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James Franco is just a smarmier Ethan Hawke

James Franco, the Hipster Zelig and member of the ubiquitous Judd Apatow dude factory (and all the mediocrity that entails), is the media’s wet dream. His bad choices, like hosting The Oscars, are rationalized as just another subtly brilliant Franco experiment that the rest of us are too dumb to understand.

He’s become the go-to celebrity for The New York Times, offering allegedly deep insights on everything from selfies (“attention seems to be  the name of the game when it comes to social networking” — brilliant) to Shia LaBeouf’s public meltdowns (“Performance art” allows a “film actor” to reclaim “a little bit of power over his image. Participating in this call and response is a kind of critique, a way to show up the media by allowing their oversize responses to essentially trivial actions to reveal the emptiness of their raison d’être.”) So that’s what the Unknown Comic was getting at.

In an appearance this morning on “Live! with Kelly and Michael” — chosen for reasons only he can comprehend — Franco acknowledged trying to hook up with a 17-year-old girl. But don’t blame him.

”I’m embarrassed, and I guess I’m just a model of how social media is tricky,” Franco said sheepishly. “It’s a way people meet each other today, but what I’ve learned is you don’t know who’s on the other end. I used bad judgement and I learned my lesson.”

Actually, Franco did know who was on the other end — a teenage fangirl. But since it’s James Franco doing the perving …

“I promise I will not reveal our text messages,” Kelly Ripa joked after Franco’s mea culpa.

The joke’s on us, not that anyone seems to care. The brilliance of James Franco is blinding.

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