He started it! The Franco vs Brantley Exchange
Except for the cat and baby videos, social media squeals with outrage and accusation. You can still hear it, almost, even when your devices are turned off. But an incident jumped the shark and I read about in today’s newspaper.
The actor James Franco’s Broadway debut was as George in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. How lucky to debut in such a poignant role with Chris O’Dowd as Lennie. Franco’s performance was reviewed by the New York Times as “respectful”, “generally inert” and that both actors “wear their archetypes like armour”. Then, like a hair tweezed from a nostril came the comment that Franco’s performance was “understated to the point of near invisibility”.
That was the initial volley. Then came Franco’s return on Instagram posting the review from Variety which called his performance “flawless”. Franco went on to say – get this – that the reviewer Ben Brantley and the NYT “had embarrassed themselves. Brantley is such a little bitch he should be working for Gawker.com instead of the paper of record”. Insulted now are Franco, the NYT, Brantley and Gawker.com.
I didn’t see the performance so I can’t comment on whether it was ‘nearly invisible’ or ‘flawless’. But I would suggest that performance critique or any kind of critique can be offered filled with sharp objects or with all the intelligence and experience possessed by the reviewer to recommend something, or not. In this case I felt whooshed back to grade 8, the meanest place of all.
Sadly, Franco did the same thing back to Brantley and put some spin on it to drive in those sharp objects. According to him Brantley is a “bitch” AND “an idiot”.
Look at what these two professional men have created! If Brantley had considered a less vicious approach Franco might have paid more attention and possibly learned something. He might say in 20 years’ time, “It was Ben Brantley of the NYT who said a really important…” That will not come from this. And Franco could have remained silent and relaxed in the hammock of his “flawless” review. Social media doesn’t hurt people’s feelings, people do. Don’t keep picking at the scab, let the wound heal over and away you go. Not sure what Chris O’Dowd did but I haven’t heard anything, and I won’t go looking for it either.
There, that’s better.