In a universe already filled with twee, whimsical magazine stories that feel like they've escaped the prison of Zooey Deschanel's brain, there's one more. FourTwoNine magazine asked James Franco (eternal student, important scholar) to interview himself. Or rather, for the straight James Franco to interview the gay one.
Slate calls the interview, which has not yet been posted online by FourTwoNine, "astute and thought-provoking," but it reads like more of Franco's boring pseudo-intellectual drivel that we're supposed to spoon up and digest lest we be considered boring and uncreative.
The part of the interview that's available now has gay Franco and straight Franco discussing whether any part of Franco is actually gay (apparently this is a hot topic?) and what that means. According to Franco, who is gay only up until the point of intercourse, being gay and being homosexual are two separate things. [Here's the full interview, courtesy of FourTwoNine.]
Here's the quote:
Straight James: Let's get substantial: are you fucking gay or what?
Gay James: Well, I like to think that I'm gay in my art and straight in my life. Although, I'm also gay in my life up to the point of intercourse, and then you could say I'm straight. So I guess it depends on how you define gay. If it means whom you have sex with, I guess I'm straight. In the twenties and thirties, they used to define homosexuality by how you acted and not by whom you slept with. Sailors would fuck guys all the time, but as long as they behaved in masculine ways, they weren't considered gay.
Obviously Franco can identify himself in any way that he wishes, but his answer here feels less novel and more disingenuous. It also doesn't really make much sense or present any kind of viewpoint that one could do more than nod along to and then move on, not really believing it. On one hand, I didn't know the tidbit about sailors and also disagree (like Franco) that any man who has sex with men is gay, but according to Franco, his gayness is limited to his artistic endeavors and not to his sexual or romantic life at all. What does that even mean? Why is gay Franco not more assertive about his gayness? James Franco certainly doesn't have to choose a side (no one does) but the conceit of this interview is that there's going to be some kind of answer to the (apparent) age-old question of "is he or isn't he" and the answer is just "WOW! ART!"
J. Bryan Lowder writes that the full interview is made up of important moments like the ones above, and I understand where Franco is coming from. However, I can't help but think that a straight man (who identifies as gay artistically and is well-attached to his gay side) has less risk discussing these types of issues than a man who identifies as a homosexual. It's true that men who aren't perceived to be traditionally masculine may be labeled gay, but there's still a big distance between actually being homosexual in practice (and having to deal with all the issues associated with coming out) and theorizing about it while straddling a chair backwards and inhaling the earthy aroma of your own hipness.
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