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Is James Franco gay? All your questions answered

Bea Mitchell March 15, 2018

No, he’s not. Next question!

James Franco used to be extremely vocal about his sexuality, however a recent string of sexual misconduct or inappropriate behaviour accusations have seemed to put a stop to his openness. Find out more on that unpleasant business here, but it’s not what we’re here to discuss.

Although the allegations in question are from several women, the star’s sexuality is still a matter of speculation.

James Franco’s public ‘gay behaviour’ is sometimes viewed as social critique, or, at worst as appropriation and queerbaiting. Loads more on that here.

Let’s examine the facts…

James Franco does loads of gay films

James Franco in I am Michael

We already know that Franco is drawn to gay or bisexual roles. He’s played James Dean, Harvey Milk’s young lover Scott Smith in Milk, and gay poets Allen Ginsberg and Hart Crane in Howl and Hart Crane, respectively.

He also gave the barrel of a revolver a nice big blowjob in Spring Breakers, starred in King Cobra, based on the 2007 murder of gay porn producer Bryan Kocis, and played a gay activist who renounces homosexuality and becomes a Christian pastor in I am Michael.

And let’s not forget Franco’s pseudo-documentary Interior. Leather Bar. – which reimagines and attempts to recreate the 40 minutes of lost S&M footage from the 1980 film Cruising.

Then there’s his erotically-charged short film, The Feast of Stephen. Oh, and Franco’s research for his role in 2002 film Sonny, which involved him hanging out at gay strip clubs in New Orleans – even accompanying a stripper as he serviced a male client in a hotel room.

Straight James Franco and gay James Franco chat

In an interview with New York magazine back in 2016, Franco criticised the media for “overfocusing” on his sexuality.

“There is a bit of overfocusing on my sexuality, both by the straight press and the gay press, and so the first question is why do they care? Well, because I’m a celebrity, so I guess they care who I’m having sex with,” he said.

“But if your definition of gay and straight is who I sleep with, then I guess you could say I’m a gay cock tease. It’s where my allegiance lies, where my sensibilities lie, how I define myself. Yeah, I’m a little gay, and there’s a gay James.”

This came after a 2015 FourTwoNine magazine article, in which ‘Straight James Franco’ interviewed himself as ‘Gay James Franco’…

“Well, I like to think that I’m gay in my art and straight in my life. Although, I’m also gay in my life up to the point of intercourse, and then you could say I’m straight. So I guess it depends on how you define gay.”

(Sigh.)

He continued: “If it means whom you have sex with, I guess I’m straight. In the twenties and thirties, they used to define homosexuality by how you acted and not by whom you slept with. Sailors would fuck guys all the time, but as long as they behaved in masculine ways, they weren’t considered gay. I wrote a little poem about it.”

James Franco poses in drag for Candy

Yep, he wrote a little poem about it – and here it is:

Gay New York

Is the name of a book

About Gays in New York.

From the nineteenth century on.

Back in the thirties

Before the Second World War,

“Gay” wasn’t even a word,

Unless you meant “happy.”

You were “queer”

If you acted queer.

But you could turn a sailor

And still be straight

As long as you didn’t speak

With a lisp or wear a dress.

Funny how a concept can change

A whole culture.

We have to worry

About who we have sex with.

Weird how one little blowjob

Will make you a fag nowadays.

Franco went on to ask himself about “pretending to be gay”, to which he responded: “I guess I mean that I like my queer public persona. I like that it’s so hard to define me and that people always have to guess about me. They don’t know what the hell is up with me, and that’s great. Not that I do what I do to confuse people, but as long as they are confused, I get time to play.”

Playing at being gay sounds really fun, doesn’t it?

He waffled on about lots of other things, and was regularly insulting/offensive/annoying, but…

What did he have to say to those who criticise him for appropriating gay culture?

“I say f**k off, but I say it gently. This is such a fraught issue, and I am sensitive to all its aspects. But first of all, I was not the one who pulled my public persona into the gay world; that was the straight gossip press and the gay press speculating about me.

“I really don’t care what people think about my sexuality, and it’s also none of their business. So I really don’t choose to identify with my public persona. I am not interested in most straight male-bonding rituals, but I am also kept from being fully embraced by the gay community because I don’t think anyone truly believes I have gay sex.”

Is he just queerbaiting?

James Franco plays Scott Smith in "Milk"
James Franco plays Scott Smith in “Milk” (Photo by Focus Features)

Queerbaiting refers to authors, writers, or showrunners (etc) attempting to attract an LGBT audience by hinting at same-sex relationships between characters, though they’re never actually consummated.

It’s called queerbaiting because it involves attracting (baiting) a queer audience in order to appeal to the gay dollar and the queer views, without actually following through.

In Franco’s case, it’s slightly different, but the premise is the same. Is he titillating and/or enticing gay people for hits?

We wouldn’t be able to say for certain…

But he does seemingly only shag women

Yep, as far as we know, Franco has only banged girls, which means he’s not gay. Shocker, eh?

After working together on 2000’s Whatever It Takes, James Franco and Marla Sokoloff dated for a few years.

From 2004 to 2005, he dated actress and singer Ashley Hartman, and from 2006 to 2011, Franco went out with actress Ahna O’Reilly.

He’s also been linked to plenty of other women, including Sienna Miller, Amanda Seyfried, Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke, Lana Del Rey, Agyness Deyn, and Lindsay Lohan – the subject of his short story for VICE.

Over the years, James Franco has been accused of queerbaiting to promote his popularity, appropriating gay culture, and ‘playing gay’ for fun or exploitative reasons.

It has been suggested that he’s fluid, in denial, or afraid of using the gay label.

The only thing that’s patently clear is that Franco is teasing us about his sexual narrative. Why, then, has he gone so silent following the recent accusations, when he’s been so happy to discuss his sexual orientation previously?

More: james franco, James Franco gay

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