James Franco’s $2 million settlement adds to a complicated day for sexual assault victims
Pending a California judge’s approval, it was revealed today that James Franco will be paying $2,235,000 to settle a 2019 lawsuit alleging sexual misconduct. As we reported when the case originally settled without a monetary decision back in February, actresses Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal brought the lawsuit against the A-lister. The two women were former students of Franco’s at his Studio 4 Film acting school in New York and Los Angeles where, they said, instead of receiving qualified acting training and insight on landing jobs, they were forced into sexually explicit “orgy scenes” by a temperamental, boundary-pushing Franco.
This comes in light of news that also broke today that Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction has been overturned by an appeals court, and he has already been released from prison. The mix of both types of news — a complete failure of justice in the case of Cosby, and a financial type of justice in the case of Franco — reveals how volatile the #MeToo climate still is. While in its beginning the movement gripped the cultural conversation with a true reckoning on men and sent a vindicating breeze blowing from the top down, it now feels like an even tougher fight. Getting #MeToo'd has become a derogatory way of saying a woman is falsely accusing a man, along with other types of convoluted pushback that exist now, and complicated additions to three years of a #MeToo narrative (see: Aziz Ansari).
What is clear is that James Franco — who boldly denied the allegations on Stephen Colbert's show, while also wearing a Times Up pin to the 2018 Golden Globes — is guilty of something. We may never get a full confession from Franco, but he cared enough to pay over $2.2 million to make this go away. In accordance with the February 11th settlement Tither-Kaplan and Gaal must drop their claims, "but their allegations of sexual exploitation were dismissed without prejudice, which means they can be re-filed down the line," as reported by the Associated Press.
Today is a complicated day for justice for sexual assault victims. But what seems to be true is that Franco is in the beginning of a major reckoning as Busy Phillips has spoken out against her former Freaks and Geeks co-star, and long-time collaborator and weed-smoking buddy Seth Rogan has officially cut ties with the actor. Often it takes other celebrities choosing a side for the culture at large to decide how they feel on the matter — so things don't look hopeful for Franco.
What remains to be seen though is how long the court of public opinion will care — seeing as Louis C.K. still gets on stage, and Amazon just quietly released Woody Allen's latest film, there is an unsettling amount of cultural amnesia that happens with these sorts of sexual misconduct crimes. Regardless, at least today a small slice of financial justice was served.