Varieties of Franconic Experience

by zunguzungu

I feel like James Franco has never really been as good as he was on Freaks and Geeks, though I say that as someone who thinks he was actually very, very good. But I found his description of taking a stint on the soap opera General Hospital as “performance art” pretty amusing:

I finally took the plunge and experimented with [performance art] myself when I signed on to appear on 20 episodes of “General Hospital” as the bad-boy artist “Franco, just Franco.” I disrupted the audience’s suspension of disbelief, because no matter how far I got into the character, I was going to be perceived as something that doesn’t belong to the incredibly stylized world of soap operas. Everyone watching would see an actor they recognized, a real person in a made-up world. In performance art, the outcome is uncertain—and this was no exception. My hope was for people to ask themselves if soap operas are really that far from entertainment that is considered critically legitimate. Whether they did was out of my hands.

Also, this amused me:

Over his career, there were a number of occasions where Franco had to pay obeisance to his patron, that murderous dictatorial rogue, Mobutu, kleptocrat without equal. The music on those few albums were not the best that he produced in his illustrious career. True, the tracks were danceable but they weren’t ecstatic as usual. Some have even detected elements of irony in some of the songs – subversive dog-whistles that undercut the dictator’s purpose and propaganda. I imagine some Africanist historian writing the definitive study of this phenomenon, perhaps something titled Musical Resistance in Dictatorial Times in 20th Century Congo: Rumba as Social Subversion. Interestingly enough, as you can see, the word Franco doesn’t appear on the billing of the album, it is just plain old Luambo Makiadi. Twenty five years after its release, I couldn’t find Candidat Na Biso Mobutu when I searched my iTunes and Winamp libraries for Franco’s music, and it figures: he didn’t need the dictator’s bloodstains attached to his musical name. Franco was a smart man, he knew all about branding. He is sorely missed.