As if I wasn’t already interested enough in what Candy Magazine was up to (not to say anything about how interested I was in what James Franco was up to), the cover of the Fall/Winter edition of the magazine has a heavily made-up and 80s power-suited Franco, a photograph shot by the known fashion and celebrity photographer Terry Richardson.
Franco has made buzzworthy news recently, after discussing his sexuality with The Advocate in an issue of which he also appeared on the cover; he’s also engaged in some other “questionable” public events, such as the french kiss with Adam Lambert on SNL following his role as a gay youth in the gay activist film Milk.
What seems most important to people (i.e., bloggers, social commentators, and particularly people who control Franco’s image, such as his publicist) is that there is a clear delineation of Franco’s sexuality: basically, is he gay or not? Some bloggers have sought to define Franco’s orientation on their own, going so far as to cite examples proving their case:
In addition to the two gay-themed poems he adapted for student films (Frank Bidart’s “Herbert White” being the other), Franco portrayed a 17-year-old swimmer dating an older man in the gay indie film Blind Spot and Harvey Milk’s lover in Milk. He also French-kissed Will Forte on Saturday Night Live, took a queer studies course at NYU, and created performance art pieces about gender and sexual confusion. And then there’s Franco’s first solo art show this past summer in New York City; it featured video monologues with lines like “We’re all gender-f**kedâ€”we’re all something in between, floating like angels.”
Took a queer studies course? Well, you know what that means! Despite this “clear” evidence of Franco’s gayness, Franco himself continues to claim that he is not gay. And while I personally stand for celebrities’ rights to either out (or not out) themselves in their own time, I wish he was saying a bit more than just that. Still, the push towards this question of “one or the other” reinforces our social need for understanding “which side” people are on (and of course, also reifies the construction of dual sexual sides, straight or gay).
Also, the confusion and upset present on online forums and in social commentaries suggest how firmly entrenched we all are in clear identity formation, preferring to identity with a distinct demonstration of sexual identity and deny the possibility of fluid, perhaps even genderqueer, sexuality. While some may regard Franco’s choices as confusing, upsetting or anti-gay, I personally believe that there is strong worth in the demonstrations of complicated sexuality. These complex, and perhaps “truer,” demonstrations are what makes it possible for all us to inhabit a fuller and more diverse sexual world.
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