Figures that the one day all semester when I am so tied up in classes and meetings that I spend almost zero time on the internets is the day when mondo GH news breaks. "Film Star James Franco Checks into General Hospital"! So I finally find out, I'm all excited (who doesn't love Daniel Desario?), I'm all, "but doesn't he realize that no one thinks GH is any good these days?" And then I finally get to read all about it in the soap blogosphere and the entertainment industry sites and all. And I realize this is really interesting in many, many ways.
First is the shocked (SHOCKED!) reaction amongst all commenters. No one can believe it. No one can understand it. But these shocked reactions come in at least three versions: one is from in-the-know soap types, who pretty much echo my reaction above--the "but everyone knows GH is a shell of its former self these days" take. GH is not the place to go for a quality soap experience! Serial Drama's Mallory says it; Marlena DeLaCroix says it. And here and there a commenter says it on more general entertainment biz sites.
But those sites have the much more predictable comments, the why the hell would he go to a soap at all comments, the who the hell cares about those awful soaps comments, the NO ONE actually watches those things anymore comments. These, of course, come from a much different place than those from soap viewers. Soap viewers love soaps, but rue how far so many have fallen from their days of soapy goodness. The rest of the world simply picks up the discourse of denigration long linked to the genre. Boring, easy pot-shots. The soap viewers' criticisms are much more stinging.
Then there's category three of reaction--the attempt to explain. Rumor has it he's researching a film role. He shares a manager with GH actor Steve Burton. He knows lots of famous folks once worked on soaps and wants to be like them. A friend told him that soap acting is the hardest acting gig there is and he wanted to try it. He got stoned with Seth Rogen and lost a bet.
I'd like to think that it's all linked to the education he's been getting at Columbia and, reportedly, in a queer cinema course at NYU. A while back, zigzigger linked to an interview clip with Franco expressing his admiration for Carl Wilson's awesome book, Let's Talk about Love, a volume about a hipster music snob trying to understand the appeal of Celine Dion that does an amazing job of exploring questions of cultural hierarchy, taste, and gender. I'm thinking that a little queer theory, a little Bourdieu, maybe even a little soap scholarship in one of those college courses piqued his interest and encouraged the guy to explore the genre from the inside.
Let's call the story, "James Franco challenges cultural hierarchies!" or, alternately, stealing from Wilson (who borrowed it from Idolator) "James Franco Journeys to the End of Taste." I think I may love the guy.