On December 22, SiriusXM’s The Jess Cagle Podcast aired an exclusive hour-long interview with James Franco. It was just before the holidays, as everyone was wrapping up ahead of the Christmas break, and here’s James Franco explaining himself, with all kinds of rationalisations ranging from sex addiction to not knowing better, and there are many, many articles online that summarise his comments, and/or you can subscribe to Sirius and listen to it yourself, if you want the full context. For the purposes of this post, however, the only context being spotlighted here is Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal’s response to his remarks.
The two women, who were students at James’s now-defunct acting school, filed a class action lawsuit against James and the school in 2019 alleging that it was basically set up to “create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education.” In June, James agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle the lawsuit. So it’s been pretty much exactly six months – and now James Franco is tiptoeing back onto the scene? Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal are calling him out on it, releasing a statement through their lawyers that reads:
"It is unbelievable that even after agreeing to a settlement he continues to downplay the survivors' experiences and ignore their pain, despite acknowledging he had no business starting such a school in the first place.
Nobody should confuse this interview with Franco taking accountability for his actions or expressing remorse over what happened. It is a transparent ducking of the real issues released just before a major holiday in hopes that he wouldn't face any scrutiny over his response.
In addition to being blind about power dynamics, Franco is completely insensitive to, and still apparently does not care about, the immense pain and suffering he put his victims through with this sham of an acting school."
Sarah Tither-Kaplan also posted this on Twitter:
Platforming abusers while excluding survivors causes even further harm. Survivor blacklisting is still a very real problem.— Sarah Tither-Kaplan (@sarahtk) December 22, 2021
And it’s important that her tweet and the statement that she and Toni Gaal put out through their lawyers get the appropriate amount of attention – which would be more than what than what James is getting for his PR campaign. Not surprisingly, that’s not happening. As noted in the statement, James’s strategy already seemed to be to bury this interview during the holiday rush, so that he could check off the box of addressing his scandal while everyone’s distracted with the holidays, thereby escaping the amount of heat that would normally be heading in his direction. So, as it is, the victims get even less play.
But why now?
An interview like this isn’t spontaneous. This was part of a plan that would have likely involved his manager, agents, and publicist collectively choosing a soft place for James to land – in this case Jess Cagle, who was the editor of celebrity-friendly PEOPLE Magazine for five years – and deliberately setting the timing for it, and now hoping it will die down with the end of the year, so that he can begin a comeback in 2022? Because this is the kind of thing that has to be in service of something bigger. I wonder if he’s been in talks for a movie or a series; I wonder if this was one of the conditions; I wonder whether or not, in a month or two, maybe sooner, we’ll see an industry announcement about a project in development that includes him. Because it’s hard to believe, at least to me, that James Franco decided to bare his soul (and hardly, at that) in the spirit of Christmas and healing. It may be the antithesis of Christmas to be this cynical, but moves like this often involve ulterior motives, especially in this business.