James Franco has already given us the definitive "guest star on a soap opera," the "man who cuts off his own arm," the "Oscar host tank job", and the "hot, younger brother." Well, the polymath can now add the "essay about selfies" to his list of definitives.
In a recent op-ed piece for The New York Times, plainly titled, "The Meanings of The Selfie," Franco uses the critical thinking skills he's honed through his never-ending accumulation of academia to explore the cultural significance of selfies. "A well-stocked collection of selfies seems to get attention. And attention seems to be the name of the game when it comes to social networking," he writes.
He goes on to acknowledge that most celebrities crave Instagram attention in the form of "likes" and follows, and that, for him, selfies have been the most effective way of garnering said attention. "I can see which posts don’t get attention or make me lose followers, those with photos of art projects; videos telling the haters to go away (in not so many words); and photos with poems."
Franco illustrates that a celebrity's selfie has a lot more intrinsic value than a selfie by us regular folk. "We speak of the celebrity selfie, which is its own special thing. It has value regardless of the photo’s quality, because it is ostensibly an intimate shot of someone whom the public is curious about," he writes. "It is the prize shot that the paparazzi would kill for, because they would make good money; it is the shot that the magazines and blogs want, because it will get the readers close to the subject."
Well, he's certainly not wrong.
Franco's introspection about being famous is nothing new. In fact, it's what makes him so likable. He's always been our most self-reflective celebrity, by using just about every medium there is to explore what it means to be famous. On his very brief, very meta General Hospital stint, he played a pretty-boy artist named Franco and turned his experience into an art film. He's also a movie star who teaches college classes about movies. His most recent book, Actors Anonymous explores, you guessed it: acting. His awesome Comedy Central roast was a gathering of famous people to make fun of, among other things, how famous they are. Finally, his Instagram account is just his latest refreshing and insightful exploration of hat it means to be famous. Oh, and it's also where he posts things like this:
Photo courtesy of Instagram.