This morning, the Los Angeles Times published the details of James Franco’s legacy of alleged sexual misconduct. In the piece, five women came forward to share their stories, in which they claimed the actor/director abused his power, with allegations ranging from pressuring acting students to take their shirts off while rehearsing scenes to pressing a woman he was dating into giving him oral sex in his car. This comes days after Franco was confronted with allegations while on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and described them as “not accurate.”
“I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice because they didn’t have a voice for so long,” he added. “So, I don’t want to shut them down in any way.”
He also defended himself on Seth Meyers’ show last night, hours before the Times piece went live.
“I have my own side of the story, but I believe in these people that have been underrepresented getting their stories out enough that I will hold back things that I could say just because I believe in that much,” he added. “If I have to take a knock because I’m not going to try and actively refute things, then I will, because I believe in it that much.”
He also wore a Time’s Up pin to the Globes on Sunday.
Of course, I don’t know Franco. But I, like you, have felt uncomfortable since the 2014 incident that saw him hit on an underage girl via Instagram. I felt weird about his non-apology at the time (citing a glorified misunderstanding). I felt weird about the chatters about him and what hinted at toxic and predatory behaviour. And I felt weird seeing him align himself as an ally at the awards on Sunday. It was also weird to watch him dance around Colbert’s question this week, and weirder still to watch him paint himself as a martyr while in conversation with Meyers — as if “taking a knock” was helping the cause. It was almost like he’d forgotten that the cause drives home the importance of believing women, as well as the reminder that many abusers hide behind their good intentions until the story’s gone too far and they have to issue a public apology. Franco believing in women “getting their stories out there” is not the same as believing the stories. And the thing about language is that there is a very distinct brand of it that lends itself to a specific narrative while painting those who’ve spoken out as untrustworthy, unsound, or guilty on their own account.
The thing is, Franco has positioned himself publicly as an ally. He has worn the pin, said the things, aligned himself with people who stand for something. He has used his platforms on late night shows to talk about “it” without talking about “it,” and he has done so while flying the activist flag. He is surrounded by famous friends who advocate for the same changes, who were more than happy to talk about time being up on Sunday. And yet, here we are, reading five separate accounts of alleged sick, sad, and predatory behaviour by his hand. As if there hadn’t been murmurs of his reputation for years. As if we, at this point, should be surprised. (Note: at this point, let’s just stop being surprised. I’m more surprised when I find out somebody famous isn’t a sexual predator at this point, TBH.)
But the other thing, false allyship is real. It is the wardrobe door on which so many predators stay afloat on, cloaking their reputations in slogans and hashtags and solidarity. It is the clever distraction to earn our trust just enough to question the women who might come forward and accuse them and the fuel for the gaslights we start to light because so-and-so has always been so vocal, so supportive, so generous in his support. It is the decoy that blinds us long enough to focus on somebody else. It’s the leather glove that’s just too small, sort to speak. It can’t be him, we say, it doesn’t add up.
But it usually does. And while Franco’s lawyer has since denied these allegations, it’s the actor’s own Time’s Up pin that tells us to believe them. It’s his own support for “the cause” and his willingness to “take a knock” that proves the importance of listening to the five brave women who’ve spoken up. It’s the very platform on which he’s stood in the name of solidarity that tells us where our allegiance us must lie.
After all, he wasn’t even going to “actively refute” any of these claims. Until, of course, he did. With the help of a lawyer, and once it became glaringly obvious that we’ve met false allies before and won’t let them dance around us anymore.