When James Franco’s recent appearance in Flaunt magazine first began picking up online attention, no one could get past the cover—an extreme close-up of Franco’s naked ass, the crack running so canyon-deep that many would-be explorers became trapped inside, where they were forced into several days of intense self-evaluation. And as with everything Franco, that surprisingly hairless mirror he held up to his observers was no accident: The interview inside pulls no punches in addressing those members of the online community who seem to take pleasure in writing about Franco’s every artistic experiment, just because it’s really easy and fun to do so.
“I don't think what I'm doing is confusing," Franco said. "What is confusing is that I'm an actor in mainstream film and the people that usually comment on mainstream film are idiots, and they don't try to think outside of their pop-culture commentaries. It's so easy to criticize contemporary art from the outside: 'Douglas Gordon slowed down Psycho so it's 24 hours long? That's easy! I can do that.' That's how the morons in the blogosphere try to critique my work.” Clearly, he’s misinterpreted the blogosphere’s critique of his contemporary art, which is really just an inverted commentary on the increasing commodification of contemporary art. Or perhaps his challenge to them is just his playing a part based on the traditional relationship between artist and critic—a rote reenactment of the “misunderstood” artist that is, in itself, a work of art? Either way, it is genius.
But as the whole world remains Franco’s installation, even the criticism of moron bloggers, genuine or satirical, is all part of the show: “The great thing about it is, is that their critiques are part of my work,” Franco says. “I like that they are confused. I like that they make fun of what I'm doing. It's a beautiful reflection of where our culture is at the moment." As an example of the sort of project that said idiots would probably just misinterpret, the article describes how one Flaunt writer participated in Franco's new, gender-flipped Rebel Without A Cause project: After being told to shave his beard and get into drag to play James Dean's friend Vampira, the author is quickly initiated into a booze-fueled orgy of strap-on dildos and hand lotion that's loosely based around a real-life behind-the-scenes drama involving Dennis Hopper, director Nicholas Ray, and Natalie Wood—all of them, along with Dean and Sal Mineo, played by members of the opposite sex and, occasionally, blow-up dolls. Then this very artistic thing happens:
“Sal,” says Franco, “this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. I want you to show Dean how much you love him. And you too, Dennis. Just make love to Natalie.”
The two start going at it with the dolls.
“I wanted your sugar lips on my cock all day, Jimmy,” Mineo says before shoving her dildo in the sex doll’s mouth. “You are my girl, Jimmy. You feel as sweet as ice cream.” She unbuttons the sex doll’s pants and flips it over. “Your ass is so ready, Jimmy. Let me put it in your rebel ass.” She spits on her dildo cock and stuffs it in James Dean’s inflatable butthole. “Tell me how much you like it, Jimmy.” The doll flops about on the bed. “You know I like it, Jimmy. Oh yeah! So nice and tight… Such a sweet ass. It’s like sweet cherry pie.”
Hopper is going at it with the Natalie Wood doll. I’m tossed a Nick Adams doll. Vampira would be into fetishism, I think. I strap on a dildo harness and grab a leather whip. I proceed to whip the doll’s plastic cock while thrusting my dildo in its mouth.
I look around. Everyone is making out with dolls, riding them, switching positions. “My girl loves it on her face, doesn’t she, Jimmy?” huffs Mineo before squirting the James Dean doll with cum-lotion. We spray the sex dolls with two cans of condensed milk. It’s a real cumfest.
Franco, who is in the middle of the action, begins to record himself on an iPhone, repeating, “I’m a rebel, I’m a rebel, I’m a rebel, I’m a rebel…” His eyes are closed. There is no irony in his voice.
Later, while summing up his photo shoot’s thesis, Franco added, “Having sex with dolls with plastic dicks is fucking great, because you get to examine that act without the onus of people just looking at it and saying 'That's pornography.'" Thus satisfied that he had expressed himself to the fullest of his unfiltered, unfettered-by-idiots imagination that day, Franco cued up his "I'm a rebel" loop on his iPhone, then readied his Super 8 to film the nation as it collapsed in shock.