Last week brought news, equal parts amusing and heartening, that Liverpool Hope University awarded its first Masters degree in Beatles studies.
While we can only imagine the final exam questions (What's Paul McCartney's given first name? Answer: James), one can argue there's some value in studying a group whose vast musical impact was only transcended by its cultural influence.
The Beatleology degree came to mind this week with word that the ubiquitous James Franco is helping mount a college course that's all about his favorite subject: James Franco.
The class at Columbia College Hollywood, Movieline reports, will consist of 12 film editing students charged with putting together a half-hour documentary about the work of the filmmaker and actor, who may be either a pop-culture renaissance man, a merry-prankster performance artist or both.
The students' biggest challenge might be summing up the 32-year-old performer's career in 30 minutes.
While overexposure is the second-greatest fear of any actor (just behind underexposure and just ahead of death), Franco's game seems to pushing our tolerance for him to the limits, and perhaps past. He may be the meta man for our times – not so much a Beatle, but a Warhol who is trying to extend his 15 minutes of fame in multiple art forms well past a cumulative 127 hours.
Some of his latest exploits: Franco turned up in Sundance, where he mounted a multi-media installation called, "Three's Company: The Drama" and donned a blond Chrissy Snow wig to celebrate. He returns this month to "General Hospital" to reprise his role as as Franco, a mysterious artist and assassin. He's taking singing lessons for his Feb. 27 stint co-hosting the Academy Awards, where he could pick up a Best Actor Oscar. He churns out videos for Funny or Die, and frequently turns up on red carpets and talk shows, including an appearance last week on "The Daily Show," in which he satirized his "127 Hours" role.
All while pursuing advanced degrees at Yale and the Rhode Island School of Design.
He's clearly a man of great energy and talents – the most impressive of which might be a knack for comedy, born of a brilliant sense of the absurd.
What better way to lampoon our media-obsessed and -saturated society, after all, than by showing up everywhere? Franco’s shtick may be a test of us as much as of himself. Sounds like an approach that might be worth studying some day...
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.