Photo: REX USA/Everett Collection.
Oh, James. James, James, James, James, James. We have this very weird relationship, you and I, where you take one amazing step forward — doing an incredible Britney Spears ballad in Spring Breakers, taking the piss out of yourself for This Is The End — and then you tumble, bed-head-over-heels, 12 steps back.
For his latest column in Vice, Franco tells a creative re-imagining of maybe sleeping with Lindsay Lohan. Because it reads like a stream-of-thought send-up to Salinger if he were a wealthy movie star who lived in the Chateau Marmont "while his house was being remodeled," the piece is nearly insufferable. ("The structure of this story is very nice. Yes, stories, stories, stories, stories. S-t-o-r-i-e-s." Oh, look at you, Franco.) James Franco is the troll living underneath all of our bridges.
There isn't anything explicitly wrong with pretentious writing, per se. But, this isn't just a story — it's a "story," emphasis on the quotation marks, playing on our knowledge of Lohan's "list." (Lindsay originally put James on the list of people she's slept with — I think. I've made a conscious effort not to read anything about the salacious "sex list" because it just sounded wildly unfortunate and generally icky.) Yet, Franco, who is the biggest proponent of his own mythology, has created one where Lindsay, pajama-clad, barefoot Lindsay, looked to Franco as some sort of lighthouse in the night of her own Hollywood story. Some examples, if you will:
"Once upon a time a guy, a Hollywood guy, read some Salinger to a young woman who hadn’t read him before. Let’s call this girl Lindsay. She was a Hollywood girl, but a damaged one. I knew that she would like Salinger, because most young women do."
Ssh, if you listen quietly, you can hear my eyes making loud, swooshing noises, rolling in their sockets, all the way from over here.
"And I thought of that billboard and what it had been for me, thanks to Gucci; that huge sign above Sunset, the main vein of Los Angeles; the time I clambered across the tiles and pulled myself up to stand beneath it; myself a small, scruffy speck in a Rolling Rock hat, and above was the Gucci version 30 times my size in a svelte black tux. And later, when Gus and I did the show at Gagosian, where we showed a new cut of My Own Private Idaho that focused mostly on River’s character, Mike Waters ('Waters' like 'River') and called it My Own Private River, Gucci let us use the billboard, and we put a photo of the back of River’s head, because the show was called Unfinished, and River had lived a life that was unfinished."
Hey, did you guys know that James Franco, indie actor James Franco, who worked with indie director Gus Van Sant once, was in a Gucci ad? Did you guys know that? I hope you guys know that.
After he doesn't sleep with Lindsay (or rather, he sleeps with her but only in a platonic way because he is so concerned about her, which is grossly paternalistic), he says:
"I dreamed about vampires, and a voice came to me. It was a demon. The demon said, 'I live on the power of celebrity, and I am celebrity. I am the power bestowed on people like you by all the myriad reflectors of your celebrity: the tabloids, the blogs, the fan pages, the way we sit in fans’ minds, the way people read us through your roles in films, etc. This is our public persona, partly created by you and your actions, and partly by these reflectors that act in concert and become me.' It was a voice of permission, a voice of castigation, a voice of supreme supreme."
Oh, wait. The voice (or "voice") is also like his voice in this story, and he is both the demon and the celebrity. See, all those post-modern fiction classes paid off, Mr. Franco.
This actually makes me feel bad for Lindsay Lohan. Because it isn't actually Lindsay Lohan, it is James Franco as an #artist talking about Lindsay Lohan. Except it is, because it is also a thinly veiled burn piece that calls Lindsay "damaged," a word often used to describe women like "hysterical" or "bitchy." Lindsey Lohan is now a character in the self-created slash fiction that is James Franco's life.