And I'm glad it did. Not because Palo Alto taught me anything new about James Franco, but because it confirmed my prejudices (this is a very petty pleasure, yes.). Especially this: James Franco is gay. I can hardly believe some people still refuse to accept this fact (including James). Reading the stories of trashy 90's teenagehood (think Larry Clark, but awkward) I was struck by the number of homoerotic/queer sections that I really really wanted to read out loud to someone and say "SEE?!". I ended up marking the pages.
|Palo Alto's Origami of Queerness|
Basically, Franco is obsessed with good-looking boys and penises. Every story contains at least one 'handsome' dude and a description of cocks, while girls are usually used and abused. From the story "Camp":
"Rain had the biggest dick of all of his friends...[he] broke all the basketball records in high school and had sex with tons of ugly girls."
On watching a Holocaust film: "...bodies being bulldozed. Penises on the man and vaginas and breasts on the women. They didn't seem like real penises. I looked close. Some were big."
I am not saying a writer cannot write about penises without being branded gay (think John Updike), but Palo Alto impresses with its queerness, that is much more vulnerable than heterosexual phallomania.
|Pale Alto the Film, out soon|
More revealingly, Franco uses the stories to indirectly directly deal with growing up gay in 90's California. From the story Killing Animals:
"I wasn't friends with Jerry or Dan anymore. They played on the school sports team, and started calling me a fag after I quit the football team. They said Ed and I were gay together."
And in another story:
"They each had one testicle sticking out...I looked up and saw their faces and I knew that I was not supposed to be looking at those balls, that that was what they wanted. "Faggot looked!" said someone...they screamed that I was a faggot as two held me down."
This very much echoes Franco's ridiculously gay short film The Feast of Stephen, about a boy who is bullied slash fantasy-fucked by a group of handsome basketball players.
The Feast of Stephen (2011), Short film by James Franco
Many people will not have seen this film (in fact it only has 100,000 views on Youtube - compared to Franco's 2.5 million Twitter followers) but it provides a very intimate insight into Franco's psyche. No straight guy is that interested in gay people (or cock).
Why do I care? Because I'm gay, and because it's important to say it, especially when one is asked directly. Because we don't yet live in a post-gender post-sexual orientation world, and discrimination continues. And because that gay teenager who is being bullied right now would really appreciate to know that you can be handsome and masculine and talented and gay and out. You just need to grow a pair of balls.