A lot can happen over a year. In terms of the #MeToo movement, it’s important to take a step back and review how far we’ve come. And while it’s easy to get stuck on what we’ve achieved, we should also focus on where we’re lacking. While countless women are now open to speaking up about their experiences, not all are convinced with the movement. One actress in particular is determined to keep her lips sealed: Megan Fox. The reason behind her decision is heartbreaking. In an interview with The New York Times, she shared how her previous experiences convinced her to keep mum.
“I don’t want to say this about myself,” she shared. “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.”
True enough, she spoke publicly about working with director Michael Bay almost a decade ago. In a televised interview back in 2009, she recalled how she was put in a stars-and-stripes bikini and six-inch heels, and told to dance underneath a waterfall by the director for their first movie collaboration, Bad Boys II. She explained that since she was only 15 that time and too young to drink, Michael had her do that instead. “And that’s… At 15. I was in 10th grade. So that’s sort of a microcosm of how Bay’s mind works,” she shared. The response she got? Laughter. Yup, the studio audience laughed.
In a separate interview also in the same year, she revealed that during filming for the Transformers movies, her sensible and professional questions like “Who am I talking to? Where am I supposed to be looking?” were met by dismissive responses like “Be hot,” and “Just be sexy.” She also recalled how the director had her “audition” for the role by washing his Ferrari while he filmed her, and further accused him of being like “a dictator” and a “nightmare” on set. This comparison led to public backlash on Megan, instead of the other way around.
In 2011, even her Transformers co-star Shia LaBeouf revealed how uncomfortable the actress was with how she was treated on set: “Megan developed this Spice Girl strength, this woman-empowerment [stuff] that made her feel awkward about her involvement with Michael, who some people think is a very lascivious filmmaker, the way he films women,” he said. “Mike films women in a way that appeals to a 16-year-old sexuality. It’s summer. It’s Michael’s style. And I think [Megan] never got comfortable with it. This is a girl who was taken from complete obscurity and placed in a sex-driven role in front of the whole world and told she was the sexiest woman in America. And she had a hard time accepting it.”
We should have listened to Megan in 2009, and we should have listened to Shia two years after. Sadly, Michael got away from it all with a mere non-apology that’s more infuriating than anything: “I know that’s just Megan. Megan loves to get a response. And she does it in kind of the wrong way. I’m sorry, Megan. I’m sorry I made you work 12 hours. I’m sorry that I’m making you show up on time. Movies are not always warm and fuzzy,” he said.
The director had also published misogynistic open-letters by anonymous members of the Transformers crew on his official website, which has since been removed. In it, Megan was referred to as “Ms. Sourpants,” “classless,” “graceless,” and an “unfriendly b*tch.” It also said that “porn star” might be a better career option for her.
Needless to say, Michael Bay is cancelled. But the fact that it’s only happening now is a huge disappointment. His name and prestige should have suffered just as much as Harvey Weinstein’s did. Instead, it was Megan who took the toll for all of this. That time, people had similar sentiments about her and a lot of people probably agreed she was a ridiculous actress and worth nothing more than a “sex symbol”—a sick title forced upon her by that industry and something she wasn’t even comfortable to begin with.
If you recall, her next movie, Jennifer’s Body, was considered a plop. Incidentally, it was recently heralded as a feminist movie ahead of its time. “Had this film been made a decade later, it’s possible Fox could have been heralded as the feminist revenge hero of our time,” Refinery29 wrote.
Now, Megan is telling NY Times she still have a few #MeToo stories, but would rather keep them to herself. “I just didn’t 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 my story.”
Can we really blame her for being wary of the #MeToo movement?
Fact is, we as a society let her down. “My words were taken and used against me in a way that was—at that time in my life, at that age and dealing with that level of fame—really painful,” she said.
There’s a lot to learn here. Like HelloGiggles stressed, “The #MeToo movement hasn’t just challenged the way we look at predators; it’s challenged the way we look at victims—specifically at how our culture shamed and blamed women who spoke up about their experiences in the past and sometimes presently, too.”
Megan’s sentiments may be disheartening, but the important thing is that we use them to learn and grow. Also: it’s not too late. What happened to her is still every bit as wrong then as it is now—just like how Michael Bay is still every bit as accountable for them then as he is now.
We may have failed her in the past, but we still have a chance to make things right now.
Art by Marian Hukom
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