When James Franco appeared on CBS “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” in January 2018, I was prepared for a typical late-night fare – jokes, maybe cheerful ribs, softball questions. I assumed Colbert would be unaware that Franco had recently been accused of sexual misconduct. But Colbert surprised me by calling Franco, albeit gently, about the allegations.
If we feel like we always read male celebrity claims about sexual misconduct too deeply, it’s because we have to.
Franco denied the accusations, saying, “The things I heard on Twitter are not accurate, but I fully support people who come out and can have a voice.” However, Colbert didn’t drop the line of questions, urging the actor on how he was going to do better in the future. Colbert’s actions shouldn’t have seemed remarkable, but they were. He tried to do what most men in the entertainment industry didn’t want: hold another man to account.
I remembered the exchange when I saw that actor Seth Rogen had recently spoken to the UK. Sunday Times about Franco, who in February settled a lawsuit in which former students of his theater school accused him of “inappropriate and sexually accused behavior on a large scale”. His lawyer said the allegations were false.
Rogen had a close friendship with Franco, and their professional careers are inextricably linked after they rose to fame together in multiple collaborations, including the “Freaks and Geeks” TV Series and the movie “Pineapple Express”.
The Times asked Rogen about his fellow actor behavior and his thoughts on allowing abuse, to which he replied: “What I can say is I despise abuse and harassment, and that I would never cover up or hide the actions of someone who does or knowingly put someone in a situation where they were with someone like that.
Rogen also apologized for a tasteless joke he made on “Saturday Night Live” in 2014 about Franco’s pursuit of underage girls following news that Franco, 35 at the time, had proposed to a 17-year-old girl and pressured her into a sexual act. (Franco later said he had “used bad judgmentAnd was “embarrassed” by the incident.)
During the skit, Rogen read in a fake newspaper: “To feel better, I decided to play a joke on James Franco. I pretended to be a girl on Instagram, I told her I was very young. He seemed unfazed. I have an appointment with him at the Ace Hotel. Franco then appeared on stage, included in the joke and thus sanctioned with a reprimand.
More importantly, Rogen said he no longer works with Franco. He told The Times: “I also think back to that 2018 interview where I said I would continue to work with James, and the truth is I didn’t and I don’t intend to. do for now. ”
There is no doubt in my mind that Rogen’s early defense of Franco on “SNL” normalized Franco’s behavior and trivialized the pain of his alleged victim. Rogen’s subsequent silence about Franco can also be seen as an enabling factor. So, are Rogen’s recent comments too few, too late? A positive step or a good time to learn?
If we feel like we always read male celebrity claims about sexual misconduct too deeply, it’s because we have to. Along with politicians, celebrities have largely set the tone for how we as a culture perceive this issue.
Jennifer Pozner, media critic and author of “Reality Bites Back,” analyzes comments related to Franco this way: “Franco’s response was classic gas lighting. Colbert used his platform to break the usual late night code by questioning his guest.
What about Rogen’s statements? He has called his position of not working with Franco as something he doesn’t plan to do at the moment. Does this warning weaken the sentiment? Is Rogen’s admission of guilt not sincere in some way? Or give hope that Franco can be rehabilitated?
“Seth Rogen’s approach is complicated. It’s very human to rationalize and struggle to find out that your friend might be an abuser, ”says Pozner. “There is a chance that his current statements are an honest evolution and a reflection of his understanding.”
Many men in Hollywood benefit from the empowerment of abusers; sometimes it feels like the whole structure of Hollywood is based on a delicate system of abuse and facilitation. Of course, men have participated in the #MeToo movement, which has shaken up the system a bit, and are not exempt from abuse (see the disturbing experience of Brendan Fraser). But unfortunately one gets the impression that women do much of the hard work of exposing goose bumps and raising survivors, often to at the expense of their career and reputation.
As a survivor myself, I think of my own abuser. He has siblings, friends and a strong social network. Why did no one stop him? Didn’t they realize what he was doing? With a greater awareness of the dynamics of violence, we now know that abusers can be charming and appear functional, hiding their illness.
People will be brainwashing in any way they can to preserve their deep faith in a friend, mentor, or celebrity they don’t even know but who has meant something to them.
And people will be brainwashing in any way they can to preserve their deep faith in a friend, mentor, or celebrity they don’t even know but who has meant something to them. Watching facilitators telling their stories – or just blatantly living under an illusion – can drive a survivor crazy.
It takes a lot of courage for survivors to speak out. There is shame, fear, and humiliation associated with the hope that you will be blamed for your own abuse, not at all believed, or a strange combination of the two. We see this most currently with the a large number of allegations of abuse to be lead to against musician Marilyn Manson, which he denied.
Survivors should feel like they can count on a vast network of allies instead of leading the gauntlet in trying to be heard and taken seriously. The truth is that allowing abusers allows them to continue to abuse. If we are to seriously tackle the problem of sexual abuse in Hollywood, we need men to step up and speak out against abusers – and apologize for their own complicity in a system that silences survivors.