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Megan Fox keeps us guessing

Nearly two decades into her career, she refuses to play into expectations of how a beautiful actress should be.

VIP

VIP

Megan Fox keeps us guessing

Nearly two decades into her career, she refuses to play into expectations of how a beautiful actress should be.

Very Intriguing Person

is a series about people who fascinate us, for better or worse.

In 2013, a memorable Esquire profile of Megan Fox saw fit to clarify the way a few things stood. Megan Fox was not, according to writer Stephen Marche, “an ancient Aztec.” An extensive list of things the writer thought she was included, in order of insane and unbelievable appearance: “a screen saver on a teenage boy’s laptop,” “a middle-aged lawyer’s shower fantasy,” “a sexual prop used to sell movies and jeans,” “not really even that beautiful… closer to the sublime, a force of nature, the patterns of waves crisscrossing a lake, snow avalanching down the side of a mountain, an elaborately camouflaged butterfly,” “flawless,” “a bombshell,” “an antiquity,” “an old-world relic, like movie palaces or fountain pens or the muscle cars of the 1970s or the pinball machines in [her] basement,” and — finally, and maybe the most criminal of all — “the color the moon possesses in the thin air of northern winters.”

That Megan Fox was not an ancient Aztec or a pinball game would seem to be self-evident. But in projecting his interpretations, Marche had buried quite the lede: that Megan Fox can speak in tongues, believes in Bigfoot, dreams of working as a cryptozoological investigator, and once fired her nanny after reading in the paper that a nanny in New York had murdered both her charges. She was, and I mean this in as reverent a way as it can possibly be meant, a charming nut. “I like believing,” Fox told Marche in a flurry of bizarre quotes, cramped in at the tail end of the profile. “I believe in all of these Irish myths, like leprechauns…. We should all believe in leprechauns. I’m a believer…. What distracts me from my reality is Bigfoot [and the Loch Ness Monster]. They are my celebrities.”

For this and several other reasons, Megan Fox is one of my celebrities. “I’ve always been into alternative history,” she reaffirmed to The Guardian in 2016, in a piece intended to promote a different kind of cryptozoological experiment: the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. “And antiquities, [and] archaeology. I’ve always been really consumed by these deep mysteries that exist on our planet that can’t be explained today by science. They eat away at me.” Another of the deepest mysteries on the planet is this: is Fox delightfully eccentric? Or is she, in fact, just fucking with us for her own amusement? One of those rare paradoxes where each outcome happens to be just as pleasing as the other, it’s intriguing to imagine either that the actress gets — and games — a bankrupt, boring media system, or that she believes whole-heartedly in fairies and the Loch Ness Monster. Neither seems the certain option. Megan is, effectively, Schrödinger’s Fox.

“Fox is sly,” Lynn Hirschberg wrote in The New York Times, in 2009. “A devoted student of stardom, past and present, she knows how to provide her own color commentary — a narrative to go with the underwear.” One of the first big-ticket interviews she ever did was with GQ 10 years ago, filed under the “ironic,” haute-bro headline MEGAN FOX WAS A TEENAGE LESBIAN. Inside, she talked about her love of videogames, her man-sized shits, and the fact her boyfriend’s name was tattooed “next to [her] pie.” The headline, and most coverage of the interview, referred to her supposed adolescent crush on, literally, la femme Nikita. “I was in love with this girl that worked at [L.A. strip club] the Body Shop,” she gushed. “I decided that I was going to get her to love me back, and I went out of my way to create a relationship with this girl, a stripper named Nikita. I was there all the time—I would go there by myself. I bought her things.”

“Journalists don’t always convey what I say as a joke. They print it as if I meant it literally.”
Megan Fox

Except: there never was, and never had been, a Nikita. Gawker called The Body Shop for confirmation, and exposed the story as a fiction. “Journalists,” Fox later smirked, “don’t always convey what I say as a joke. They print it as if I meant it literally." The invention of Nikita was a little crazy, yes — but also, maybe it was good performance art. Nikita is a construct, Megan Fox appeared to say, but so what? So is Megan Fox.

