Pop Culture

James Franco says provocative Instagrams are 'what the people want'

Don't look for hidden meaning in James Franco's social media hijinks. Stopping by "The Late Show With David Letterman" on Thursday, the "Palo Alto" actor was asked to explain his strange, sometimes provocative Instagram activity. (His most recent headline-making antics include tweeting and then deleting a semi-naked selfie, and unsuccessfully attempting to pick up a 17-year-old fan via the app.)

"To me, it's just a fun thing. It's something I don't put a ton of thought into," Franco, 36, said of his posts on the picture-sharing site. "But it gets a lot of attention. I have a lot of followers on Instagram." (That's an understatement; in fact, he has more than 2 million.)

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Letterman then showed the star's mostly nude bathroom photo, for which he covered his privates with his hand. "It's not like I'm, like, putting that on billboards," Franco argued. "Ostensibly, Instagram is for my fans. But, you know, now all the bloggers are following me on there, so they'll just take and use my images for whatever they want."

"I didn't ask you to look at it," he told the late-night comedian, who jokingly recoiled at the sight of the picture. "It's what the people want. If you don't want to see it, don't follow me. Don't follow me on Instagram!"

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Earlier this week, the author -- currently starring in the Broadway play "Of Mice and Men" — told the Daily Beasthe goes through phases where he gets "addicted" to social media. "It's a weird power," he admitted.

"I'm not lonely ... I have people around me all the time. It's just that as a performer, you get used to interactions with attention and interactions with audiences, so it feels like an audience that's both private and large at the same time — intimate and wide-reaching — which is very seductive," he reasoned. "And there are positive things that come out of my relationship with it, and negative things."

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Often the negative things happen because Franco likes to test the limits of what's acceptable. "I get pulled into these things and, if I look back on my relationship with Instagram, or Twitter, or whatever, I find that I push certain boundaries to see what kind of reaction I'll get and then inevitably I go too far," he told the Daily Beast. "It's ironic to me because what takes it too far I find, in some realms, not to be racy at all."

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The "Spider-Man" alum also wrote about the public's obsession with selfies in an essay for The New York Times last December. "Attention is power," he noted in the piece. "And if you are someone people are interested in, then the selfie provides something very powerful, from the most privileged perspective possible."