“Actor’s Anonymous” is a novel written by James Franco. Admittedly, the only reason I picked up the book was because of its author and my opinion of it could be grossly swayed with that bit of knowledge. However, it held my interest throughout and proposed a few thought provoking ideas.
The novel centers on the idea of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, except adjusted to pertain to actors. Franco has stated in interviews that he’s not suggesting actor’s behaviors need to be changed, as alcoholic’s should be, but instead that being an actor is a way of life. It affects every single thing they do.
This idea stuck out to me and has made me rethink life and how people interact in general. He plays with the notion that we are all actors starring in our own movies, our lives. We choose who we want to be and how we want to play out our roles. I think this is very true to an extent. People throw around this idea that we must find ourselves, but instead, he suggests, we should decide how we want to act. It feels empowering. We can each be exactly how we want to be, for we are only acting.
Throughout the novel he addressed the idea of sexism and violence towards women quite a lot. Much of the time it was unclear whether he was critiquing our sexist culture, particularly in the Hollywood world, or being sexist himself, as in a few of the chapters he intermingled a fictionalized version of his own life with the novel. Knowing his other works, I find him to be self-aware enough to write a critique. He is even self-aware enough to write about his own life and his place in our culture through a critical lens.
One of the chapters that stuck out to me most, pertaining to self and social critique, was “Windsor Girl.” This is written from the point of view of a young woman who has lost her virginity to James Franco. She mentions how she knows many other young women, like her, have lost their virginities to him as well. She tells a story of how she was a student at NYU and how she heard James Franco was going to be at Starbucks near campus, so she giddily went to see him, and that’s how they met. This chapter was poignant to me, because I’m at the age of a college student and I know I’d respond the same way hearing that James Franco would be near my campus. It’s not to say she didn’t make her own choice in having sex with him, or that any of the girls didn’t, or that I wouldn’t either being in that position, but that they were caught up in a culture that idolizes people like him. Young women, who somehow made it to college with their hymens still intact, were willing to throw away an idea of losing their virginities to someone they loved because they were star struck. And that’s the system he was critiquing. The chapter was also James Franco’s admittance to taking advantage of that system and those girls. The chapter is under step 6 of Actor’s Anonymous, which reads, “Were entirely ready to have the Great Director remove all these defects from our ‘character.’” I’m hopeful that since the time of the events he portrayed in this novel, he has removed that fault from his “character.”
His hyper self-awareness of his place in Hollywood and on our movie screens may be mistaken as arrogance to some, but his message rings true despite his intentions. For myself reading “Windor Girl,” in particular, I realized how foolish it is of me to hold him, or any other actor, up on a pedestal. Hypocritically, I still hold James Franco up on a pedestal. However, now it’s because of his brilliant mind and artistic merit, as seen in “Actor’s Anonymous,” as oppose to his hilarious portrayal of a stoner in “Pineapple Express” and his dreamy eyes.