsible for the initial spreading and nationwide use of drugs in our country today. It makes sense because of our convenient bridge location to the Central and South Americas, not to mention the Caribbean. We have two major ports of transportation that are the most frequented areas of international travel and exchange in the United States- The Port of Miami and Miami International Airport. These two points create a nexus for maritime smuggling operations. The importing and exporting of narcotics, money laundering, and criminal organizations are primary factors in the illegal activity that gives South Florida a bad name. Due to the continuing growth of fraudulent operations down here, it's no surprise that Carl Hiassen would take advantage of a real life drama for his book, "Skinny Dip". For example, when the character Joey tries to save herself from drowning in the Atlantic Ocean after her husband tries to kill her, she is saved by a floating bag of marijuana that takes her to safety. There is no coincidence that Carl Hiassen uses this opportunity to make a subtle play on the cliché that South Florida is known for its high drug trafficking.

    Another example in which the book, "Skinny Dip" captures the truth behind the clichés, stereotypes, and speculations is when Red Hammernut offers Chaz the five hundred thousand dollars for his debt. Ordinarily this would seem like a nice gesture but when you consider that Hammernut planned to have Chaz killed just to get his money back, you begin to see the author's awareness of money scandals that occur in South Florida. As well as drug traffic, money related scandals top the list of suspicious activity. Miami is ranked third behind New York and Los Angeles as being highly vulnerable to scandals that involve money and public corruption. South Florida has been known to be an international hub for Central American, South American, and Caribbean drug traffickers, money launderers, and a high concentration of immigrant career criminals. With a track record like this, it's no wonder environmental advocates are already questioning the authenticity of the proposed eight million dollars to restore the Everglades. Given the consistent rate at which South Florida continues to produce fraudulent campaigns and corrupted authority figures- it's doubtful the Everglades will see a penny without putting up a fight.

   With good writing material here at home, it's no wonder why Carl Hiassen doesn't need to travel to research new ideas for his books. He can get all the sex, drugs, and scandals he needs to write a thrilling story, right here in South Florida. As for all of this suspicious activity being merely "speculation" and clichés, I believe there is some truth behind the fiction.

This site is designed and maintained by the Digital Collections Center -
Everglades Information Network & Digital Library at Florida International University Libraries
Copyright © Florida International University Libraries. All rights reserved.