james-francoMy goal today is to write about something other than celebrity. I’ve been to that well far too often. After much soul searching I have settled on the topic of James Franco. Don’t worry. He’s a performance artist, not a celebrity.

I’ll also try to stay away from politics and religion. Of course, that presupposes you might be polite company. Call it a leap of faith on my part. Besides, this is purportedly a fun humor kind of blog. I’m still not sure what I’m doing here. This place is advertised as “Hilarious comic-tary on news, views and attitudes. Every Saturday morning.” I guess I better wake up and start writing. And two of out three ain’t bad.

Long story short: James Franco is chagrined. He is embarrassed. He is contrite. He’s currently appearing on his personal apology tour and saying things like, “I used bad judgement.”

Selfies are something new to me, but as I have become increasingly addicted to Instagram, I have been accused of posting too many of them. I was called out on the “Today” show, and have even been called the selfie king.

I am actually turned off when I look at an account and don’t see any selfies, because I want to know whom I’m dealing with. In our age of social networking, the selfie is the new way to look someone right in the eye and say, “Hello, this is me.”

Source: James Franco, “The Meanings of the Selfie,” The New York Times, December 26, 2013

Actors have been lashing out against their profession and its grip on their public images since at least Marlon Brando. … As an actor, you are often in the uncomfortable position of being the most visible part of a project while having the least amount of say over its final form.

Source: James Franco, “Why Actors Act Out,” The New York Times, February 19, 2014

Before I could have a voice about this subject, though, I had to educate myself about the scandal. So I went to the Google News and searched for “james franco.” Hmm, only “788 more articles.” I hate it when the internet goes dry! Why, just the other day I searched for something really important and only got two results. It’s nice to see that some things still work like they should. Because, priorities.

Clearly, Franco is a deep thinker. He’s pondering and chasing the big thoughts. His writings seem to indicate that he’s preoccupied with ideas and symbolism regarding his chosen profession, the cult of celebrity, projection of image, the illusion of control, the concept of identity and more. That’s the lofty explanation. On the other hand, perhaps he’s just an ego-driven narcissist.

As a celebrity myself, I know what’s like to be tempted to interact with a fan. So far, though, I’ve resisted the urge. No one deserves that. I’m hideous. Don’t look at me! I’m an animal! (Yep, no selfies here.) What’s the word for anti-narcissist?

So, what exactly happened in this Franco event? These are the facts. The first time I read about this, the writer, in an ass-covering move, was careful to use the word “allegedly” a lot. Since then Franco has mea culpa’d every chance he gets. (More on that in a bit.)

Franco and a 17-year-old female Scottish tourist had a text conversation on Tuesday after a chance encounter. Upon seeing the Franco in person, the girl shot video of the him prompting Franco to say, “You gotta tag me.” I’m pretty sure he’d say the same thing if, for example, it was me shooting the video instead. Yum.

The girl followed his instructions, he was notified of the upload via the social media sphere, and then came the important questions, like: “Are you 18?” The answer was “no.” Although visiting New York for a birthday present, the big day hadn’t arrived yet. Luckily, in New York, the age of consent is only 17. Nothing illegal going on here. The first in a long line of coincidences? Hmm!

Hint: If you haven’t figured it out yet, we all should be tagging James Franco in our social media uploads. Always. All the time. Because he just might take notice.

As a classy and famous actor, Franco is nothing if not smooth. He followed up with classic witticisms like “Where’s the hotel?” and “Should I rent a room?” Apparently the internet is full of screenshots of this “conversation” although I couldn’t bear to look, not even in the name of research. There’s more tidbits of conversation and a since-deleted tweet by Franco for those willing to make the effort.

Somehow the whole thing “leaked,” a term I find decidedly inappropriate for the situation. Which begs the question: Who leaked it? And why? It’s time to delve into the metagame.

Metagaming is a broad term usually used to define any strategy, action or method used in a game which transcends a prescribed ruleset, uses external factors to affect the game, or goes beyond the supposed limits or environment set by the game.

Source: Wikipedia – Metagaming

The Stages of Reacting to a James Franco event

  1. Suspecting Fraud: During this stage is a strong sneaking suspicion that someone is perpetuating a hoax on Franco and/or us. We listen with a jaded ear and take everything with a grain of salt. After all, it’s not like we’ve never been burned by the internet before. News coverage at this point will use the word “allegedly” a lot. Apparently there’s an army of people working 24/7 with nothing better to do that try to fool the rest of us. This we have learned through bitter experience. Does How To Charge An iPod With An Onion ring any bells?
  2. Acceptance: Media coverage continues to explode and we start to get the feeling there may actually be something to the story. Even CNN switches from theorizing explanations for a missing plane. The parties involved, strangely, admit that the allegations are true. This does a lot to further acceptance.
  3. Anger/Shaming: Ah, social umbrage. We rush to our Twitter’s and get our “how dare he?” on. Some embrace the tactics of holy acrimony, outrage and umbrage. Others go a different way, taking the opportunity to crack inappropriate jokes at Franco’s expense. We all grieve in different ways.
  4. Doubt: After the previous stage of emotional outburst we are spent and drained. We are enveloped by a comforting calmness. Only now to do we begin the process of thinking about what else might be going on. Maybe, just maybe, we wonder if things may not be what they seem. Are we being taken as fools on some sort of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride? (Repeat stage #3 if necessary.)
  5. Theorizing: Hey, doesn’t Franco have a movie coming out? A movie based on a book written by Franco himself? A movie that tells the story of an older man seducing a younger girl? Hey, what a coincidence. And wasn’t the initial trailer for this movie released just three days ago? Our minds can’t help but try to connect the dots. Maybe this whole thing was a publicity stunt! We feel proud of ourselves for being such good detectives and our initial outrage is all but forgotten.
  6. Mourning: After the pride wears off, we take time to mourn the loss of our innocence. That’s sad. Miss you! We feel sad. Nuff said.
  7. The Next Phase: We enter a receptive open-minded condition ready for the next shiny thing to distract us. In the meantime, we post selfies and tweet about our bowel movements. Don’t worry, it won’t take long.

The whole thing, from start to finish, has left me feeling unclean and dirty. What stage are you in right now?

Note: Palo Alto, written by and starring James Franco, opens in theaters May 9, 2014.

The musical pairing for this post is Franco Un-American by NOFX. That’s mostly because the title contains Franco’s name. Get it? Luckily, there’s nothing political here. Another goal met. I’m on fire!