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.