James Franco's career as social commentator has hit the big time: he's in the New York Times waxing poetic about selfies. We're here to annotate his piece.
Here's the thing: Franco's defense of the selfie is pretty defensible. Though the actor can be a controversial figure, to say the least, what he says about selfies is pretty straightforward. The celebrity selfie, he argues, is currency; the normal-person selfie is a way of communicating. Fair enough! He's also not the first celeb to come out in favor of the selfie, either, Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig recently supported the selfie. That said, we do feel the need to elaborate on some parts of Franco's piece.
Franco begins: "Selfies are something new to me, but as I have become increasingly addicted to Instagram, I have been accused of posting too many of them." Being a movie star/artist/perpetual student/director/writer/etc. puts you behind the times. The origins of the word stretch back to 2002 when it was used on an Australian online forum. Plus, selfies have been around for a lot longer than that.
"The likes spin out of control for selfies of me and my two handsome brothers, especially Dave, the other actor, whose image pulls in its own legion of teenage fans." Franco posts many photos of himself with his brother Dave, basically a star in his own right, not all of which are selfies, some of which are simply glamour shots. As far as we know Dave does not have his own Instagram. Franco is correct in stating that Dave is, indeed, handsome.
"Look at Justin Bieber’s Instagram account (the reigning king of Instagram?), and you will find mostly selfies. Look at other accounts with millions of followers — like that of Taylor Swift or Ashley Benson (of the TV show “Pretty Little Liars”) — and you’ll find backstage selfies, selfies with friends, selfies with pets." Franco has been rumored to be dating Benson, his co-star in Spring Breakers.
"I’ve found that Instagram works much like the movie business: You’re safe if you trade 'one for them' with 'one for yourself,' meaning for every photo of a book, painting or poem, I try to post a selfie with a puppy, a topless selfie or a selfie with Seth Rogen, because these are all things that are generally liked." Of Franco's last 10 Instagrams as of 4:30 p.m. this afternoon, seven are pictures or videos of himself. Five of them seem to be quite obviously selfies, though may involve other people, two may have been taken by someone else. Two of the 10 are of his grandma, and one is a picture of the director Francis Ford Coppola. Franco seems to be leaning overwhelmingly on the side of selfie/humblebrag and less on the side of art, though perhaps we can credit that to the holiday season. His grandma seems sweet. Note: Though it's unclear, the picture of Coppola may be of Coppola with Franco art.
"I am actually turned off when I look at an account and don’t see any selfies, because I want to know whom I’m dealing with. In our age of social networking, the selfie is the new way to look someone right in the eye and say, 'Hello, this is me.'" This translates to: if you want James Franco to like you, post selfies to all your social media accounts immediately. This is imperative. Do this now, or risk never being liked by James Franco.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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