December 26, 2014

The sexualization of James Franco

The sexualization of James Franco

or

An ordinary guy named James


“You should never meet your heroes” is a common saying in America. When I first moved to New York I told myself I wouldn’t be that kind of person who makes a big deal just because a celebrity crossed my path. I have this friend who looks as if he worked as paparazzo: Every time he sees a celebrity he runs after the person, asks for a picture and posts it on social media with subtitles that lead his family to believe he has some relationship with those famous people. Fans are, in general, like that.

I must say, I don’t have that kind of affection in general for celebrities. My kind of “celebrities” are comic book creators and writers. However, I admired two actors that are incredible at their crafts and also very attractive. I use to sexualize (I think that’s the perfect choice of word) Joseph Gordon Levitt and James Franco. I used to think both are ingenious, funny, witty and extremely sexy. 

Until I met James Franco.

James Franco caught my attention when playing James Dean in a TV movie. I loved JD and to see an actor playing him with such a talent and charisma made me “fall for him”. Understand, the guy is all over the media! He’s an actor, a poet, a writer, a director… He’s even a college teacher! And a Facebook/Twitter/Instagram character with thousands and thousands of followers, who get delighted with the sassy, funny and smart kind of persona he plays in the social media. I say he plays the persona, because it’s hard to believe James Franco is that person on a daily basis.

People who never watched any of his movies or read any of his works, follow James in the social medias and think he is incredible and extremely freaking sexy. I mean, they don’t care about the actor or the writer, they like the social media persona. Karina, a James Franco fan, went to his Broadway debut ‘Of mice and men’ twice. Both times she waited after the show to get autographs on her Playbills and pictures with the cast. The first time she said James was sweet, funny, took as many pictures as he could and enjoyed himself in the crowd. He even posted those moments on his social media. The second time, though, well, not that much of a fun person. “What was different?” I asked. “I think there were no press cameras around”, she said, kind of disappointed.

I decided not to jump into conclusions. I liked James a lot. ‘Actors anonymous’ is a very good novel and I had no reasons to believe he was other than the person I followed on Facebook. I knew he was going to be in the city around the time ‘The Interview’ was released and maybe I could go to the event. However, walking in Union Square, I saw he was signing copies of his new book, ‘Hollywood Dreaming’, at The Strand, my favorite bookstore. I decided to stay there, talk to him, take a picture, and, who knows, maybe a short interview for my blog.

Once in line, after purchasing the book, I was told I couldn’t speak to him too much and pictures wouldn’t be allowed. They gave me a piece of paper named FRANCO RULES in which people should follow specific rules for the “meet and greet”. On the piece of paper, James poses obnoxiously, holding a glass of whiskey in one hand while the other uses the index finger to say no. Had I known that before I would never spend my coins on that book, nor wait in very cold weather outside the store. I did it anyways.

The James Franco I saw was the one Karina told me about when there are no press cameras, or even his publicity cameras around. He was there, signing the books, rarely looking up at the people who went there. He smiled and said “Thank you”, I give him that. But was pretty much that. A girl in front of me in the line asked for a picture, he didn’t even answer. A Strand attendant pulled her away from the table, thanked her for going and nobody even looked at her again. I felt sorry. He signed my book, didn’t say anything when I said I really enjoyed ‘Palo Alto’, his other book turned into a movie recently, and smiled at me as I left. It was too late: James Franco's magic was gone!

However, I must say, that was not his problem. That was my problem. I was the one who sexualized and idolized him, he didn’t ask for that. He is just a guy, a regular guy, named James who happens to be an actor and writer. We, in general, idolize people who couldn’t care less about us. They have their lives, they work, they pay their bills… Celebrities have no obligation to be in a good mood 24/7. YOU are not in a good mood 24/7. I am not in a good mood 24/7. But WE have to go to work, school, to talk to people… For more difficult it can be sometimes. And there are days we all think, “Gee, why did I leave bed at all? I want to come back and stay there for a while, without worrying about work and life and whatsoever!”. Well, celebrities feel the same.

“Oh, but he sells an image on social medias of a person he’s not!”. Well, my dear, I’m sorry to delivery the bad news, but so do we. We are not the people we show on social media. We are also narcissistic people who want attention, like he does. Social media is just smoke and mirrors, a reflection of what could be true at some moments but not at all moments. I’m a different person from what people see on my online profile. A Brazilian friend told me my life was very exciting because I lived in NYC, going to Broadway shows all the time, seeing amazing spots in the city every single day and having a lot of fun. Well, I said those things happen, but not all the time. Actually, most of the time I’m working or at home, but I don’t post those things. Social media is an inscape from the boredom that our lives can be sometimes. It’s a way to tell people we are better than they are or to cause envy or to be attractive to people you are interested in or to show people from your past you’re no longer that ugly duck. As I said before, smoke and mirrors. Nobody knows what lies beneath.

James Franco has all the right to be the person he wants to be. He is several characters inside the same James Franco: the actor, the funny man, the host, the writer, the producer, the poet, the lover, the polemicist... and If we think we should deny him those privileges because he’s a public figure, we should take a good look at ourselves.

I won’t say I stopped admiring James Franco. Not at all. For me he continues to be this charismatic amazing actor, but I don’t look at him as something more than that. He’s a guy well succeeded in his line of work and as ordinary as all of us. He’s going to be as any other celebrity I run into in New York. Nothing special. Nothing as special as Joseph Gordon Levitt, for example. Crap! I did it again! Why can’t we stop being like that?! ;-)

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