The old adage is to write what you know, and James Franco apparently knows dicks. You can’t flip through a handful of pages in his book without being smacked in the face by a fat, stubby penis scrawled large with a hairy ball sack and melancholy head.
Derived from Franco’s 2010 multimedia New York City exhibit by the same name, James Franco: The Dangerous Book Four Boys attempts to explore the themes of nostalgia, childhood (that’s where the dicks come in) and destruction with limited success. In the exhibit, for example, viewers could watch a looped video of a wooden house destroyed, again and again, while sitting within a similar structure. Constrained within the book’s still images, the potential shock of the hungry flames and its play on our sense of perspective – hey, isn’t this wooden house also flammable? – is muted.
More interesting is the window into Franco’s mind. An essay by Diana Widmaier Picasso on Franco’s short film Dicknose In Paris (it’s about a man wearing a fake dick over his nose) references a 2010 New York Magazine profile by Sam Anderson that attempts and fails to answer one question: “Is James Franco for real?” In the same thick black pen with which he’s drawn dozens of dicks all over the pages of the book, Franco has written “Fuck Sam” over the writer’s name. Is the actor angry over his presentation in the piece? Is it the playful call out of a laughing man-child? Like Anderson, we‘re forced to draw our own conclusions.
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