James Franco, prize-winning blogger and talented poet, is now conquering the self-indulgent world of New York Times op-eds. In Thursday's newspaper, "actor and artist" Franco uses his incredible way with words to highlight his empathy toward Shia LaBeouf while actually addressing the only issue that really matters: himself.
Franco is no stranger to being published in the Times. But dare I say—and this may be pushing it—Franco's original take on LaBeouf's behavior is even more compelling than his December opus on the "selfie." In his new piece, an elderly Franco, 35, explains that LaBeouf's behavior (he's 27) might be based in "youthful recklessness":
This behavior could be a sign of many things, from a nervous breakdown to mere youthful recklessness. For Mr. LaBeouf's sake I hope it is nothing serious. Indeed I hope — and, yes, I know that this idea has pretentious or just plain ridiculous overtones — that his actions are intended as a piece of performance art, one in which a young man in a very public profession tries to reclaim his public persona.
Then, in a sophisticated writerly move that requires the reader to maintain a very willing suspension of disbelief, he compares LaBeouf to Marlon Brando because both commit "acts of rebellion" against the entertainment industry. Right.
But just because his name appears in a few paragraphs, LaBeouf's antics are not the subject of Franco's essay. The subject is "I," "I" as in Franco, a great soap opera artist who is often misunderstood:
At times I have felt the need to dissociate myself from my work and public image. In 2009, when I joined the soap opera "General Hospital" at the same time as I was working on films that would receive Oscar nominations and other critical acclaim, my decision was in part an effort to jar expectations of what a film actor does and to undermine the tacit — or not so tacit — hierarchy of entertainment.
While it might seem easy to compare joining General Hospital to weeping in a bag for a week, please be clear: Franco, unlike whatshisname with the paper bag on his head, aligns himself with Oscar-worthy films. None of that Transformers shit. The entertainment hierarchy must be kept in mind at all times.
Ultimately Franco classifies himself as a rebel (a rebel who acts in films that receive critical acclaim) and claims that he understands young LaBeouf:
Our rebellion against the hand that feeds us can instigate a frenzy of commentary that sets in motion a feedback loop: acting out, followed by negative publicity, followed by acting out in response to that publicity, followed by more publicity, and so on.
Franco ends the column with a challenge for LaBeouf, asking him to be careful "not to use up all the good will he has gained as an actor in order to show us that he is an artist." Show James Franco you're an artist, Shia. That's all you—or anyone—needs to do.
[Image via AP]