Yesterday we wrote about the Florida Man challenge, a viral phenomenon that has people googling their birthday and “Florida Man” to see which ridiculous headline pops up. The trend has once again thrust our state’s dirty laundry into a national spotlight.
I have conflicting feelings about Florida Man. Weird crimes and wacky characters are as much a part of living here as hurricanes and alligator sightings. Journalists are obligated to report on the things that are newsworthy, which includes events that occur under unusual circumstances.
Florida Man stories can also be problematic. The strange factors that make for the funniest headlines often take the focus away from the victims of crimes or people who have been harmed. The stories can also make a punchline out of individuals who are mentally ill or struggle with substance abuse. We often forget that these are actual human beings.
'Florida Man' stories often exploit poor and/or mentally ill people for clicks— Ben Conarck (@conarck) March 21, 2019
There’s no denying that the Florida Man meme is firmly wedged into our state’s identity. But just because it’s a part of who we are doesn’t mean that it’s all we have to offer.
Florida has contributed a lot to the world, from creative innovators and performers to inventions that make our life better. Here are some things from Florida to be proud of.
Inventions and innovations
If you’re a fan of air conditioning and refrigeration, you can thank John Gorrie. He invented the life-changing technology in Apalachicola during the 1800s. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford both had homes in Fort Myers. Philip Don Estridge, of Jacksonville, helped develop the IBM personal computer. Additionally, brands like Spanx and Lily Pulitzer were both invented in Florida.
You can also thank the state for Publix, key lime pie, Famous Amos Cookies (invented by Tallahassee-born Wally Amos) and Clearwater-based breastaurant Hooters. Thirsty? How about a refreshing Gatorade, or frozen concentrated orange juice, also from Florida.
Florida is also the originator of the Sunshine Law, which has gone on to be the blueprint for open-record laws across the country. This is a big reason why we are able to report on bizarre news stories: There’s simply more information out there.
- Maya Rudolph (Gainesville)
- Faye Dunaway (Bascom)
- Wesley Snipes (Orlando)
- Sarah Paulson (Tampa)
- Bob Ross (Daytona Beach)
- Norman Reedus (Hollywood)
- Brittany Snow (Tampa)
- Josh Gad (Hollywood)
- Ariana Grande (Boca Raton)
- Ray Charles (born in Georgia, but grew up in Greenville, Fla.)
- Debbie Harry (Miami)
- Julian Cannonball Adderley (Tampa)
- Pat Boone (Jacksonville)
- Jim Morrison (Melbourne)
- Jason Derulo (Miami)
- T Pain (Tallahassee)
- Flo Rida (Carol City)
- Rick Ross (Carol City)
- Pitbull (Miami)
- Tom Petty (Gainesville)
- Bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Matchbox Twenty, the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC all formed in Florida.
Writers who did some of their most notable work in Florida
- Zora Neale Hurston (Eatonville)
- Carl Hiassen (Plantation)
- Dave Barry (Miami)
- Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (Cross Creek)
- Ernest Hemingway (lived in Key West)
- Judy Blume (lives Key West and owns a bookstore there)
- Shel Silverstein (lived in Key West)
- Jack Kerouac (lived in St Petersburg for quite some time)
- There are many more, as Colette Bancroft writes.
What other contributions has Florida made to the world? Let us know in the comments below.
Times staff writer Craig Pittman contributed to this report.