I just watched 47 minutes of James Franco doing the internet's bidding, and it's the single weirdest thing I've seen in the days since Too Many Cooks came out. Which is to say not that long. In a weekend Google Hangout sponsored by Paper Magazine, Franco tried to "Break the Internet" by having fans give him bizarre instructions for what to do. And judging by how surprised he was at how weird things got, it's safe to say Franco wasn't ready to stare the internet in the face.
Some of my favorite requests:
- Put on leather gloves sluttily, pet a kitten, and speak to a pretty lady "secretively"
- Put on bunny ears, stuff yourself with marshmallows, and pretend to be a devastated Bugs Bunny suffering from rejection
- Perform a monologue incorporating love, sorrow, arousal, whipped cream, a turkey sandwich, and a puppy
It's not long into the entire session that Franco starts calling people weirdos for the kind of requests they make. Now, to be completely fair, having a dog lick peanut butter off your face for the masses is pretty weird. But Franco's befuddlement is bizarre mostly because he himself has made a cottage industry out of doing weird shit (or art, though opinions vary) and getting people to react to it. Here, however, he seems vaguely turned off by the proceedings, bored with having to recite Tennessee Williams in a tutu, irritated by having to summon up a cannibalistic Tweetie Bird impression, and a little put out by twerking for the audience.
Planted as he was in a hotel room with kittens and Christmas sweaters all at arm's length for this express purpose, he had to know something like this would happen. Who on the internet doesn't like cute animals? But the Web's actual citizens pulled him deeper into their world than he or his handlers probably anticipated, especially given how tame his video announcing the chat was.
The truth is, if Paper's aim was to break the internet with Kim Kardashian's butt and James Franco's peanut butter face, they really just succeeded at creating everyday internet but with celebrities. The internet is a supremely weird place. Any trip to BuzzFeed exposes that, and this whole project seems tailor-made for a generation of fans that enjoy a healthy diet of memes and image macros. But what we witnessed here was a PR campaign going down a Reddit rabbit hole very quickly, and Franco was a little unprepared.