Friday, September 24, 2010

Is James Franco.... you know.... (Straight?)

image of both Jameses--Franco and Dean, is from here
I know, I know: whether a man is straight is really no one's business. (Well, except dominant media's and Wikipedia's.) I mean that's "private" right? Coming into awareness that you might be "heterosexual" ought to be your own protected process. And often enough, thank GAWD, it does only prove to be "a stage" in one's development. Some might even say it's healthy to explore one's own heterosexual feelings! Only that person should decide if and when to reveal that very personal information to others, in places and times when they know their unsuspecting friends and obtuse family members won't freak out at the news and reject them or toss them out onto the street, being told "No child of mine will be STRAIGHT and live under MY roof!"

There have been many times that I've revealed to a friend or family member that someone (other than myself) is lesbian or gay. Usually, which is also to say "too often", whether they are conservative or liberal I'll get that the litany of "caring" or "concerned' comments as if I've told them a secret that (they believe) must be attached to some stigmatically and socially attached shame. You'd think I'd whispered, "So-and-so has GONORRHEA!" Nope. Just that they're lesbian or gay--not even if they're homoSEXUALLY ACTIVE. Just the 'being' lesbian or gay part. As if that's something to feel shame about. (It isn't.) Yes, it's made to be shameful by an anti-lesbian and anti-gay (not just "homophobic") society that incorrectly thinks being straight is natural and so not being straight... well, you can extrapolate from there.  -- Julian Real, gay male who has never been heterosexual, although there was a phase of "experimentation"
I'm not sure if it's been before or since he portrayed James Dean, but James Franco has been an actor I've kept an eye on--and to me he's not hard on the eyes. I watched Freaks and Geeks, but don't recall him from that time as "a name".... yet.

He's clearly gifted in a variety of arts arenas, from acting to filmmaking to painting to performance art. What can I say? I like the guy. A lot. He's intelligent, creatively open, and he's got a sense of humor. I don't ask for much from men; only those few qualities and that they don't hate women: so, as far as I know, he gets a passing grade. Speaking of grades, he's reportedly taken some unfathomably high number of course credits in college one semester. Crazy. And he's not done. He's working on his PhD.

As has been discussed here in the past, I don't find men attractive based on looks alone, or, even, primarily. I mean I can find men attractive, physically, instantly. But for me to find a man REALLY attractive, he has to be engaged in some interesting stuff--he's got to be engaged with the world in creative ways that are counter-hegemonic.

Without having seen it, I believe that the his film Feast of Stephen is about gay desire, longing, and the dangers of being young and gay in a tyrannically heteropatriarchal society where gross homophobic violence can become eroticised. As noted, I've not seen it and given the story, I'm not sure what I'd make of it. Eroticised violence against women and gay men just isn't "what I'm into" (being erotically and otherwise counter-hegemonic and all) so I expect I'll find the movie enraging more than engaging. But I'll try and see it and report back to you.

There's also new film in which he stars, Howl, he portrays Allen Ginsberg, a gay man I rather despise, as his proclivity for boys was anything but counter-hegemonic. Fortunately Andrea Dworkin took Ginsberg to task for his acted-upon desire for boys. She called his misopedic ass out good. I wish more people were like her. (For more on Howl, see this from NPR.)

People speaking honestly to one another is a rare thing indeed. With that as one of the most pathetic segues in the history of segues, I'll shift gears to an MTV interview with Mr. Franco, about the whole Twilight book and film series phenomena.




You can tell he's actually given the matter some thought, and I am always struck with how little mass media interviewers want to know about anything below the surface, not about James exactly, but about the issues he raises. You can kind of tell they went to the "soundbite school of journalism", if that. Franco has studied at a variety of academic institutions from NYU's renowned film school to Yale. He's no slacker. And he's clearly interested in a lot about dominant society and dominant media, utilising some very non-dominant media to express himself.

As you may also know, James played one of Harvey Milk's lovers in the movie, Milk. Harvey is yet another gay man who was known for having sex with underage males. This will be the focus of some future blog posts. This post is primarily about Franco and film.

Gay cinema is rare enough. Not as rare as lesbian cinema, of course, because men remain dominant in every social sphere, including in the world of queer film, and so does whiteness.

If he were any other heterosexual, there could be problems, for me, with him making a film about the humiliations and degradations that can accompany gay sexual longing. But, I know he's been interested in how U.S. society exercises masculinity and as a not-out and/or non-gay actor, he has shown an admirable dedication to human portraits of gay and bi men. The fact that he's a genuine artist (as opposed to the corporate types, I suppose) exploring this terrain does cause me to cut him a bit of slack. I believe art should be neither politically (patriarchally) correct nor politically (patriarchally)  incorrect, only honest and if possible, truthful. The discussion ought to follow the viewing.

So, bravo, James, for putting this work out there, whether or not you are gay. I'll appreciate your work and accept you even if you are a heterosexual man. ;)

Here's one site that has a clip of Feast of Stephen, for now. And, quite possibly, here's that same clip:

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