If James Franco is writing about McDonald’s in the Washington Post, that’s already appointment reading. If he’s actually defending the franchise in the midst of a downturn, and relating his own experience working for them back in the day, then we’re required to drop everything and devote at least two hours to studying his prose.
“But I want the strategy to work,” Franco begins, referring to the new corporate strategy of selling certain outlets to private owners and cutting costs. “All I know is that when I needed McDonald’s, McDonald’s was there for me. When no one else was.”
I’m there for you now, James. I’ve managed to distill the piece into ten transcendent, Franco-tastic lines. Please do read the whole essay — it’s well worth it. Franco’s words are in bold, my commentary follows.
1. “In high school, I was fired from a coffee shop for reading behind the counter and from a golf course for reading while driving the cart on the driving range.”
“Sure, the owners of these businesses said that I was actually fired for severely burning a customer’s arm and driving the cart into a lake six times in one day, but none of those incidents would have happened if I hadn’t been reading a book at the time. So it clearly stemmed from an anti-intellectual agenda.
PS I went to Harvard.”
2. “Someone asked me if I was too good to work at McDonald’s. Because I was following my acting dream despite all the pressure not to, I was definitely not too good to work at McDonald’s.”
The thing that makes James Franco so likable is that if I heard those same words from 99 percent of actors, my first thought would be: “You patronizing phony.” With Franco, I genuinely believe he had no issues with working at McDonald’s, and actually thought it was just a normal part of his life. If some time-traveling genie had approached him from the future and said, “you’ll be doing this for the rest of your life,” I get the sense that his reaction would have been the same as if the same genie turned up to say, “YOU’RE GOING TO BE A BIG STAR!” And the reaction would be: “Oh…right on, man.”
3. “I refrained from reading on the job, but soon started putting on fake accents with the customers to practice for my scenes in acting class.”
Man, why can’t I get the fun James Franco accent-using McDonald’s worker, and not the sullen teenagers who make me feel even worse about destroying my health by eating fast food?
4. “I was asked to give Italian lessons to a cute young woman who thought I was from Pisa; of course I couldn’t follow up as I did not speak Italian.”
Let’s imagine he did follow-up, though, and let’s imagine that this was the start of a classic romantic comedy where he finally had to come clean because he realized he had genuine feelings for this person, and at first she’s super upset, bet eventually realizes she loves him anyway. And let’s pretend a Hollywood executive is reading this post, and decides to make this movie, and is worried that I might sue for creative infringement after the film makes hundreds of millions of dollars. And let’s pretend that I would sue, unless the executive bought my idea for $10,000, in which case I would shut my mouth forever as he or she made their millions. So I guess what I’m saying is, somebody should just pay me $10,000 for spotting a decent plot in somebody else’s writing. What do you say, Hollywood execs?!
5. “A couple of people wanted to fight my spunky Irish self. And I went on several dates as a thick-tongued kid from Bed-Stuy, even though my only brush with the actual place had been through watching Do the Right Thing.“
A. I want to know what James Franco said to piss people off when he did his Irish accent. My guess:
Customer: I’ll take a no. 7, super sized, with a coke.
Franco: Go feck yerself, ya feckin’ bog-trotter!
Franco: Drive ye’re lorry ahaid t’the winda so’se I ken shove this feckin’ stale McNugget down yer feckin’ gullet, ya wee pogue!
B. I love how Franco stopped short of pursuing a date as a fake Italian, but as a fake Italian-American, he had absolutely no compunction. I feel like the Bensonhurst version of Franco would make for a way less charming rom-com, though.
6. “I hate to whistleblow, but everyone ate straight from the fry hopper. You’d walk by and snag a fry and pop it in your mouth. So easy.”
Remember, this is supposed to be a defense of McDonald’s. I can imagine some Mickey D’s PR person hearing that Franco had backed his company in a tough time, opened the article with excitement and anticipation, and then slowly let his jaw hit the floor as he realized that a famous actor had just tanked his company in one of the world’s most popular newspapers. Seriously, though, next time you eat at McDonald’s, take a good long look at the employees, and imagine each one of them running their hands through your food. That’s Franco’s McDonald’s legacy, now. Thanks, James—I will never eat there again.
(I intend to keep this promise for about three days.)
7. “Some customers seem to think that paying for food entitles them to boss the service workers around, but if you’re buying fast food, how much entitlement does that buy you? When you’re paying a dollar for a burger, is it the end of the world if I accidentally forgot to take the mustard off the order?”
I have a feeling Franco pretty much always forgot to take the mustard off the order. He just doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who can force himself to give a shit about the small details. You can just see him staring with those vague, agreeable eyes as some parent spends 10 minutes telling exactly how Junior likes his patties medium-rare with no onions and the ketchup applied in a smiley-face pattern, and then Franco comes back with a large fry and flashes that cool-as-a-cucumber, I’ve-never-worried-about-anything-in-my-life smile. I bet that would infuriate the shit out of a parent. I’d love to see it.
8. “I got hit on by the hamburger cooker. He wanted to hook up in the bathroom, but he didn’t speak English, so he had someone translate for him.”
Wow, this is a funny scene. You have to hand it to the hamburger cooker, here—a lot of nerve. I bet his manager saw that, was impressed, and promoted him on the spot. And I bet that hamburger cooker is now a vice president, and every time he watches a James Franco movie in the rec room of his mansion, he sighs and thinks about what might have been.
More than anything, this makes me want to travel to a foreign country and hire a translator to approach women for me while I wave awkwardly in the background.
9. “After three months of working at McDonald’s, I booked a Super Bowl commercial for Pizza Hut…from that point on, I could support myself through acting.”
I selected this line because we have actual video of the commercial Franco booked, and I am absolutely fascinated by how little it takes to support yourself as an actor in Hollywood. Take a watch:
Notice that Franco does not:
A. Have a line.
B. Appear for more than ten seconds.
C. Laugh on time at the joke, which is literally the one thing he had to do besides leaning against a car with one leg bent. I bet the director of that commercial is still bitter about it.
Anyway, that ad allowed him to quit working a real job forever, folks. Gahhhh, why didn’t I become an actor?!!
(Oh right, it’s because I’m not attractive or charismatic, and I have no talent.)
10. “After reading Fast Food Nation, it’s hard for me to trust the grade of the meat.”
McDonald’s, everybody! Where germ-infested employees eat directly from the fryer, translators facilitate hook-ups in the public bathroom, and science has shown that the meat will probably kill you.
Still, please support them in their time of need because they once gave me a job. Sincerely, James Franco.