Thoughts on the Lack of Outrage Following the James Franco Scandal

by Clara Butler

James Franco’s behavior still matters, regardless of his apology.

By now, the media has shrugged off the fact that James Franco tried to solicit sex from a minor. He has appeared on numerous shows since then, even SNL, and ever since his confession that “Social media is tricky,” no one seems to care that he could have potentially committed a felony, one that could have landed him on a sex offender registry. But why has the media, and the public, deemed his almost-crime acceptable? My opinion is that acts like these have become so normalized within our society that we are already onto the next news story by the end of the week.

Franco’s scandal isn’t the first time that a celebrity has used their influence to try and coerce someone into an act that they weren’t comfortable with, nor was it the first time to try and commit such an act with a minor. In fact, this isn’t the first time this has occurred THIS YEAR. A few weeks back, women took to Tumblr to expose some very influential YouTubers that had engaged in abusive behavior and manipulative relationships. Some of the girls were minors, and some reported putting up with it since they looked up to these men as idols and role models. Similar to the 17-year old who posted her text conversation with Franco on the Internet, these women stood up and shed light on their abusers rather than sinking into the shadows. But even then they were called names, threatened, and many were quick to protect the YouTube idols that could do no wrong in their eyes.

I think this disturbing trend sheds light on our celebrity culture and desire to make superheroes out of movie stars by assuming that they can’t be abusive or wrong in any way. I’m glad that the discussion around Woody Allen’s allegations of abuse continued to gain press coverage even though many felt conflicted about the work that he has produced due to his seemingly pedophilic tendencies. As at least one article on the subject noted, we are quick to assume allegations about celebrities aren’t true, that the victim is just trying to get attention and bring a star down. But what happens when the celebrity even admits to it, as in the case of Franco? Disturbingly enough, that’s all it takes to put the issue to rest and keep on loving the celebrities that we always have.

Franco’s appearance on Live with Kelly and Michael solidified his career and people saw his honesty to be endearing in light of the scandal since many times, sex scandals are denied until proven by a third party. But just because Franco came clean doesn’t mean that he took responsibility for his actions or even realized how dangerous the implications would be if the girl had decided she wanted to hook up with him. Franco tweeted jokes after the photos of their conversation surfaced that said “I HOPE PARENTS KEEP THEIR TEENS AWAY FROM ME” and other disgusting things that made it seem like his potential felony was actually just a huge April Fools’ joke, as many still claim it is. Other justifications for his behavior included a promotion for his new movie where he actually plays a pedophile, but even if it did turn out that the scandal was supposed to gain publicity for his new movie, should we really idolize someone who sinks that low just for the sake of advertising? Many people are quick to assume that the victim in situations like these is just looking for attention but few actually analyze the press garnered by the perpetrator.

If Franco’s SNL appearance said anything, it is that celebrity influence to coerce people into unequal relationships is just a huge joke, one that should not be taken seriously or be scrutinized. I just hope that next time something like this happens, we as a society will be more critical and not stand for anyone, especially those in the public eye, to commit acts like these.

What are your thoughts on the James Franco scandal? Let me know in the comments!

Clara Butler is a sophomore at Barnard and a staff writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Image courtesy of abc News.

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