James Franco, a man of many professional and amateur artistic endeavors, has decided to funnel his massive accumulation of Instagram self-portraits into “a calendar” released exclusively by Paper magazine in form of this downloadable PDF.
What is this? Is it art? Is it a joke? Is it the a self-aware manifestation of our celebrity-cannibalizing media culture?
Let us for a second assume that this pink, pic-filled file is a project of design and intent. Paper touts it as part of its #BreakTheInternet week, headlined by photographs of Kim Kardashian’s shiny naked backside. Along with a seemingly endless supply of selfies, the calendar comes with social media prompts from “Franco” himself, telling fans to “write a
#beatpoem” on William Burroughs’ birthday and “take a selfie in #GloriaGlasses” on Gloria Steinem’s and to tag “me” (Franco) in their old prom photos. In the advertising world, this is known as digital stickiness, a social component to a branded campaign. Here, the brand is Franco (and Paper).
The “calendar’ hijacks the now incurable and omnipresent social media phenomenon of selfies, which has opened the floodgates of self-styled life-casting (with various levels of creativity) and a celebrity’s ability to sell himself, one image at a time. Peppered with references to playwrights, books and formerly alternative music icons, this little packet teases with cultural currency, and comes glazed in pop culture all over. It follows an earlier Paper-backed, Google Hangout-enabled stunt which saw Franco submit to fans’ wishes “for 47 insane minutes.” The blatant way this 36-year-old man’s social brand is insisting on its fans to interact with it (reminiscent of ’80s and ’90s hotlines for girlie idol magazines for young teens) and the pure intensity with which the brand is being shoved at us takes this beyond click bait. We find ourselves in a sort of limbo, asking, is this for real? And, would you tag your cat as Franco on Caturday?