Book Review | Straight James/Gay James, by James Franco

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straight_james_gay_jamesI’m not sure how I ended up reading this. I suppose the titled intrigued me, especially coming from James Franco.

Let’s go with that. It’s the only justifiable reason.

First, the rating: I gave this book 3 stars for no reason other than that I found it amusing. It’s no Robert Frost, but neither is he William McGonagall (I guess).

What is Straight James/Gay James? It’s a self-examination supposedly answering the age-old question “Are you f-ing gay or what?” I take these words from the poem, since I hardly care enough to use expletives when posing the question.

This book of poems is entertaining on so many levels, if only for the poem about eccentric singer Lana Del Rey. But it’s problematic on a couple levels as well, if one wants to take this book seriously.

Spoiler alert: James Franco is straight. But… he’s also gay. But no, he’s not bisexual. Surprise, surprise: he’s gay as an actor, when engaging his craft. He’s gay “up to the point of intercourse,” to use his own words. If readers didn’t think his understanding of sexuality was tenuous before, they certainly will at this point. He cites past understandings of homosexuality– such as in the 20s, when being gay was how one acted–but doesn’t ever provide his own definition. Without a greater understanding if how he views sexual orientation, it’s impossible to really understand what he’s trying to say. While sexuality and intimacy can be fluid, that’s not exactly what Franco seemed to be expressing.

Thus, while I found Straight James vis-à-vis Gay James to be interesting, and even witty at times, I still felt like something was…off. It wasn’t until I finished the book in its entirety that I really figured out who he reminded me of: a less problematic Rachel Dolezal. A white woman sympathetic to critical race issues, Dolezal stepped over the line by making a life for herself as a black woman. It’s a rather bizarre story, to be frank. Franco’s lengthy description of his relationship with homosexuality reminded me a bit of that. People who, because of their own privilege, have the ability to pick and choose what identity they’d like to adopt. Despite his numerous roles as gay men, he still doesn’t seem to understand that one can’t just choose to identify themselves as gay selectively.

His blaze take on sexuality doesn’t read at all like Rowan Blanchard’s new-age refusal to use sexual labels, it just seems narcissistic and unenlightened (and maybe a little confused). The soliloquy of someone less profound than they think they are.

All in all, thinking about this book makes my head hurt. So if you read it, don’t think about it. Just take in the poems, and chuckle when he writes dirty words.

Because really, James Franco is the only person still taking James Franco seriously.

Have you or someone you know read this book? Have you read any of Franco’s other poetry? Feel free to put your thoughts in the comments– I realize I said a lot in this post, and I could use some input from the peanut gallery.

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5 Comments

  1. […] which was a bit of a bust for me (I’m sorry, y’all! I know everyone else liked it), Straight James/Gay James was unremarkable, and there’s another LGBTQ book of short stories I read last month that fell […]

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  2. Woah, woah, woah! James Franco wrote THIS book!?

    I don’t know how I feel about it. Your comparison to Rachel Dolezal and your comment about his privilege are so on point. Very insightful post. I’m not sure I would ever want to read this, though. I think I would feel offended most of the time…

    It’s very disappointing that he didn’t use the the book to discuss the fluidity of sexuality. I thought that’s what he was promoting this whole time? I guess I was wrong.

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    1. Part of me thinks that’s part of what he wanted to do, but he was too centered to pull it off. Another part of me just figured he wasn’t ready to say what he wanted to really say. I don’t know. Like I said, it made my head hurt. I’d be interested in your take on it, if you decide to spend the 5 bucks…

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      1. That’s pretty cheap. I COULD read it…the idea of a “straight” person writing about sexuality is novel and interesting, but I’d generally prefer to that kind of material to come from LGBT people.

        I’ll leaf through some of the poems if I see the book at Barnes & Nobel. I go every week…lol.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve nominated you for The One Lovely Blog award. The post is on my blog. 🙂

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