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James Franco Does Dionysus on General Hospital

James Franco has reprised his role as Franco this week on General Hospital. His appearance on the Soap has garnered much attention, and many have questioned Franco’s judgment for appearing on the show. James Franco has stated that his appearance is part of a performance art piece, and he is challenging audiences. Today I will explore Franco’s performance art on General Hospital.

James Franco first appeared on General Hospital last November, during sweeps for 20 episodes. The move seemed surprising for a movie star, and many questioned his motivations. Some claimed that James Franco was doing research for a film, while others claimed he was washed up and just couldn’t find any other jobs. Franco answered his critics in a December op-ed found in the Wall Street Journal. In the op-ed, James Franco explained his appearance on General Hospital as performance art.

James Franco explains:

I disrupted the audience’s suspension of disbelief, because no matter how far I got into the character, I was going to be perceived as something that doesn’t belong to the incredibly stylized world of soap operas. Everyone watching would see an actor they recognized, a real person in a made-up world. In performance art, the outcome is uncertain—and this was no exception. My hope was for people to ask themselves if soap operas are really that far from entertainment that is considered critically legitimate.

Many people have called bullshit of James Franco’s claims of performance art. They find the idea pretentious and ridiculous. In his op-ed James Franco attempted to challenge this notion.

Performance art can seem pretentious, but it can also be quite mischievous and playful. Just as Marcel Duchamp rocked the art establishment in 1917 with his found urinal called “Fountain,” performance artists of the 1960s and 1970s presented entire practices and occupations as art. In today’s version, the artist Fritz Haeg packages lawn care as art—his ongoing series “Edible Estates” consists of designing and implementing ecologically productive front lawns. As Mr. Haeg said at a talk at Columbia University last month, “Being an artist is the one profession where you can wake up and say, ‘What do I want to learn about and participate in today?’ ” What could be more fun than that?

In defence of James Franco, performance art has often been linked with pop culture and Andy Warhol utilized performance art throughout his career. One of the best examples of this is of course his appearance on the Love Boat.

James Franco in his latest appearance on General Hospital is making a statement about what we conceive to be high culture. Many people believe soap operas are a form of low culture; James Franco is challenging this notion.

So why did James Franco choose a Soap Opera to do his performance art?

Soap operas are an interesting phenomenon, and are probably the closest thing our culture has to Greek tragedies. In Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy he explained that the Greek tragedy transcended the meaningless of life, and was the highest form of art because its mixture of the Apollonian and Dionysian.

Briefly this concept is the dichotomy of the two sons of Zeus.

Zeus fathered both Dionysus and Apollo

Apollo is the god of the sun and is associated with order, logic and individualism.

Dionysus is the god of wine and is associated with passion and chaos.

In his original appearance James Franco’s portrayal of Franco was an interesting spotlight on the dynamics within the Soap Opera, specifically the Apollonian and Dionysian dichotomy.

Franco clearly represents the Dionysian element of soap operas

Franco is obsessed with Jason Morgan, a mobster with a heart of gold. Jason was in a car accident, which left him devoid of many emotions and is always rational and calculated. Jason represents Apollonian element.

The dichotomy between the two is seen when they first meet.

In his first appearance Franco forced hero Jason to choose between saving two women, his girlfriend Sam and a close family friend Lulu.

Jason chooses his girlfriend Sam, but calls Lulu’s boyfriend to save her (Dominic/Dante-long story on why he has two names). Only one bomb goes off, at Lulu’s location, so Franco is able to put one over on Jason.

In his latest appearance Franco will be putting on a show at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) both on the show and real life.

Here is James Franco describing his current role on General Hospital.

He will be luring Jason to MOCA for a final standoff.

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