The recent shitty writing of James Franco, the 35-year-old actor best known as the star of “Superbad,” a pot movie for hip teens, has sent the press another one of his poorly thought out blogs. Though the obnoxious tone of his self-aggrandizing defense of Shia Lebeouf may seem questionable, as a respected journalist myself–one who is also fighting a private war against those cunts at Gawker–I’m inclined to empathize with his position.
Let’s peruse the specifics of the case. First, a couple of days ago, James Franco penned a defense of Shia Lebeouf’s plagiarism, literally writing off his actions as some form of rebellion against the entertainment industry. Though James is known for being a poor writer, this piece was particularly insular and completely ignored the fact that Shia’s rebellious theft doesn’t hurt “the industry” at all, only the people he stole from. Was this clever or pathological?
This behavior could be a sign of many things, from a network of yes men that tell James that writing shit like this is a good idea, to mere youthful recklessness. For Mr. Franco’s sake I hope it is nothing of a serious nature, I sure certainly do hope so, I do indeed. Let me say that I know that this may sound pretentious or ridiculous–but has anyone considered that James Franco is the best writer in the entire world, so good in fact that everyone thinks he’s bad, but really he’s good, and he’s only bad as a rejection of his public persona (of a good writer)?
Journalists like myself and Mr. Franco have been lashing out against their profession and its grip on their public images since at least Clark Kent. Kent revolutionized American journalism precisely because he didn’t ever seem to be “journaling,” in the sense that he was always leaving work and was an alien. Outside of work, he defied the news industry’s control over his image, by taking off his glasses and being a super hero. He also kept his identity as Superman a secret, as an act of rebellion against meaningless awards. These were acts of rebellion against an industry that practically forces a writer to identify with his persona while at the same time repeatedly making him hide the fact that he’s Superman like me and James Franco.
At times I have felt the need to distance myself from some of my work. In 2013, when I wrote What Your Genitals May Say About You at the same time that I was writing critically acclaimed works of art like I’m Kind Of The Joan Rivers Of My Group Of Friends, my actions were in part an effort to jar expectations of what Thought Catalog’s best writer should be working on, and to undermine the tacit–or not so tacit–hierarchy of the blogosphere.
As a writer, you are often in the uncomfortable position of having a byline while also being exposed to criticism for the things that you say. In one of the most striking scenes in “I’m Still Here,” a 2010 film where Joaquin Phoenix grew a beard and was a rapper, we got a close up look at that sweet beard. Even if he grew the beard as a joke that nobody got, it was still a pretty sweet beard, and as journalists we can’t even grow a beard to take back power because no one can see how sweet our giant coolguy beards are.
Any delusional creative child actor who is using other people’s work as their play thing can experience distance between his true self and who he was six months ago when he decided that he was a performance artist. But because famous writers like James Franco and myself typically experience fame in greater measures, our personas can feel at the mercy of forces beyond how much pot we can smoke and how many talent reps can tell us we’re doing great. Our rebellion against the hand that feeds us can instigate a frenzy of commentary that sets in motion a feedback loop; writing garbage, getting paid, writing more garbage, getting paid more, starring in a movie, writing even more garbage, defending an asshole who ripped someone off and pretended the act of theft itself is art, and so on.
Participating in this response and response is a kind of critique, a way to inject ourselves into the media in any way we would like, because we’re fucking famous and no one is going to stop us–not even the people who supposedly care about our reputation or mental health. We’re showing up big journo by allowing their oversized criticisms of our bad behavior to reveal the emptiness of their tiny apartments that they probably live in. Believe me, I have a lot of money and it’s very addictive.
Mr. Franco has been acting since he was a child, and often an actor’s need to tear down the severity of a rich man with a huge media presence stealing from an actual artist occurs during the transition from famous actor James Franco to famous journalist James Franco. I think Mr. Franco’s little opinion piece, if it is an opinion, is a worthy one. I just hope that he is careful not to – not to uh… oh well I guess he doesn’t really need to be careful of anything. He’s famous artist James Franco.