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28.02.11 James Franco: The First Social Media Auteur?


James Franco – The first social media auteur? Glamour vs. the Geek

The Academy Awards is an event I look forward to every year. Much of my spare time is taken up with watching old Hollywood movies and going to the cinema to see just about anything that’s on (except anything Sex and the City-related). For me the allure of the Oscars has always been firmly rooted in the glamorous fifties, when icons such as Brando and Kelly picked up their statues after walking a red carpet littered with the crushed glass of shattered flash bulbs. 

This year I felt there was a good mix of films up for the big awards but if I’m honest I was a little nervous about the deliberate attempt to appeal to a ‘younger demographic’ as co-host Anne Hathaway quipped in her opening speech. The selection of Hathaway and James Franco as hosts of the 83rd annual Academy Awards was awkward for me – I like Hathaway and I have been following Franco’s career since I watched him portray one of the true Hollywood greats, James Dean; but I wasn’t convinced that ‘young Hollywood’ would befit the occasion.

Adding to my personal pre-Oscars jitters was the buzz around David Fincher’s The Social Network – which I have issues with. On the whole I had enjoyed the film but struggled with its deplorable representation of women but mostly felt it was a shame that the first big film about an era-defining medium would focus on everything but the incredible way in which Facebook changed the way in which we socialise (luckily Catfish does this beautifully). 

For the first time this year I was able to legitimately work Oscars talk into my work life, as one of my clients has a website that provides commentary on luxury jewellery so we were having lots of exciting conversations that combined both diamonds and hashtags. The idea that this year I would be watching with an #Oscars hashtag at the ready made my inner-geek very happy.

What I hadn’t factored into Oscar season was that on 14th February 2011 James Franco would join Twitter and Facebook. It began in relative-Hollywood style via, which as an invite only social networking service seemed a fitting choice for a star on the rise. However, within a couple of hours it was apparent that Mr Franco was bringing his own unique brand of auteurism to his social media profiles. Perhaps in a desperate attempt to counterbalance the toothy-grinned promo photos from the Oscar press kit, Franco began posting videos and images that poked-fun at the minutiae of celeb-sodden Twitter by posting pictures of his urine and avatars with added LOL cats.

By the time Sunday night rolled around I was following him on Twitter hoping for the odd pre-ceremony tweet but as the red carpet fanfare was coming to a close it became clear that our host was going to be sharing a lot more than just a quick ‘wish me luck’ tweet. Just before going live across the world, @jamesfranco rolled out a bespoke hashtag – (#OscarsRealTime) and lifted the curtain on the Academy Awards.

From the moment he walked on stage (iPhone 4 in hand), it was clear that Franco was bringing the show to the people, a mini-documentary within an award show (Inception eat your heart out!) minus the artifice - inclusively cool.

Throughout the epic show fans and followers were treated to backstage videos, pictures and musings. At an event where often each acceptance speech feels like an audition for the recipient’s next big role, Franco’s punk-ethic was exciting and fresh. In the hands of a less grounded actor, the opportunity to tweet at the Oscars could be viewed as just another chance to sell themselves, their designer or next movie – but what Franco did so well is something that even those non-celebrities amongst us would do well to remember: he kept social media social.

Lotte Mahon

Image credit: James Franco

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