I’m already troublesomely rolling my eyes at the inevitable comeback of James Franco and whatever stunt or crafty apology his PR team will help him execute.
It will most likely be arrogant, obnoxious, and completely disregard the feelings of the five women who have accused him of inappropriate and sexually exploitative behavior.
The women have stepped forward since the Golden Globes, where Franco was wearing a “Time’s Up” pin indicating support for victims of sexual misconduct. They explained the details of the exploitation that took place at Franco’s master class at the Studio 4 film school.
Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Violet Paley sat down with Good Morning America and opened up about how she was in Franco’s master class, where he would add sex scenes and nude scenes to the original scripts that “seemed gratuitous and exploitative.” She also mentioned that the women who refused to take part in the infeasible scenes were either asked to leave the class or weren’t included in the projects.
Violet Paley also stated that Franco coerced her into performing oral sex on him. When asked what she’d like Franco to do now, Paley said, “A lot of things, but please just apologize.” Franco didn’t apologize and instead addressed the claims as “not accurate” and has recently changed his phone number, apparently, due to paranoia. He is said to have contacted multiple victims of his abuse, apologizing in hopes that they won’t talk.
It won’t be unlikely that Franco manages to make a comeback. It was done last year by Casey Affleck, who still managed to take home the Oscars’ Best Actor award, despite two sexual harassment lawsuits. It proves that white men in entertainment can get away with anything. We’ve seen Donald Trump on tape sexually harassing a female colleague, and we saw America elect him president. We’ve seen Mel Gibson horrifically verbally assault his ex-girlfriend. He then sat front row at the Academy Awards.
Allowing “great male artists” to stick around, exploiting their power and influence while they actively endanger their female coworkers isn’t only unjust, it actively lowers the potential of great female artists.
By not taking the proper action against these men and allowing their careers to thrive gives confirmation to an all-too-common pattern. The more successful these men become, the more untouchable they become — meaning that their victims are left powerless. This doesn’t just damage the women involved in the Franco case, but all women who themselves are confined by powerful men.
There’s a long history of institutional approval of successful men. The proof is found by just glancing at Roman Polanski. There is no doubt that he raped a 13-year-old girl, admitting to it in his guilty plea and also an infamous interview, in which he calls her his “victim.” Though, no one in the Academy opposed the idea that this shouldn’t get in the way of his career.
White men who inflict terror on women are never booted from the Academy. Franco is a recent example of this. Because, obviously, excluding men like him would mean we get less art that only men are capable of producing within the industry, and shouldn’t these matters be dealt with exclusively by courts?
If the allegations are true, more and more women will have to work with Franco, despite the danger he poses to them physically and emotionally. The problem with Franco, Trump, Weinstein, Affleck, Polanski and all the men who have ever gotten away from the repercussions of their actions isn’t just the fact that it’s unjust. It’s also that someone else could be receiving the awards they’re given.
More women could be holding the Best Director trophy, which, to date, only one woman has ever received. We also see a loss in great female artists by allowing a misogynistic environment for them. By going silent on people like James Franco, we tell women that the abuse they suffer is less important than some white guys success. We lose powerful expression, stories and art, because we’ve told women they don’t matter.