‘SNL’: James Franco’s 2017 Controversial #MeToo Skit Didn’t Age Well

Saturday Night Live has gleefully pushed the envelope of good taste for some 45 years now. Skits like “The Vomitorium” and a nude beach sketch with Matthew Broderick have raised more than a few eyebrows over the years.

Occasionally, however, SNL tears the envelope to shreds in the eyes of some viewers. One such moment was the “Sexual Harassment Charlie” Sketch from 2017. It didn’t help that one of the central figures in the sketch, James Franco, faced sexual harassment controversies of his own. 

How did James Franco get famous?

James Franco on the red carpet
James Franco | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

RELATED: Why Alison Brie Defended James Franco Against Sexual Assault Allegations

Although it may not have seemed like it at the time, James Franco’s early break was the TV show Freaks and Geeks. Though it only lasted one season, it launched the careers of not only Franco, but also Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and many other people who would go on to star in the movies of Judd Apatow, who was a producer on the show. 

Franco’s career kicked up to the next level when he landed the role of Harry Osborne, Peter Parker’s tortured best friend  in the Spider-Man trilogy of the 2000s. His career stayed strong for several years, ranging from action movies like Rise of the Planet of the Apes to dramas like Milk. He scored an Oscar nomination for the movie 127 Hours, playing a man trapped in a canyon for that length of time. 

Franco has a particular affinity for comedy, starring in several movies with Rogen, one of which was the controversial  The Interview, which roused the ire of the North Korean government, which threatened action against the United States if the film were released. It would not be the last time Franco faced scrutiny, onscreen or off. 

Why did ‘Sexual Harassment Charlie’ turn people off?

Franco hosted Saturday Night Live in 2017, and one of the sketches he took part in was “Sexual Harassment Charlie,” about two employees of a company called Beta Corp, who lose their jobs because of sexual harassment. Franco was one of the employees, and Kenan Thompson was the other.   Before their departure, they are required to apologize to the staff, and they handle the situation very differently. 

The skit arrived after a wave of sexual misconduct allegations brought down powerful men like Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and Bill Cosby. Mashable was just one of the outlets to raise a red flag, writing, “Is the sketch trying to say that women are more accepting of bad behavior from one versus the other? There’s a mountain of evidence in the public domain, built up over the past year-and-more, that says otherwise.  For those who have been paying attention, the big lesson of 2017 has been: Sexual misconduct in any form is unacceptable, hard stop.”

The Mary Sue chimed in too, writing “I understand that they likely wrote this sketch to make a valid point about double standards, but the one they ended up making is that poor powerful white men are suffering under the tyranny of overly sensitive women who say they hate being harassed at work, but secretly love and are amused by harassment as long as it comes from the right dude. Which we are not.”

What happened to James Franco?

Franco’s last major success was the 2017 movie The Disaster Artist, about the making of the legendarily awful movie The Room. Franco’s film became a contender that awards season, with Franco himself winning a Golden Globe. Around this time, however, Franco found himself at the center of a number of sexual harassment allegations, including women who had Franco as a mentor or acting teacher, according  to Vanity Fair.  Franco appeared at the Golden Globes with a Time’s Up pin, angering actress Ally Sheedy, who said Franco was not an ally. 

Franco has laid low in recent years, with the New York Daily News  reporting he was taking a break after having such a busy work schedule.