THE JAMES FRANCO PRINCIPLE

Image

“Darling, you don’t fall in love with somebody *because* they’re beautiful.
People are lovely *because* we love them, not the other way round”.

-The Line of Beauty

I don’t know who first used the term ‘creative’ in a career sense. For my generation, the term has become an aspiration for careers that involves a degree of freedom. Especially given mass production that removes us from consumping our own creations, we idealise creative career fantasies: fashion design, freelance writing, music, art, bespoke cheese-making, or alpaca farming. The ideal of creativity and career as mutually exclusive is not yet achievable for most of us because of the nature of capitalism: the lack of opportunities reflected in unpaid internships and lack of broader market emphasis on creative independence as an asset. Because a full-time/ freelance creative career is not possible for most of us, we devote ourselves to blogs and writing projects, bands, painting, cheese-making courses, squirrel away money, and may be discovered or take a chance.

Often my generation has a distorted definition of creativity. The advent of social media especially reflects contradictory extremes – one end of the spectrum that emphasises the image and the other on overproduction.

If in a bad mood it’s not wise to view Instagram or Facebook – from which you wrongly compare yourself to others’ creative accomplishments which in the end is just image. Social media is too frequently used to craft an online self to project culture and creativity. Become known for the cute animal pictures, refine that awkward meme-ish pose you do in front of famous landmarks, and use your full name/ weird pseudonym. This is akin to a Family Guy reference or any Buzzfeed post: a nudge and a wink to gain that might want individuality but screams to be demanded as one of the group.

At the other end of the spectrum is the cultural expectation of perpetual creation. In Melbourne, the term ‘creative’ – that code word in flat ads – screams synth band and writing side projects, mural painting, and baking artisan sourdough – a true diluted homeopathic essence of Melbourne. Overall, I am pleased with the rise of creative pursuits among my generation as a reflection that many in my generation desire a connection with their consumption. However, the expectations of this level of creativity we project onto each other through social media and conversation are often unrealistic. Too many of us overreach in multiple pursuits but few are truly talented at the everything – that’s why Rhodes Scholarships are so exclusive. People like David Byrne, Kurt Vonnegut, or Patti Smith have applied themselves well to different media and have set for my generation a high bar of expectations we too often try to qualify for. Also, our long daily commutes to work, study, and socialising, and the expenses incurred makes most of us incapable of engaging in multiple creative pursuits – which mostly lie half completed and scattered like a mad tinker’s backyard.

Most who can actually juggle a multitude of pursuits spread their creativity too thin and produce bad results – and almost always accompanied by the image of creativity. I call this the James Franco Principle. James Franco is symbolic of our generation’s creative ambition to be the ultimate slashie. Studying a PhD and attending classes sporadically, writing mediocre novels such as Palo Alto – which after the first page I considered setting on fire in disgust – acting in a multitude of gay film roles that would be better left to gay actors, and treating gay sex like a joke detracts from his actual talent – acting. My generation idolises him probably because it values results. A plethora of mediocre side projects qualifies as creative even if the output is bad as long as also backed up by image (like this).

The need to present oneself as creative at all times and be constantly creating demeans our own creativity and replaces it with laziness. Creativity is simply a process, is not a constant state of being or mind. Consider the entire lyrics to the song ‘Artists Only’ from my favourite band, Talking Heads.

I’m painting, I’m painting again
I’m painting, I’m painting again
I’m cleaning, I’m cleaning again
I’m cleaning, I’m cleaning my brain
Pretty soon now, I will be bitter
Pretty soon now, will be a quitter
Pretty soon now, I will be bitter
You can’t see it ’til it’s finished
I don’t have to prove that I am creative
I don’t have to prove that I am creative
All my pictures are confused
And now I’m going to take me to you

Three of the four band members – David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, and Chris Frantz – studied at Rhode Island School of Design so can attest to the creative process – ideas, doing, mood swings, insecurity, and working for your satisfaction rather than someone else’s praise. Writing this piece was a frustrating process that included writing awful rants, regret, almost setting the thing on fire, and procrastination involving way too many TV docos like ‘The Worlds’ Scariest Cult/ Fat Female Tumor/ Penis Bite’.

Creativity requires an almost fascistic sense of self-discipline and the acceptance of fluctuating levels of inspiration and confidence. Anyone who claims to constantly create could be an idiot savant but more likely is lying or producing substandard work. Our posts of completed projects don’t show the overthinking, injuries, tears, doubts, stress-induced arguments with loved ones, almost setting the project on fire, and most importantly the fucking up and learning.

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2 comments

  1. Pingback: Claudsy’s Blog: Hunting a Lifestyle to Satisfy Desire | Two Voices, One Song
  2. Pingback: GOING GAY FOR PLAY | Fine Tooth Column

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