Earlier this week, poet, teacher, and award-winner James Franco was apparently caught propositioning a 17-year-old girl for a hotel sleepover when images of his Instagram messages were leaked online. But did he really try to bang a teen Scot? Here, we outline the compelling case that Franco is pulling a hoax.
The trailer for James Franco's new movie, Palo Alto, was put online Tuesday morning, just hours before the "scandal" made news.
What is the plot of Palo Alto, a probably terrible film based on a definitely terrible book written by author and movie star James Franco? It tells the story of a 14-year-old girl named April who enters into a relationship with her old, creepy soccer coach, played by author and movie star James Franco.
Close examination of the trailer reveals that the moral of the film is summed up in a line from the teaser: "You're young, you don't know why you do things."
You know who knows why he does things? James Franco.
This past February, he mused on the dual subjects of doing things and why in an op-ed for the New York Times titled Why Actors Act Out:
"Any artist, regardless of his field, can experience distance between his true self and his public persona. But because film actors typically experience fame in greater measure, our personas can feel at the mercy of forces far beyond our control. 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.
Participating in this call and response is a kind of critique, a way to show up the media by allowing their oversize responses to essentially trivial actions to reveal the emptiness of their raison d'être. Believe me, this game of peek-a-boo can be very addictive."
Apart from his uncontrollable peek-a-boo addiction, what impetus would James Franco have to publicize his indie movie about creeps and youth? In June, he began an Indiegogo campaign to fund the project. On the page he wrote:
Because of who I am, people often believe that it is easy to find investors and distributors for my films. Unfortunately, things aren't that easy. More times than not, I have put in my own money to produce my films and my student's films. However, this time it's different; We need more funding, I will still fund part of it but I need of your help, filming three feature films back-to-back requires more funding than I can give.
Franco managed to part over $327,000 from deep-pocketed fools. He's got to give them $327,000 worth of entertainment somehow, and it probably won't be from that movie.
James Franco is currently in New York performing in Of Mice and Men on Broadway. This is where he supposedly met "Lucy Clode," the young woman he allegedly tried to bang in a Times Square Hilton earlier this week.
According to the mainstream media's version of events, the genesis of their failed rendezvous first began outside the Longacre Theater, presumably after Franco's Tuesday night Of Mice and Men performance.
Here's the video "Lucy Clode" allegedly uploaded to Instagram after meeting Franco:
The timeline of the events that followed is incredibly complicated, because the entire thing is a hoax. But if you still believe it's is real, let's work through it:
- "Lucy" films video of James Franco leaving the threatre after his 8:00pm performance on Tuesday evening.
- After returning to her hotel with her mother, "Lucy" uploads the video to a now-deleted Instagram account, and tags James Franco in it, per his verbal request.
- She hears from him around midnight on April 2nd. This would match up with with the timeline of her texts ("April Fool's was an hour ago," she writes at one point during their interaction). We will assume that her iPad, which shows a timestamp of 5:33 in screenshots, stayed on Scotland time.
- ALTHOUGH, the notion that her iPad would stay on Scotland time is dubious, especially because she was using hotel wireless ($13.99/night). Yes, she could have changed the "Set Automatically" time default, but what teen would remember to do that? I'm willing to overlook this point, because questioning time zone defaults is where we start inching into crazy territory, and this theory is not crazy. It is sane and correct.
- At around 1 a.m. Wednesday, "Lucy" has Instagram, text, and photo "proof" she is communicating with James Franco.
- At some point on Wednesday, bonnie young "Lucy" on her iPad somewhere in New York City, uploads screenshots of her interactions with Franco to Imgur. There is no evidence of her doing this, beyond the Imgur images themselves. No digital trail. No responses from anyone. No leaked texts from her friends. Just an explosion of tweets starting around 5:30pm EST of people sharing now-dead links to the screenshots of the alleged James Franco shenanigans.
Let's assume for a second that "Lucy" really is a 17-year-old Scottish tourist who turned down sex (and a night away from Mom!) with author and movie star James Franco.
She goes to bed feeling excited and alive and loving New York! She wakes up with her mom on Wednesday, maybe worries about her A-levels for a little while, and eventually decides to upload screenshots of her exchange with James Franco to Imgur, reddit's favorite photo-hosting service, and nowhere else. Not to Instagram, a platform she regularly uses. Not to Twitter, where none of the 59 people she follows seem real. To Imgur alone. Nothing to see here, just a normal Scottish teen, hosting rainbow parties on the moors and uploading pictures to Imgur, a website she loves. A James Franco original drama, released straight to Imgur (no Indiegogo needed).
We can't overlook the over-the-top stupidity of the texts themselves, which, even given the low bar of conversations regarding potential hook-ups, read as fake and contrived. The most unrealistic part of the back-and-forth is how Franco continuously poses questions in clusters:
While I am no beautiful young woman touring the Big Apple with my mother, I have had my fair share of sketchy text conversations. All of them have employed variations of the same structure: a bland pleasantry here, a "haha" there, but an endless barrage of questions grouped in threes?
Surely in real life James Franco knows to play it cooler than that.
Yesterday, smack dab in the middle of this "Lucy" controversy, Franco used Instagram to promote his growing number of followers:
Today, one day after bragging about his newfound followers, he went on Live With Kelly and Michael and, apparently of his own volition, addressed the incident:
"I'm guess I'm—you know—I'm embarrassed, and I guess I'm just a model of how social media is tricky. It's a way people meet each other today but, what I've learned—I guess just 'cause I'm new to it—it's like: You don't know who's on the other end. You meet somebody in person and you get a feel for them. But you don't know who you're talking to. So, I used bad judgment and I learned my lesson.
Unfortunately, in my position [...] not only do I have to go through the embarrassing rituals of meeting someone, sometimes if I do that, it gets published for the world."
2,020 Instagram posts deep, it takes balls for James Franco to describe himself as "new" to social media. In fact, given the quality and variety of his uploads, one could argue that James Franco is something of an expert.
Even James Franco is not dumb enough to identify himself as James Franco when soliciting anonymous sex from a tech-savvy teen.
All of this is not to say that Lucy Clode does not exist. She has enough of an online presence to establish the fact that she is, in fact, probably alive. And that she—or someone who looks like her—was, almost certainly, standing outside that theater. But anyone who's seen an episode of Catfish or two knows that to assume anymore beyond that turns us all into sad idiots, gazing into our computer screens and desperately believing that everything we think we've seen is real.
Really what this controversy boils down to a simple debate. Is James Franco is a creep? Or is he a hoaxer?
But on what planet is the answer to this question not clearly both?
Someone needs to stand up and call this story out for the bullshit it clearly is. It isn't hard to believe at all that the man who would do this and this and this would be trying to fuck with everyone for attention.
And even if I'm wrong, at the end of the day, I would rather be wrong than live in a world where we give James Franco the satisfaction of our trust.
If we allow James Franco to effectively teach us "lessons" about social media and communication and publicity—if we really let James Franco win—well, fuck. We all lose.
[Image via Getty]