I've been thinking about James Franco a lot lately.
Okay, in the wake of his recent controversy, this isn't going to sound great. I was prepared to write this beautiful love letter to James Franco and his quirkiness and his peculiar intelligence. I was so excited to delve into his position as someone who has really reached out to teens through his career by developing films such as As I Lay Dying, or by playing in Of Mice and Men on Broadway. Franco's attention to classic novels, and his uncanny ability to build a solid bridge between this literature and his celebrity persona, has really supplemented my studies in high school. This article was going to probably be the best thing I'd ever written, and as a fellow Huffington Post blogger, I was certain Franco would eyeball it and (hopefully in selfie-form) give me a shoutout on his infamous Instagram account. Then, things got a little weird.
Of course, Franco's Instagram is now infamous for a different reason. After allegedly asking a a 17-year-old to meet him at a hotel room, Franco's sketchy behavior has been posted all over the Internet, a situation in which Franco admits he's "embarrassed." If I could write something eloquent and smart and "mature for her age" about this scandal, I totally would. I just don't know if I can, but I can try to explain why.
For starters, I was vacationing in Florida this past month, so obviously I had a very Spring Breakers-esque mentality going on. More seriously, I was also revisiting Franco's novel, Palo Alto. I had first read it my freshman year of high school, and now, being a senior, I decided to dive back in with a new set of eyes.
Ninth grade wasn't awesome for me. I had gone in really confident that high school was going to be the best time of my life. Obviously, it's not. The ugly truth is this: I've spent a lot of time in high school feeling lonely. I have some amazing friends, and then I have some okay friends, but not everyone has always been there for me. So while there have been parts of my teen life that are like, the best moments of my life, there have also been times where it's like, "Oh, okay. This hurts."
I had grown up as a fan of Spider-Man, so my exposure to James Franco came at an early age. Summer going into high school, I caught Spider-Man on FX or some other channel, and I was seriously hooked. No offense to Tobey Maguire (mainly because he's friends with Leonardo DiCaprio and could be mine one day), but James really stole the show -- his strong jaw, his casual yet guarded demeanor, his nuanced portrayal of Harry Osbourne. As a kid, I hadn't given it much thought -- I loved Spider-Man, so Harry Osbourne was just a sideliner. As a teenager, he was the complete (although emotionally damaged) package.
While other kids were out living the "typical teen life," I was building up my James Franco knowledge. I've been exposed to pieces of entertainment that were new and different for me -- Freaks and Geeks (I still cry over Daniel Desario's "Track 3" speech), James Dean, even the tragically cliché Whatever It Takes. I've watched General Hospital and Howl, definitive signs that my fascination with Franco is intense. I've seen everything from Annapolis to Milk to As I Lay Dying. I saw 127 Hours in the theater three times -- it's one of my all-time favorite films. My favorite short story from Palo Alto, "Jack-O," still gives me chills to read:
I love driving down an empty dark freeway, lit up intermittently by the lights at the side of the road, and when I see the lights, I think of all the little worlds out there, all the little animals living in their habitats out there, and how we could pull over and have an adventure at any one of these forgotten pockets of the world...
Although high school wasn't what I had hoped, I had an ally in James Franco. Yes, his work is often weird, and his lifestyle is unconventional. But in the times that I was at my loneliest, James Franco helped me feel less alone, and that was special. It's strange to say, but through the odd changes and transitions that will undoubtedly occur throughout high school, Franco was almost definitively a constant in my life. I'm grateful.
Even recently, I still find myself stricken by Franco's work, most notably in the field of journalism. Franco recently penned a piece on selfies for the New York Times, in which he asserts that "in this age of too much information at a click of a button, the power to attract viewers amid the sea of things to read and watch is power indeed." While Franco insists that his recent Insta mishap was due to negligence on his behalf, his understanding of the Internet and its power seems to suggest otherwise. Perhaps the theory that Franco's scandal-of-the-week is merely a publicity stunt for the forthcoming Palo Alto film is spot-on, and we've been guiled by Franco's sharp charm.
Of course, I had to see Franco in Of Mice and Men on Broadway. When he walked on stage, my heart instantly dropped. I was taken much in the same way that I experienced an overwhelming emotional connection when seeing Taylor Swift in concert. When you feel passionately about someone or something, it's only natural to feel that passion reignited by their presence. When I saw James Franco, I was reminded that, for being a celebrity, he is human. He probably feels lonely too, maybe more than everyone else, and he channels his emotions through things he loves: art, film, literature, poetry. His face, while handsome, is kind of sad and tired. Maybe that's why I am so moved by him -- his presence is so affected. His face, while handsome, is kind of sad and tired. Maybe that's why I am so moved by him -- his presence is so affected.
In any event, my fascination with James Franco knows no end. He owned up to his weird behavior. While I'm a big fan of James Franco's face, I am more in love with his work and his passions than anything else. I'm in love with the sleazy Daniel Desario, and the overwhelmingly brave Aron Ralston and the crazed Darl Bundren. I'm in love with feeling connected to characters, such as those in Palo Alto, that are so colorfully real.