James Franco (AP/Joel Ryan)

James Franco's Instagram is a wonderland of crazy

The actor deletes a revealing selfie -- but don't worry, he's still left us plenty of weird stuff

Mary Elizabeth Williams
May 2, 2014 8:24PM (UTC)

Is anybody out there in the vicinity of James Franco? OK, can you gently pry the phone out of his hand? Because this guy seems like he might need a break.

Just last month, Franco, the 36-year-old actor/director/writer/teacher/artist currently holding down more jobs than the entire graduating class of 2014, found himself with some explaining to do after hitting on a 17-year-old fan on the social media platform. It was an-ill advised encounter that had begun with the inauspicious command from Franco to the girl that "You gotta tag me" and led eventually to his offer to "rent a room." Now, Franco has produced what can only be described as the most awkward photo since Geraldo pulled down his pants -- a selfie that will go directly into your mental "cannot unsee" file. In the image – which was posted at around 11:30 p.m. Thursday and is appropriately askew -- he stands alone in front of a mirror, his face serious and his flesh gleaming. He holds a phone that appears festooned with stickers. His right hand is reaching down into his underwear, revealing a certain amount of pube. The caption reads "JUMP ROPE." I have no idea what any of it means.


Was the photo meant to be sent directly to one person but mistakenly posted for all the world to enjoy, à la Anthony Weiner? Was it some new form of performance art? What was the meaning of JUMP ROPE? Why the long face – was that supposed to be sexy? Because instead it seems to say, "I just found out I have to put my cat down." And why are there stickers on James Franco's phone? Did he go to a 5-year-old's birthday party earlier in the day? These are the mysteries of an Academy Award-nominated actor's Instagram. They may never be answered – Franco quietly deleted it soon after.

Yet the oddest aspect of the whole grumpy-faced crotch photo escapade isn't that he posted it – it's that he somehow decided that this, among his other photographs, was worth deletion. Franco certainly doesn't have a problem showing off his skin – on Friday he posted a shirtless selfie side-by-side with a similar image of Allen Ginsberg. And dig around his Instagram feed and that Thursday night selfie looks totally bland in comparison. In just the past week he's shared a video of himself wailing through Darondo's "Didn't I" in full falsetto, images of "Despicable Me's" minions, a naked painting of Seth Rogen and a photo of himself, chest bared and in makeup and jewelry by "MY MAN TERRY RICHARDSON." (Really, dude?) There's a grab of a tabloid poll that asked, "Justin Bieber, James Franco: Who has the sexiest shirtless selfies?" with the gleefully circled results declaring himself the winner. There's also an unclothed selfie of him in a bed glaring, with the caption, "WTF HAPPENED? I was waiting for you!" Let me say again – this is all just in the past week. There is not a single image that isn't full-on bonkers.

I wouldn't dispute it when HuffPo calls Franco's most recently deleted, possibly NSFW photo "Proof He Needs More of Your Attention" and Page Six simply calls it "gross." But I would say that in context, it makes total sense. Franco's Instagram is one great big pile of crazy. Perhaps the latest image was a lonely cry for help, or maybe it was just the latest in a life that seems one giant act of performance art. Either way, it's typical. And if he's looking for a new challenge, more shirts and fewer selfies sounds like a great idea right about now.


Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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