Franco Instagram flirting reminds us that celebrities are people too

longhiThere’s nothing the general public loves more than a salacious piece of gossip about celebrities behaving badly.

On Thursday, the Internet flew into a virulent rage after screenshots of actor James Franco’s Instagram direct messages with a 17-year-old fan surfaced.

The leak was courtesy of the fan herself, Scottish-born Lucy Clode, who was visiting New York City for her 18th birthday and waited outside Franco’s Broadway play “Of Mice and Men” in order to meet him.

“You’re 18? Who are you with? Do you have a bf?” Franco questions Clode in rapid succession. The messages are uncomfortable, even when it’s obvious the situation was initiated by both parties with a clear intent.

Franco has been labeled a creep, a pedophile, all of the mandatory titles we tend to slap on men in their 30s who hit on teenagers. This is to be expected; the behavior is creepy and needs to be called out.

But I think it’s also fair to squint our eyes at the participating fan in this scenario.

In response to his probing, Clode tells Franco that she doesn’t have a boyfriend “if you’re around,” followed by the now standard flirting emoticons. At the risk of throwing in with the crowd of people who like to tell young girls to take responsibility for their actions, that’s the road I’m going to have to take for this particular situation.

Being a woman can suck. Society mandates that we go out and accept unwanted flattery and attention from males with grace and passive femininity, but at one point did we start ignoring when women clearly have an unspoken agenda to exploit a situation?

“Can I see you?” Franco asks. “As long as you are James Franco,” Clode replies. If we’re going to brand Franco a creep, we should also not miss the chance to educate Clode, and the generation of young women like her, that celebrities are in fact real human beings with very real intentions that can have consequences.

It’s not enough anymore that we give these young women a pass for this unabashed fame-mongering.

Initially, members of the public and news media believed this to be a hoax in order to promote Franco’s upcoming film, “Palo Alto,” in which he plays a soccer coach embroiled in an inappropriate assignation with one of his students. However, on Friday, Franco publicly accepted responsibility for the sordid affair on a talk show.

“I’m embarrassed,” Franco confessed. “I used bad judgement, and I learned my lesson.”

After reading the entire exchange of words between Franco and Clode, it becomes obvious at one point that Franco was willing to bow out of the conversation and move on. However, Clode was intent on identifying him as a celebrity in as many ways as possible so that she could share the story with her friends, and subsequently the world. Even at the behest of Franco to keep the conversation private, she unleashes it on the world, prompting their fury.

I have to wonder how many conversations happen like this every day around the world with men who are not celebrities, simply lonely and misguided.

When the public and young girls strip these figures of their humanity and condemn them, we only further perpetuate an idea that these are not real human beings worthy of empathy, instead placing them on further exalted ground that isolates them from the rest of the world.

Reach the columnist at lolonghi@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @lolonghi

Editor’s note: The opinion presented in this column is the author’s and does not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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