James Franco's short story is a crush killer

He's a handsome, fascinating actor. And his fictional piece in Esquire is bad enough to make you forget all that

Published March 29, 2010 12:30PM (EDT)

He's playing Allen Ginsberg in "Howl." He's studied at Columbia and Tisch. He turned "General Hospital" into the set of a performance art piece. He appeared on "30 Rock," as himself, in a plotline that culminated with him announcing his love for -- and common law marriage to! -- a pillow. Ladies, gentlemen: I understand why you want to date James Franco. I, too, have shared that dream.

But then I read his short story, "Just Before the Black," in Esquire, and I realized that I had probably already dated James Franco -- or, at the very least, a man remarkably similar to him. I would have been 18, and a freshman at a far-left liberal arts college where the word "problematic" is frequently deployed. We would have spent afternoons on the commons, after his drum circle class. He would have said things like (actual quote from story), "I wish I was Mexican, or Hebrew, I mean Jewish, I mean Israeli, or Mexican Jewish, or Mexican Jewish gay, because it can be so boring being you sometimes, and if you were the most special thing like that, it could be really great." And I would have been like, "whoa." And then he would have said that my ladyparts reminded him of a Georgia O'Keeffe painting, and he would have made me read his Intro to Creative Writing short story in which the phrase "black gaping gap" is used to describe an open window, and I would have complimented it, because he was handsome. I would have regretted that, but not much.

The point is, those days of my life – and, I hope, yours – are over. For, although James Franco is Salon's Sexiest Man Living of 2009 for good reason, and one of our most valuable Bizarro Celebrities, no one should excuse "Just Before the Black." There is a strange and somewhat offensive fascination with people being Mexican. There are some disastrous attempts at, I think, pro-feminist, pro-gay statement. (Q: "Would you rather be gay or be a girl?" A: "Both of 'em still have to suck dick.") There is an even more disastrous attempt at describing sex – "like a mommy with her little baby making him feel good" – which could kill even the most ardent of crushes. And then there's the "black gaping gap." Seriously, the word "gap" is used so many times in this story – in relation to teeth, road barriers, windows. I don't know if it's an intentional motif, or if I just figured out where James Franco shops.

It's true that, as these things go, James Franco is both interesting and crush-worthy. Unfortunately for him, he is also famous – which is the adult equivalent of being very handsome at a small liberal arts college, in that people will continually tell you that you are great whether or not it's true, and let you get away with far too much. They will, for example, publish your terrifying short story in Esquire. (Or in a book! James Franco will soon publish a book.) And as it turns out, even a Renaissance weirdo such as Franco can go too weird, in too many ways. Because: "Like a mommy with her little baby making him feel good." Just try not thinking about that every time you see a picture of James Franco in the future. I dare you.

So, yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is time to depart the James Franco train. Just turn away, for a while. Let him figure out that he actually can't do everything – or, at least, not well. Sooner or later, I'm sure, he'll get back on track again. And, in the meantime, he'll have his pillow to keep him warm. 

By Sady Doyle

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