Not long ago, I saw someone online ask the question, ‘Whatever happened to Megan Fox?’ Their query seemed to echo a number of clickbait ads I’d seen scattered across the internet, often interspersed with shocking claims that I wouldn’t believe what Fox was up to now or how wildly different she apparently looked these days. Such claims have been commonplace for a few years now as Fox, once one of the most famous faces in mid-to-late-2000s Hollywood, saw her star power rapidly diminish. A combination of public backlash, industry disdain, and good old-fashioned sexism saw Fox slide away from the spotlight, both in terms of press interest and professional opportunities.
But now, Megan Fox is back. Sort of. She’s returned to acting more regularly, albeit in projects with far less visibility than your average Transformers movie, and she’s back in the tabloids thanks to her romance with rapper Machine Gun Kelly. After ten years of marriage to former 90210 star Brian Austin Green, with whom she had been romantically involved since she was 18 years old, Fox threw herself wholeheartedly into a public love affair with her new partner. This was a sharp contrast from her years with Green, which were much more low-key and seldom the stuff of gossip fodder, even after a brief split and three children. Fox is keeping her split private, even as Green himself won’t shut the hell up about how he totally might get back together with her again, you guys.
“my beautiful girlfriend” 🥺 Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox are the ultimate couple goals pic.twitter.com/xZ8zvl6gFq— ًraya (@concertfordune) August 30, 2020
This new development in her personal life seems to have grabbed the public’s attention more than her acting gigs, but that’s always been the case with Fox. Unfortunately, she was never an actor who audiences or the industry seemed to take particularly seriously. Infamously, her best film and performance, Jennifer’s Body, was wrongly marketed as a horny teen boy fantasy rather than a savvy horror-comedy about female autonomy and the terror of adolescence. Reviews openly remarked that Fox’s main duty as an actress was to be ogled at by guys, be they the viewer or director. Shockingly, this isn’t a job that Hollywood views as one with any form of staying power.
Fox’s career trajectory feels familiar to anyone who knows the often-dead-end paths of actors given the label of It Girl or Hunk of the Day. I’m reminded of Orlando Bloom to an extent, another actor praised primarily for his looks who was inescapably popular for a brief moment in time thanks to its attachment to two major blockbusters. All that anticipation that Bloom would be the next big thing dissipated pretty quickly, and now he’s settled into the sort of career that he probably would have had had he not been Legolas or Will Turned. It’s decidedly B-List in terms of scope and appeal but there’s nothing wrong with that. Essentially, he’s a jobbing actor, going where the work is, although his star power has been elevated somewhat via his relationship with Katy Perry. Fox’s film choices seem a bit more C-List, but it’s consistent work across film and TV that most actors would kill for. There’s no shame here. Indeed, Fox is a great fit for proud schlock and next-generation grindhouse.
A strong example of this is her latest film, Rogue. While the smattering of reviews for the movie haven’t been rapturous, there’s a general appreciation for this sort of scrappy action-drama with a twist (Fox gets hunted by a vengeful lion!) Moreover, there are interesting sounding supporting roles in her future, which feel like good fits for an actress who is at her best when she gets to play around with her dry sense of humor.
Many of her choices feel indicative of how much the current film industry is changing to meet newer and wider-reaching expectations for actors and creators alike. It’s not enough to just be an actor these days. You have to be an actor and a model and an influencer and a producer and a presenter and have a bunch of marketing deals or lifestyle brands and be online all the time to let everyone know you’re just like everyone else. Fox does sporadic sponcon already worked on a lingerie line and hosted a deeply strange TV series for the Travel Channel. She’s also taken roles in Asian cinema, such as the South Korean war film The Battle of Jangsari. With the East Asian market more crucial than ever for the success of Hollywood, it’s no wonder that various actors are now making the jump to Chinese and Korean cinema. Make the right moves and you could end up newly famous with a massive fanbase and all the clout that offers.
The enduring legacy of Megan Fox probably won’t have much to do with her talents or the career choices she makes from this point on. For better or worse, she’ll best be remembered for that regretful moment in time when she became a sex object turned public joke turned symbol of the industry’s ingrained misogyny. She is but one of too many women who Hollywood fetishized for their own limiting purposes, only to blame her for the ills that she suffered. The flipside of that is that she’s also been the subject of some serious self-examination from the likes of myself and my contemporaries in the field of pop culture journalism. Movies like Jennifer’s Body are getting their dues and people are taking her oft-repeated comments on industry sexism more seriously. There’s a greater sense of understanding that, culturally and societally speaking, we screwed over Megan Fox on some level.
Would Fox’s career have been radically different today had audiences and the industry given her a real chance to succeed beyond the confines of ‘sex object’? I think, on some level, yes. At the very least, she would have been given the space and support to find her niche and the means to explore it more freely. Projects like Jennifer’s Body, This is 40, and New Girl show Fox at her best, with bone-dry humor and a wink and a nod to the audience that she is in control of the joke, not the butt of it. I hope that’s still an option available to Fox, even if her project choices aren’t as varied as they could be. Yet she’s still here, she’s still working consistently, and she gets to do so not only without the harsh critical gaze of mid-to-late 2000s cynicism but with a more empathetic hand on her shoulders. Is it some form of redemption? Maybe. After years of being dismissed, discarded, and derided by the industry she called home, surely it’s enough of a victory for her to simply be present when so many people wanted her gone.
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