James Franco’s ‘apologies’ seem belated and insincere – but Hollywood will get it back
James Franco is contrite. I’m just not quite sure what he is contrite for. After a few years of silence, the 127 hours The star has finally addressed the myriad of sexual misconduct allegations made against him in 2018. Or, at least, he’s said just enough about them that if you squint it almost seems like he’s accepting responsibility. .
“James Franco admits …” “James Franco says he was wrong …” started most of the headlines this morning, after the actor appeared on Jess Cagle’s podcast. But what exactly did he “confess”? What did he say “wrong”? Has he discussed the accusation that he pressured an aspiring filmmaker to give him oral sex in his car, which his lawyer previously dismissed as “inaccurate”? Or the allegations that he removed the wards covering the actors’ vaginas while faking oral sex on them; bypassed nudity agreements by offering a âbonus sceneâ to inexperienced theater students; became “angry” that no woman would agree, on the spot, to take off her top for another scene; asked women to leave her class if they refused to participate in sex or nude scenes? No.
âLook, I admit it,â he said, âI slept with studentsâ¦ I was in a consensual relationship with a student. At this point, he shrugged. “And I shouldn’t have been.” Blaming his conduct on “sex addiction,” he conceded he was “completely blind to power dynamics,” before adding the word “consensual” to it a few more times for good measure.
At almost every turn he added a caveat: “I was not the person who selected the people to be in the class,” he said with the tone of a schoolboy he was told. reproach, âSo that wasn’t a blueprint on my part.â He said his sex addiction meant he had âcheated on everyoneâ who he was with before meeting his current partner – despite the fact that the allegations had absolutely nothing to do with infidelity – and later claimed, “I’ve done a lot of work.” He did not specify what that job was, and the investigator did not ask. In other words, it felt like an illusion of remorse – one that made sure Franco didn’t look too bad.
One of Franco’s accusers was Violet Paley. In a viral tweet in 2018 that she then developed for the Los Angeles Times, she claimed he had forced her to give him a blowjob. “I was talking to him, all of a sudden his penis was sticking out,” she alleged. âI got very nervous and said, ‘Can we do this later? He was kind of pushing my head down, and I just didn’t want him to hate me, so I did. According to Paley, she started performing the intercourse, but was uncomfortable, and so to get out of the situation, she told Franco that she spotted someone near the car. Franco denied the allegation. This morning, Paley retweeted the following: âClaiming ‘consensual’ sex with college students while claiming ignorance of power dynamics and blaming sex addiction is not the responsibility some claim it is. Waiting 4 years and still not admitting abuse puts its survivors in the limelight.
In 2019, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal filed a sexual misconduct lawsuit against Franco. It was settled out of court with the following statement: âWhile the defendants continue to deny the allegations contained in the complaint, they acknowledge that the plaintiffs have raised important issues; and all parties firmly believe that now is the time to focus on addressing the abuse of women in Hollywood. I’m not sure that this last interview, in which Franco focused almost entirely, did much good for this cause.
I suspect Franco was hoping this would all go away. He had managed to shake off controversy once before, in 2014, when screenshots of himself leaked asking a 17-year-old girl he had just met outside a theater if he could rent a room. hotel for both of them. âI’m embarrassed,â he said at the time, âand I guess I’m just a model for how difficult social media is.â He has since starred in a Hulu series, directed his own film, won a Golden Globe, and worked with Ridley Scott and the Coen brothers. I am sure he will continue to have an abundance of opportunities.
Meanwhile, women who speak out against powerful men are being punished. Violet Paley told a college newspaper that she felt that saying no to Franco would result in his career being over – that he would never speak to her again, “like he did to my other friend.” . This morning, Tither-Kaplan tweeted: âAn apology makes no sense until active harm reduction measures are taken and directed specifically at the survivors. General statements of “sorry” or “I was wrong” or “I like women” etc. do nothing to actually help those who have been injured. She added, “Setting up platforms for abusers while excluding survivors does even more harm. The blacklisting of survivors is still a very real problem.
According to Anita Hill’s Hollywood Commission, which surveyed nearly 10,000 entertainment workers about abuse in Hollywood, 75 percent of employees who spoke out against workplace abuse faced some form of retaliation. Sarah Ann Mass, who accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct in 2017, said Variety just this week she had been “largely excluded from the most mainstream sectors of our industry” since making her claims. She claimed she had had about a half-dozen auditions over the past three and a half years, while before speaking she auditioned at least four times a month. Last month, Oscar-winning actress Mira Sorvino said she was blacklisted from Hollywood for two decades after pushing back against Weinstein’s advances. âI mourn the loss of the two decades of career that I would have had,â she said. Vanity Lounge.
That’s why Mass created Hire Survivors Hollywood, an organization working “to end retaliation against survivors of sexual violence in the entertainment industry.” The initiative, which Tither-Kaplan enthusiastically supports, encourages those in positions of power to make a commitment to hire survivors and silence breakers. Considering all the work he says he has done, I can’t wait to see James Franco sign up.