James Franco, Yale Daily News Fight: Final Thoughts

James Franco recently cussed out The Yale Daily News online in response to a student columnist’s tongue-in-cheek critique of his tweets.  In almost three years of maintaining this blog, the previous sentence may be the strangest one I have ever written.

As most of the Western world is now aware, Franco phoned in his Oscar hosting duties at the end of last month, earning Spiderman-musical-sized criticism from netizens and the press.

Yet, in the immediate aftermath of the Academy Awards debacle, the actor/writer/soap star/grad student did not publicly acknowledge any of the scathing reviews. Instead, he felt compelled to respond to a random 300-word post penned by a Yale student in a 3 a.m. blogging session focused on the lame-ness of James Franco’s Twitter.”

The nut graf of the post that he (and his fans) found offensive, by student Cokey Cohen (now the most well-known Yalie of 2011): “James Franco, your Twitter sort of sucks.”

As Cohen notes in a subsequent portion, “Look, I get it. Twitter’s hard. . . . And I would usually never berate someone for tweeting inadequately . . . but James Franco is not just some rando on Twitter. He’s a Celebrity Tweeter, which deserves all caps and necessitates a higher quality of meaningless, incessant electronic communication.  So far, he’s been tweeting a lot of random links to pictures and replies to other celebrities. The pictures are okay in that a few are of him: candids are a Celebrity Tweeter staple. On the other hand, a lot of them . . . look like a fourteen-year-old girl with emo bangs and a Tumblr account attacked them with a few of her favorite Photoshop filters.”

Franco’s odd Photoshopped reply: placing sloppy red letters spelling out “F*ck The Yale Daily News” over a photo of himself in a car, seatbelt buckled, sporting a Terminator-as-a-teenager look.  It is so general that not even Cohen is entirely sure he is responding to her.  But the consensus from YDN and the media at-large is that the pic is Franco’s fight to restore his Twitter honor.

In a separate follow-up post about Franco’s FU photo, Cohen sarcastically called the incident “the pinnacle of my career as a writer, at least based on the fact that [the original] blog post officially has the most comments of anything I’ve ever written, even if they are all defending James Franco against my typos and general meanness.”

Ironically, in berating this perceived meanness, the commenters on her post come across as much, much meaner. Their overall sentiment seems to be: Mess with Franco at your own risk.

A sampling: “This is so sad.  What’s double the sad is that Cokey Cohen was able to get recognition based on a half-assed poorly written article. Can’t wait to get to college and write some half-assed papers about someone I shouldn’t care about.”; and “While you’re there writing this and hoping, praying you’ll get some attention, James is probably making more money than you’ll ever will and enjoying a sweet life.”

My Take: The power of the student press is once again on display.  A single student writer has provoked a dialogue of sorts with a Hollywood almost-A-lister.

A few reactions from my students when shown Franco’s “visual/performance/Twitter art response”: “I think this is his way of indirectly responding to all his Oscar hosting haters”; “This whole thing might be a secret PR agreement between him and the newspaper– maybe they had to agree to publish his upcoming short story in exchange”; and “Franco’s so weird, this might somehow be a compliment.”

Or it might simply be beyond our comprehension.  In Cohen’s words, “I’m becoming convinced that James Franco’s whole life is a form of postmodern performance art.”

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