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James Franco’s allegations – why ‘cancel culture’ might be justified

Written by Film

Ahh, another day, another powerful man abusing his power to sexually manipulate people. It should come as no surprise to anyone that James Franco is gross after he publicly admitted to trying to get a seventeen-year-old back to his hotel room in 2014 and tweeted that he “hopes that parents keep their teens away from him”.

Four years later, after having the absolute gall to wear the #MeToo symbol at the Golden Globes, more women came forward with their stories about Franco. As always, this hasn’t stopped him from having a highly successful career.

“Sometimes it’s hard when pieces of art that are important to us are attached to horrible people, and the idea of “separating the art from the artist” has been so over-discussed, especially in the last few years.”

Let’s put the sexual assault allegations to one side for a moment, as the film industry so often does, and focus on Franco’s journey as an actor and director. After his big break in 99’ on Freaks and Geeks, he went on to star in Never Been Kissed, a James Dean biopic, the original Spider-Man trilogy and a ton of other films. His first directorial effort, a film called The Ape about a man who figures himself a genius and has a gorilla for a roommate, was released in 2005 and has a 28% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Whether or not we like to admit it, we all have problematic idols. Sometimes it’s hard when pieces of art that are important to us are attached to horrible people, and the idea of “separating the art from the artist” has been so over-discussed, especially in the last few years.

James Franco in Alien: Covenant (2017)
IMDB

However, some of these people are, in all honesty, just not that talented. It might be crazy, but sometimes I feel like allegations like this sometimes strengthen fanbases. Chris Brown hasn’t made a good song since… well, ever, but his fanbase seem a lot more focused on defending his horrifically abusive past than defending Freaky Friday. Similarly, below an interview where James Franco was questioned about his allegations, the comments are flooded with people presenting him as a misunderstood victim, hating “this day and age” for the way that five different women feel about him.

“But there’s a massive difference between writing a few inappropriate tweets six years ago and having abuse and harassment allegations from five different people, one of them seventeen years old.”

While I’m angry and exhausted at the amount of power these men have in the film industry, I don’t like cancel culture. I don’t like the idea that someone can say something minor and everyone asks for their heads on spikes; so often, the situation is much more nuanced, and I want to be able to love the things I love without overthinking it. But there’s a massive difference between writing a few inappropriate tweets six years ago and having abuse and harassment allegations from five different people, one of them seventeen years old.

Besides, separating the art from the artist doesn’t even seem appropriate for Franco who’s smug, self-satisfied personality seems to seep its way into everything he makes. His newest directorial effort, Zeroville, has been described by the Guardian as a film with “staggering incompetence” and questioned whether it is the worst film to come out this year. They’re not alone, as the film also got horrible reviews from Variety, Screendaily, The New York Times and Rotten Tomatoes.

So if you are struggling with the idea that loads of your beloved celebrities are creeps, may I recommend letting this particular man go. Of all of your favourite directors that have done awful things, James Franco really isn’t that much of a loss.

Last modified: 20th October 2019

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