TIME posted an article yesterday with the following headline:

James Franco Is the 21st Century’s First Great Public Intellectual

I suppose the writer was impressed with Franco’s poem in honour of President Obama’s 2nd inauguration. Here come the proper academics, lining up now to give him yet another descriptor behind his name: Public Intellectual...because he happens to throw a lot of balls up in the air and call them jobs?

Is this really the modernisation of the Public Intellectual? Or are our standards really so low?

Is James Franco a Public Intellectual?

Along with a list of public intellectual criteria, the article begins by defining Public Intellectuals as “thinkers who have become celebrities”. I don’t remember James Franco being a thinker before he was a celebrity. 

But if James Franco is indeed a Public Intellectual, it could be argued that someone like, say, Kanye West is a Public Intellectual too. And maybe even BEFORE Franco ever allegedly became one. Let’s assess West’s public intellectual eligibility according to what the article cites are the Public Intellectual’s “signature qualities”:

Because a public intellectual is a generalist. 
Kanye West: musician, poet, producer, fashion designer, director, burger shoppe owner, philanthropist

Because a public intellectual has academic credibility but, if possible, isn’t tied to a university.
I’m heading home, I’m almost there
I’m on my way, heading up the stairs
To my surprise, a n---a replacing me
I had to take him to that ghetto university

--All Of The Lights

Because a public intellectual is a celebrity.
Kanye West is a celebrity.

Because a public intellectual confronts norms.
Kanye West vs Taylor Swift
“George Bush doesn’t care about black people”

Because a public intellectual examines society rather than merely participating.
We shine because they hate us
Floss cause they degrade us
We trying to buy back our 40 acres
And for that paper, look how low we stoop
Even if you in a Benz, you still a n---a in a coop

--All Falls Down

Because a public intellectual is motivated by an ideology.
Kanye West has an enormous ego. Please don’t tell me to explain to you that of course he’s motivated by an ideology: The Ideology of Kanye West.

James Franco, Public Intellectual?


By the same rationale though, Kanye West too. And Kanye West first.

Click here to read TIME’s James Franco’s Public Intellectual article.

In other Franco news, did you see him on Colbert earlier this week? I haven’t found him this tolerable in a long, long time -- credit to Colbert, who wouldn’t let him come on his show as Public Intellectual but rather called him a fraud, to his face, and made him participate in a discussion that didn’t allow him to go off on his arty tangents. In fairness to Franco, he played, and he was fun. Because he was held in check by an actual Public Intellectual who is far superior.

Attached -- Franco, who seems to have darkened his hair back from orange, at various events in New York promoting Oz: The Great And Powerful.