Sunday, October 13, 2013

James Franco, charlatan

I've never been able to judge male beauty. The first time I saw a promo for Magnum P.I., I thought, well, that's an interesting concept---a show about an ugly guy who's a private detective in Hawaii. Just because someone looks terrible, it doesn't mean he can't have interesting cases.

There was Ed Marinaro on Hill Street Blues. I would look away when his picture came up on the opening credits. I always imagined his family, proud that he was on TV but heart broken at how weird-looking he was. Later found out he was featured on an episode of Donahue discussing male sex symbols.

And--one more--there was Montgomery Clift. I always had the impression that he had been a great actor whose life and career were somehow terribly tragic, and I always assumed the tragedy was that his career was hampered by his odd appearance. Later, I watched an episode of Biography about him and Peter Graves kept referring to "his beauty".

And now we have James Franco. Perhaps if I were more impressed by his looks I'd be impressed by his other crap.

I've seen him act in a couple of things, but don't remember him. Saw him hosting the Oscars and I've seen him on talk shows mostly taking about what a genius he is. It seems he's enrolled in several university graduate schools at the same time, published a book of short stories and is an "artist" and has done several gallery shows.

But, here's the thing. I've read his writing both in his blog on the Huffington Post and a short story published in Esquire that's available on-line. My writing may not be brilliant, but his is very bad in both form and content. And this is someone going for a graduate degree in creative writing at Yale.

His "art" is all conceptual and performance art. One of his "pieces" was a video of him walking around in Paris with a sex toy attached to his face, another was a video of extreme close-ups of people going to the bathroom. It's art for the artless. One of his "installations" was a show of "invisible art"---he just left the gallery empty.

Now he's come out with a novel which sounds like a bunch of crap----a plotless epistolary novel of sorts made up of disconnected chapters.

It's possible that all this stuff he does is brilliant, but it sounds intellectually lazy. He goes into an area of art that requires no special talent or skill, he writes a novel that takes the form of lists, letters and Wikipedia entries. It could be interesting, but it doesn't sound like it requires much ability. He seems to be going into areas of art and literature that are wide open to charlatanism.

He's taken college a step or two past other celebrities in higher education.

Brooke Shields went to Princeton, Jonathan Taylor Thomas went to Harvard, Jodie Foster went to Yale, Natalie Portman went to Harvard, the girl from Flashdance went to Yale. George W. Bush went to Yale. Were they all geniuses? Would any of them have gotten into these schools if they hadn't been stars? Are there any celebrity college students who haven't gone to elite schools?

In the case of Franco, there's no hint of genius. I've seen his writing and I feel I can say without fear of contradiction by any informed person that he got into the English and Creative Writing graduate programs based entirely on his celebrity. I assume the same is true of everything else he does.

Seeing a hugely successful charlatan should give you something to aspire to. It should show you that anyone can become a major figure in art, literature and academia. Franco should be inspiring young people to dream of becoming great big phonies.

If Franco had become a charlatan and parlayed that into a movie career, that would be interesting.
But Franco did it all based on being a celebrity which, in turn, was based primarily on looks. What is there for the rest of us?

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