What the readers of GQ had wanted, she intuited, was a bro-down femmebot who behaved like a horny teenage boy. What Fox had wanted was — albeit in a sense that an un-famous person might have thought perverse — her privacy. “I created a character as an offering for the sacrifice,” she says to Hirschberg — who, in lieu of teasing with the promise of a soft-core adolescent girl-on-girl fantasia a la GQ, opted for the headline THE SELF-MANUFACTURE OF MEGAN FOX. “It’s a testament to my real personality that I would go so far as to make up another personality to give to the world.”

Whether Fox’s interest in, say, aliens was a part of this new personality, or whether it’s her true self, I can’t say. I can say that her willingness to blur the lines is, in its own postmodern way, more real and more seductive than her myriad bikini shots: witness how in the breadth of a single interview, she calls Judd Appatow’s whole oeuvre “sophomoric,” dubs her character in Michael Bay’s Transformers a dumb “jock concubine," and challenges her interviewer to a game of Trivial Pursuit: The Lord of the Rings Edition. It is easy to forget that, as of this year, she is only 31 years old. Having been “discovered,” and then placed beneath a waterfall in patriotic swimwear, at the tender and unnerving age of 15 by her piggish former co-worker and current enemy, director Michael Bay, she’s been in show business for 16 years. She has been to some degree a famous person, now, for longer than she has been a civilian, and a sex-bomb and a pin-up for more time than she’s been legally of age.

She has been blacklisted and sacked from the Transformers series for accusing Bay of being “Hitler,” and inadequately replaced by British underwear spokesmodel and lip-haver Rosie Huntingdon Whiteley; and then made a comeback as a pretty, witty high-school demon in Jennifer’s Body. She has flopped with Jonah Hex, and then alongside Mickey Rourke in Passion Play, and then come back again by playing a hot girl, but in a self aware way, in Judd Appatow’s amusing midlife crisis This Is 40. In the sitcom The New Girl, she leaned into her own botoxed immobility and pulled off deadpan, shocking audiences even though she had been funny several times before; and then offered up the Hollywood equivalent of a playful shrug by doing not one but two dumb, fun Ninja Turtle movies.

To be a female movie star is to be subject to an audience’s expectations. To succeed, it’s necessary to contort oneself to meet them, or subvert them. Either way, it is a game with rigid rules. Some starlets do it keenly: Margot Robbie, having played a character in The Wolf of Wall Street that her own bad, middle-aged-dude-authored profile likened — in her nude scene, in particular — to “a Ferrari on a showroom platform,” feared perpetual type-casting as a bimbo. She avoided pin-up limbo by deliberately eschewing glamour roles: as a post-apocalyptic Appalachian, a psychotic DC villain, and the self-identifying “white trash” figure skater Tonya Harding, she successfully undid the audience’s idea of her as a naked, stone-cold knockout. Megan Fox, conversely, has not once gone gritty or unlovely for a movie, or made any recognizable appeal for hip legitimacy or success. She simply does not care enough to play the game, and spends about half of her time under the radar, cycling between public fame and life as a civilian, goofball babe. Hers is a less acceptable career path in an industry that’s predicted on persistent buzz. It also seems a hundred times more fun.

If not necessarily a titan of great cinema, she’s at least a talented comedic actress, and it’s clearer still that her erratic and eccentric nature — which I’d argue might be just as easily described as “actually having a personality” — might be partially to blame for the rocky road of her career. (Next up, she is apparently appearing in a movie with James Franco, which in typical Fox style might have been savvy several months ago, and now looks like a bad alliance.) It should not be news that a beautiful woman might be capable of being a nerd, self-aware, and a little, albeit lovably, insane; but like I said, it also should not ever have been news that Megan Fox is not an ancient Aztec, nor a fountain pen. I hope one day to live in a world where Fox, a crazy-like-a-fox pop prankster, gets to have her pie — tattoo or no tattoo — and eat it, too.

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Philippa Snow is a writer and editor, living in London. She has previously written for publications including Artforum, Frieze, Lithub, GARAGE, i-D and Vestoj.