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James Franco’s Carefully Worded Denial Of Sexual Misconduct Claims Raises Lots Of Questions


James Franco had less than a day to bask in his Golden Globes victory–he won Best Actor in a Comedy for his role in The Disaster Artist–before the headlines that have become all too familiar zeroed in on him.

Like almost everyone attending the Golden Globes, the actor wore a Time’s Up pin to lend support to the surging anti-sexual harassment movement. His pin struck some people as hypocritical, including actor Ally Sheedy, who wrote (and later deleted) a cryptic tweet linking Franco to her decision to leave Hollywood and suggesting his presence at the Globes was inappropriate. (Franco directed Sheedy in a 2011 off-Broadway play but there is no on-record rancor between them.) Around the same time, actor Violet Paley, who once dated Franco, wrote a far more damning message, accusing the actor of pushing her “head down in a car toward [his] exposed penis” and hitting on her 17-year-old friend. These accusations received wide attention throughout the day Monday, and by Tuesday night, The New York Times had canceled an event with him, and he found himself having to discuss the allegations on Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The light-speed reaction to accusations that arrive without a well-sourced exposé reveals the evolving nature of the #MeToo movement.

Franco’s interaction with Colbert was far less adversarial than John Oliver’s confrontation with Dustin Hoffman last month. For one thing, this portion of the interview started off with Colbert mentioning that he’d asked Franco backstage if he would be up for talking about it on the air. So Franco was ready (and perhaps coached) to engage meaningfully with the tough subject matter. (Compare that to where we were around last year’s Golden Globes, when Casey Affleck was repeatedly allowed to deflect questions about his own alleged abuse of women.)

“You got criticized for wearing a Time’s Up pin,” Colbert said, gently leading the actor to a place he almost certainly would rather not be headed on national TV (heads-up or not). “Do you know why, and do you have a response?”

Franco first reasserted his support for the movement in general and added that he specifically supports women and underrepresented communities getting equal pay and equal representation in leadership positions. Either as damage control or a sincere statement, this was an effective opener. The audience was on his side too, applauding him. Just hearing a live TV audience react to a powerful man responding for the first time to allegations of sexual misconduct against him, though, shows how strange the post-Weinstein Hollywood atmosphere has become.

The transition to the accusations themselves was less smooth.

“There were some things on Twitter,” Franco began. “I haven’t read them, I’ve heard about them.” It’s an odd clarification because, um,  if you know there are serious allegations against you in this climate, maybe have a look at them yourself? Wouldn’t anyone in that position want to have all the facts?

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