The internet never forgets, Hollywood.
The story of Megan Fox is one that exemplifies the film industry’s ficklest and most toxic aspects, especially when it comes to their treatment of young women. The Los Angeles Times labeled her ‘the first bona fide sex symbol of the 21st century’ in 2009. She was a perennial favorite of lad’s mag readers and compared frequently to Angelina Jolie thanks to her pouty lips, vampy persona, and multiple tattoos. At the age of 21, she became a megastar in one leering moment. In Transformers, the first big-screen adaptation of the ’80s cartoon-slash-toy commercial, her character Mikaela Banks is shown leaning over a car engine. Her back is curved, her midriff on show, and the camera takes an agonizing amount of time to gawk at Mikaela’s body while she explains to Shia Labeouf the problems with his car. All that was missing is a Tex Avery-style howling wolf and the illusion would have been complete. In a movie that fetishizes everything, from cars to the American military, Fox is positioned as the ultimate object of heterosexual male lust. So, of course, it should come as no surprise that the movie is the brain-child of one Michael Bay.
Over the weekend, Michael Bay started trending on Twitter as users collectively gathered to remind the world of how shoddily he treated Fox. Aside from the tawdry way she is filmed if the two Transformers movies she starred in before being replaced by Rose Huntington-Whiteley, Bay infamously shot her as an extra in Bad Boys II in a stars-and-stripes bikini while buckets of water drenched her. She was 15 at the time. A clip of Fox explaining this disturbing incident on Jimmy Kimmel Live went viral recently. It’s hard to overlook how the audience laugh at her when she reveals this detail, and how, despite her repeatedly mentioning that she was only 15 at the time, Kimmel cannot help but crack more gross jokes about it all.
clip from 2009 where megan fox tells a story about michael bay sexualising her as a 15 y/o— liz w 🧸 (@reservoird0gs) June 21, 2020
the crowd laughs, and kimmel makes gross jokes
teen girls being preyed on by older men has never been taken seriously and still isn’t pic.twitter.com/t1rF80UTj1
Bay’s exploitation of Fox continued when she auditioned for Transformers. Critic Jason Solomons noted that Fox told him during a press junket that her audition process for the movie required her to go to Bay’s house and wash his Ferrari while he filmed her. When Solomons asked about this, Bay ‘looked suitably abashed’ and admitted that he didn’t know where that footage now was. Classy. Bay also told her to gain a dress size in three weeks for the second Transformers movie because he ‘doesn’t like skinny girls.’
Fox was eventually fired from the Transformers series after criticizing Bay’s directorial methods — something many actors before and after her have done — and comparing working under him to working under Hitler. It was a tasteless remark, to be sure, but no more tasteless than any of the ‘humor’ in Bay’s work. Bay derided her. Labeouf insulted her by saying ‘she started sh*t’ because she had ‘developed this Spice Girl strength, this woman-empowerment [stuff].’ In an open letter written by Bay’s crew that was published on his website, Fox was slammed as being ‘dumb as rocks’ and called the ‘queen of talking trailer trash and posing like a porn star’. Bay later insisted that he was pushed to fire Fox by Steven Spielberg, something he would later deny.
the transformers crew said megan fox acted like a porn star in response to her calling out michael bay for being predatory. women should not fear being painted as a ‘whore’ for coming forward about sexual abuse pic.twitter.com/TnesWiX0lB— ⋆ (@emotrends) June 21, 2020
Around the time Fox was fired from Transformers, the media backlash against her became particularly vicious. Men’s websites like AskMen decided to boycott her for supposed over-exposure, something they had played a hand in creating. While she gave some of her best performances during this period in comedies like This is 40, Friends with Kids, and the sinfully underrated Jennifer’s Body, the overwhelming narrative around Fox was that her career was dead, killed by her own ego and refusal to do what the big boys ordered her to. Good riddance, a lot of people said, with people rushing to insist that she was overrated, a terrible actress, a ‘slut’, and so on. Fox would later admit that she regretted assisting the media ‘in making me into a cartoon character,’ but that image was one that was giddily forced onto her by the media from a young age, who then revolted when she tried to drop it and be herself.
