In a new interview, the actress said she doesn’t want to share her #MeToo stories because she’s not seen as a sympathetic victim. It’s time for that perception to change.
Megan Fox was 15 when she was cast in her first major movie role.
It was as an extra in director Michael Bay’s Bad Boys II, a bit part that saw her join the crowd in a club scene. It was the first time she would work with Bay, for whom she would later star in two Transformers movies and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films.
Fox was given a stars-and-stripes bikini to wear with a red cowboy hat and a pair of six-inch heels, all with Bay’s approval. “[The crew] said, you know, Michael, she’s 15 so you can’t sit her at the bar and she can’t have a drink in her hand,” Fox recounted to Jimmy Kimmel on his talk show in 2009. “So his solution to that problem was to then have me dancing underneath a waterfall getting soaking wet. At 15. I was in 10th grade. So that’s sort of a microcosm of how Bay’s mind works.”
This isn’t the actress’ only story about the director. She has recounted her humiliating audition for the Transformers films, which involved her going to Bay’s house to wash his Ferrari while he filmed her. When a reporter asked Bay what came of that footage “he looked suitably abashed. ‘Er, I don’t know where it is either.’”
On the set of Transformers, she was made to parade around in outfits – “white-jean shorts, a pink belly-shirt, motorcycle boots” – for five gruelling hours in front of Bay, co-stars Shia Labeouf and Ramon Rodriguez, and two other actors.
In 2009, she told Wonderland magazine that the direction Bay gave her on the set of Transformers was “be hot”. “I’ve had that note on set before… I’ll say, ‘Who am I talking to? Where am I supposed to be looking at?’ And he responds, ‘Just be sexy.’ I get mad when people talk to me like that.”
In that same interview Fox likened Bay to “Hitler” and was promptly fired from the third Transformers film. (She was replaced by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). According to The Daily Beast, Bay asked the crew on the set of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, to write a blistering open letter calling Fox “dumb-as-a-rock”, “Ms. Sourpants” and “the queen of talking trailer trash and posing like a porn star.”
“We’ve had the unbearable time of watching her try to act on set, and yes, it’s very cringe-able. So maybe, being a porn star in the future might be a good career option,” the letter read. “Maybe she will learn, but we figure if she can sling insults, then she can take them too. Megan really is a thankless, classless, graceless, and shall we say unfriendly bitch. It’s sad how fame can twist people, and even sadder that young girls look up to her. If only they knew who they’re really looking up to.”
This letter was written in 2009. Fox was 23.
For almost a decade, Fox has been talking – and talking loudly – about the degradation she has had to endure at the hands of Hollywood’s power brokers. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Fox added that she has stories that she wants to share as part of the #MeToo movement, but that she has kept her mouth shut because of how she has been treated when she spoke up in the past.
“One could assume that I probably have quite a few stories, and I do,” she told The New York Times. “I didn’t speak out for many reasons. I just think based on how I’d been received by people, and by feminists, that I would be a sympathetic victim. And I thought if ever there were a time where the world would agree that it’s appropriate to victim-shame someone, it would be when I come forward with me story.”
Can you blame her? At 23, after calling out her much older male director for the way she was treated on the set of her first major film role, Fox lost her job and was frozen out in the Hollywood wilderness. Just look at her CV post-Transformers. Aside from the hopelessly misunderstood Jennifer’s Body, a feminist revenge fantasy masterpiece from Diablo Cody and Karyn Kusama that was marketed to teenage boys instead of teenage girls, Fox has languished in thankless secondary parts, with the exception of her starring roles in Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films.
Fox’s public perception was shaped by the overly-sexualised narrative she was forced into by film directors. She was victim-blamed because of the way she looked, an aesthetic she lost control over the minute a film producer put her in that stars-and-stripes bikini when she was 15.
As Fox herself put it, in 2009, “Girls think I’m a slut, and I’ve been in the same relationship since I was 18. The problem is, if they think you’re attractive, you’re either stupid or a whore or a dumb whore.”
Last year, The Mary Sue wrote that the world owes Fox an apology for the way it let male Hollywood executives chew her up and spit her out.
“That’s a lovely sentiment and I appreciate that,” Fox told The New York Times. “I don’t know that I want to feel anything about it because my words were taken and used against me in a way that was – at that time in my life and at that age and dealing with that level of fame – really painful. I don’t want to say this about myself, but let’s say that I was ahead of my time and so people weren’t able to understand. Instead, I was rejected because of qualities that are now being praised in other women coming forward… I don’t know if there will ever be a time where I’m considered normal or relatable or likeable.”
Fox is right about so many things. She’s right about the fact that she was ahead of her time in the way she spoke out against harassment. But she’s wrong about the fact that there might never be a world in which she’s considered “likeable” or “relatable”, a world where her #MeToo stories won’t fall on deaf ears.
There is a time when the world will no longer stand for victim-shaming and when a woman’s sexuality will not be used against her.
And that time is now.