by Harry Painter
Reporter, Pope Center
The left is not enjoying James Franco’s Thursday op-ed in the Washington Post in favor of McDonald’s. Titled “McDonald’s was there for me when no one else was,” the Spider-Man and Pineapple Express actor’s op-ed defends the fast food giant, a longtime whipping boy for the supposed excesses of capitalism. In fact, McD’s has taken it so hard over the years that many attribute the corporation’s slumping performance to the social stigma around eating there.
Franco laments the company’s struggles, but wants its rebranding strategy to work, he writes. “All I know is that when I needed McDonald’s, McDonald’s was there for me. When no one else was.”
You see, before Franco ever played the lovable over-the-top street thug in Spring Breakers or the lovable over-the-top version of himself in This Is the End, or even the bad-boy high-school hunk in Freaks and Geeks, he was a lowly UCLA dropout with a dream. In order to fund that dream, he needed a job.
Franco chose his dream over pride or “social justice”:
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. I went to the nearest Mickey D’s and was hired the same day.
Yeah, maybe he could have eventually found a job at a more progressive company that paid a “living wage” and used “real meat” in its burgers. But having been through a similar experience myself with a degree during the Great Recession, I understand that the doing so is easier said than done. McDonald’s was there for me too, right when I needed it.
The usual suspects, like Slate, Mother Jones, and even another writer in the Post, quickly responded to Franco’s op-ed, insisting that he doesn’t get it. Critics of the Golden Arches are worried about working-class folks with kids, not middle-class starving artists like Franco who needed a safety net.
But no one claims McDonald’s is the ideal long-term job with which to support a family on one income. Not every job needs to be that. Some jobs are stepping stones and can only be that. California boys like me and James Franco may not have much in common with third-world transplants who need McDonald’s to survive, but one thing we do have in common is that we all looked to McDonald’s for a boost, and McDonald’s was there for us.