Bringing this up again as it’s important.— Nat ✨ #BlackLivesMatter (@brie_sparkles) June 22, 2020
Megan Fox was sexualised from the age of 15 by Michael Bay.
Then told by him that for her audition to be in Transformers she had to wash his car in a bikini whilst he filmed it.
This is not okay. It will never be okay. pic.twitter.com/FCsl5hDhdS
In that aspect, she was but one name in a decades-long lineage of Hollywood misogyny. The industry likes types and continues to be suspect about women who don’t fit into their stifling molds. Think of how Lana Turner was decried as the sexy sweater girl and troublemaker for years and actively called a bad actress in the press. Look at the treatment of Marilyn Monroe, a now-mythic cautionary tale that nobody seems to learn the right lessons from, much less Hollywood itself. From Sharon Tate to Dorothy Stratton to Brooke Shields to Halle Berry to Megan Fox. The patterns are agonizingly familiar. You can break out of those boundaries but you’re seldom encouraged to do so, even as the media decries you as they get bored of you. It’s hard to get the public to accept women as multi-faceted beings at the best of times, but especially when they have such a specific persona in place that’s easy to swallow and asks so little in terms of scrutiny or context.
Bay and Hollywood helped to dehumanize Fox to the point where she confessed to feeling ‘hunted’ by the media. During the filming of Jennifer’s Body, Fox shot a scene that required her to wear nothing but nude panties and pasties. To ensure her safety and privacy, a no-cameras rule was enforced on-set, but one photographer had been tipped off about the scene and took some pictures of Fox in that vulnerable state. She confessed that she ‘felt so violated’ and ‘devastated’ as a result. When the media tells the world that this woman is just a sex object, akin to a porn star with rocks for brains, it should come as no surprise when open season is declared on her body. Subsequently, Jennifer’s Body, a movie written and directed by women that focused on female empowerment and the destructive power of the patriarchy, was marketed as yet another slobbering teen boy fantasy. It became yet more proof that Fox was overexposed and flopped as a result, meaning that Fox’s best work as an actress and what should have been the stepping stone to a new era of her career was declared DOA.
It’s taken until now for people to fully scrutinize the narratives that defined Fox’s career. Now that she’s a 34-year-old mother of three children, there’s a sense that she’s less ‘dangerous’ to discuss, or somehow more worthy of public respect now that she has kids and was married to the same man she’d been with since she was 18 (a reminder that she met Brian Austin Green when he was 30.) Fox is also working less as an actress and appearing in far less high-profile work, which may in part explain why the media is less cruel about her. They have new targets to destroy. Michael Bay has new vulnerable young actresses to slobber over and probably always will because of the sheer power he possesses in Hollywood. Remember, this is the guy who included an entire scene in one Transformers movie explaining Romeo and Juliet laws in Texas so he could justify a 20-year-old man dating a teenage girl.
We may be more reflective of the misogyny we heaped upon Fox but the damage was done in ways that are hard to rectify. Fox admitted in one interview that she felt that she couldn’t be a part of conversations surrounding #metoo because she had been ridiculed and shot down in the past when trying to convey her own experiences with sexism and harassment in the industry.
The internet never forgets, but hopefully, the right lessons can be learned so that we don’t see this cycle continue indefinitely with more young, vulnerable women forced onto the chopping block.
megan fox apart from being sexualized by michael bay as a kid she also appeared in a episode of two and a half men as a 16 y/o girl who was too sexy for her age and both alan and charlie sheen's character wanted to have sex with her.— amy! (semi-hiatus) (@idealismsits) June 22, 2020
im absolutely disgusted pic.twitter.com/MXrnu1z2vN
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