An Open Letter to James Franco

Dear James, it’s taken me a very long time to write this letter. The truth is, it should have come ages ago, but I never found the courage to say the words—probably because you hacked off your own forearm in 127 Hours and looked sexy doing it. I even sat through the abysmal final season of Scrubs because your little brother Dave has your dimples and possibly the world’s only first-hand accounts of your childhood bedwetting, Batman sheets and the other estrogen-surging images you’ve subjected the world to since your first flash of bare chest in Tristan and Isolde. Who cares if no one remembers what the rest of that movie was about?

I wasn’t chafed when you enrolled at both Columbia and NYU for MFAs that would have put me in debt a good thirty years. I was rooting for you that much. I mean, what’s not to like about a handsome actor with multiple degrees, or a celebrity who isn’t entitled or shallow, with a seemingly insatiable thirst for knowledge? Besides, your General Hospital episodes were the stuff of legend. I cried when you talked about the art of murder and seduced Maxie with a red blindfold. I turned the other cheek when you donned that rubber penis on your nose and defended your honor when someone tweeted a picture of you snoozing in class.

Then came that short story in Esquire. There are still moments I wake up in the middle of the night longing for a time before I read Just Before the Black. I was sure there had to be more to it than meets the eye, some scathing satirical bent that 99% of its audience was too daft to get. Kind of like that Oscar hosting stint, where you were clearly channeling your Pineapple Express alter ego to prove Stuart Hall’s reception theory. When I got wind of your Ph.D at Yale, I thought, Hot damn, you can’t fake that shit. And it actually made me forget, momentarily, the brutal ignominy of your short story, with its vacuous phrases “black gaping gap” and “the shadows were shadow-colored.”

But you didn’t stop there. You got another Ph.D at the University of Houston. Before I even had time to ponder how one could possibly take on a ten-year course load while still lending mien and muscle to multi-million-dollar movie deals and other ambitious projects, like selling air for profit, the Twittosphere went amok with rumors of your debut novel. It all came rushing back to me like a bad dream (I’ll let you use that in your manuscript)—those treacherous gaping gaps and the gratuitous Raymond Carver fan fiction. They said the plot was going to be “semi-autobiographical,” an actor writing about acting. I mean, oh my God, James, you’re the new Lauren Conrad.

You were going to change the world, James. Remember when everything was simpler? Remember when you would have been satisfied with fewer postgraduate degrees and still shop for second-hand Roland Barthes paperbacks in St. Mark’s Bookshop? They’re probably using copies of Palo Alto as kindling this winter; it may be their last.

There will always be a part of you that lives in us, James. You can’t shake a face like yours. But remember this: it’s not you, it’s us. After all is said and done, everyone will still be reading your new novel—even if it’s just to gloat about how bad it is. You will still be headlining Salon, your ass crack will still be many an OkCupid avatar, and your words will still be more hyped than a presidential election. You, James Franco, will never die—and it will be all our fault.

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