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James Franco's Semi-Opinion on 'Girls'

Photo of Alison Willmore By Alison Willmore | Indiewire May 31, 2012 at 10:40AM

At the Huffington Post, James Franco offers "a dude's take on 'Girls'" that's more notable for the fact that it's coming from a famous guy who got his start in another Judd Apatow project, "Freaks and Geeks," than for what he actually ends up saying, though he does make the valid point that as an actor-turned-grad-student, he's a key part of the show's target audience: "I got pulled in at the beginning simply because it seemed to portray my world -- the one inhabited by struggling creative types in New York."
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James Franco in 'Freaks and Geeks'
James Franco in 'Freaks and Geeks'

At the Huffington Post, James Franco offers "a dude's take on 'Girls'" that's more notable for the fact that it's coming from a famous guy who got his start in another Judd Apatow project, "Freaks and Geeks," than for what he actually ends up saying, though he does make the valid point that as an actor-turned-grad-student, he's a key part of the show's target audience: "I got pulled in at the beginning simply because it seemed to portray my world -- the one inhabited by struggling creative types in New York."

Franco likes "Girls" while also being deeply aware that the series is divisive -- he notes that the characters need to get jobs while pointing out that its creator is in reality incredibly ambitious and hard-working; that it's lacking in diversity in a way that may limit potential audiences while allowing that there's "no obligation to be kaleidoscopic"; and that the male characters "are the biggest bunch of losers I've ever seen," though this is just "fair payback for the endless parade of airheaded women on the West Coast male counterpart to Girls, Entourage."

In other words, Franco is up on all the controversy without feeling strongly about a particular side, and is also willing to acknowledge that "people just need something to write about on the Internet" -- even celebrity MFA students. But there's an interesting potential point he only hints at:

I am fine watching a show about women dealing with men I would never want to be. I watched Steel Magnolias incessantly when I was in junior high school, and I can get off on female bonding. Done right, it's more interesting than male bonding. I'm also aware that I may be giving myself too much credit: for all I know, but for the grace of Judd Apatow I would be just like those struggling male idiots I see on the show. And of course it's often more entertaining to watch people be irresponsible and make mistakes than it is to watch them lead stable lives.

'Girls'
Jojo Whilden/HBO 'Girls'

It's not just that Apatow gave Franco his start -- Daniel Desario, the character he played in "Freaks & Geeks," is really a more developed proto-Adam (Adam Driver), the guy who causes Lena Dunham's character Hannah so much emotional turmoil in "Girls."

Daniel, like Adam, is the boy a girl eventually learns she can't or at least shouldn't date -- that was his role on the show, as Lindsay Weir's (Linda Cardellini) elusive crush, the one who introduces her to the geeks, and who slowly showed off the realm of trouble lurking underneath the charming bad boy exterior. (Jason Segel's Nick Andopolis, on the other hand, has shades of Christopher Abbott's smothering Charlie.)

"Girls" is told from a female perspective, which is part of the reason the men come off looking so maddening or mysterious or as Jessa fodder (as Franco describes them, the "bevy of wussy hipsters who are just grist for the insatiable lust of the too-cool girl with the British accent") -- that's how they're seen by the inexperienced characters. "Freaks and Geeks" was much more evenhanded, which is why even the protagonist Lindsay's obscure object of desire became a fleshed-out, empathetic and complex young man with more self-awareness than he wanted. But he and Adam have much more in common than not -- it'd be great to hear whether Franco sees any of the character he portrayed so well echoed in the one on "Girls" he refers to as "the king of them all, the shirtless dude who talks funny and hides his stomach all the time."

This article is related to: Television, TV Features, Girls, James Franco , Judd Apatow