The Big Issue : Edition 439
50 THE BIG ISSUE 16 -- 29 AUG 2013 compulsive obsession with the James-Franco-smile than one of those other daunting male fgures. I was teamed up with a sponsor. A nice man called Mel. He encouraged me to look at how my problem had affected my life and those around me. We met up for a latte on Oxford Street. He told me his story. He’d been addicted to Bette Davis’ eyes and it was a tale of such pain and inspiration. He was many years clean and hadn’t so much as thought about What Ever Happened to Baby Jane for as long as he could remember. “Do you really think I can be free of the smile?” I asked. “It’s so hard. It pops up everywhere. I didn’t even know that he was in Milk until it was too late. The smile is sneaky and blinds me when I least expect it. It hosted the Oscars, for Chrissakes.” “You need to make amends to those you’ve hurt,” he told me. My thoughts went immediately to my husband, my children. The staff at the Blockbuster video store. I’d lied to them when I said that the DVD copy of 127 Hours was stolen from my car. I’d kept it. Waiting until the end of that flm and then soaking in the climactic James-Franco-smiles of pure relief and victory at the powerful conclusion was like freebasing crack. My husband was feeling neglected, insecure, sure that I had some kind of crush on James Franco, the actor. But he didn’t understand that it wasn’t the man, the actor, the person that I was obsessed with; it was far more shallow and superfcial than that. It was just the smile. The actor could be acting his little heart out, being all emotional and angst-ridden and intense and I watched on like any other viewer, moved by his passion and impressed with his skill, but he was just another guy. One of a thousand Hollywood actors. The unsmiling, intense James Franco just didn’t do it for me. It was only when he smiled that smile, that all-encompassing grin, that I went to pieces, came undone. I sat my husband down and tried to explain that it wasn’t like an affair or a porn thing. It wasn’t even sexual. It was, like, so hard to put into words, it was, it was… more of a religious or rapturous experience. The smile lit up places in my body that I didn’t know existed. To be honest, I think it penetrated my soul. “But I want you to bask in my smile,” my husband said sadly. And then he smiled. It was lovely. A nice, clean, open and honest smile full of genuine warmth. But I was jaded. I was too far gone. It was a pleasant smile but it didn’t shazam me with the same pleasure punch as the James-Franco-smile. It broke my heart to have to admit that to myself. “Well, if you’re serious about kicking this thing,” he said. “We’re going to have to remove every movie featuring James Franco from the house.” "Not Pineapple Express,” I gasped. “I don’t know if I could physically survive without an occasional viewing of that. It’s been months since I went even one day without watching that one.” "Your daughter is starting to watch Tristan and Isolde repeatedly. You are setting a very poor example,” he snapped at me. I bowed my head in shame. I had gotten the flm from the local library and thought it was innocent enough to play to the kids. I saw the way my daughter brightened each time Tristan’s face lit up. I’d pushed it aside and ignored it, but my husband was right. This thing could become generational and I didn’t want that yoke around anyone’s else’s neck. I couldn’t wear that guilt or be burdened with that terrible responsibility. “Okay,” I nodded. “Just take all the flms and get rid of them. Don’t give them away…too risky for others…just destroy them” The thought of those smiles, hundreds, thousands of them, being destroyed, made me break out in a clammy sweat. My hands began to shake. I was seeing dark spots. That night, I prayed, on my knees, to Gaia, to give me the strength to follow through with my decision to quit. I imagined a beautiful, ethereal spirit-woman caressing my hair. So hard did I weave this image into my meditations that I actually heard the whisper of her voice. “Don’t be so hard on yourself, little one,” she tinkled like silver fairy foss. “You’re only a human woman and the temptation of the James-Franco-smile is great. You are not the only one to have fallen prey to it.” "NO," HE SAYS, SHAKING HIS HEAD. "YOU HAVE A LIFELONG PROBLEM WITH THE JAMES FRANCO SMILE AND IT JUST SPARKS SOMETHING IN YOU THAT YOU CANNOT CONTROL." 10 MAY It’s been three days and I’ll be honest. I can’t get Oz the Great and Powerful out of my head. I’ve taken out the ticket stub and read it, fondling it in my palm: Cinema 3, 2.10pm. The urge to go down there and sit in the darkened theatre, staring up as the smile explodes in celluloid, shining down on me, the glow and luminescence of it washing over my face…the urge is, yes it is, overwhelming. Who would know? My husband is at work, the kids at school. But I force myself to remember the look on the face of the young girl who works in the ticket box. She knows. I can see it in her condescending smirk. A woman of my age, going to the Wizard movie by myself, during the day, more than once? Her eyes accuse me. Judging me. Seeing me as Woman the Small and Weak, bound by some unshakeable bond to the Great and Powerful James-Franco-smile. And she is right. And I am ashamed. But Mel, my sponsor, tells me that shame is toxic. It does me no favours. I need to accept that I was violently swept away and now I must hang onto my Twelve Steps like a life raft, keeping me afoat. I’m fnding it hardest at night. I dream of the smile. It haunts my sleep. Distorted like a Salvador Dalí painting. The James-Franco-smile taunts me like a demonic Cheshire Cat and I wake panting and coiled tight.