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Film | Opinion

How public scrutiny has changed Megan Fox's career


By now, people are long familiar with Megan Fox as a popular culture icon, sex symbol, and Hollywood it girl. And in recent years, people have started to recognise the ways in which the entertainment industry has treated Fox unfairly, almost refusing to give her talent the proper credit it’s due amid what is a celebrity headline-inducing machine.

However, even with this recognition, it seems that the pendulum has swung in the other direction all too quickly. For what reason, you ask? A man. Yes, folks, as I’m sure you’re aware, so long as you haven’t been living under a rock this year, Megan Fox has been dating – and is now engaged to – the rapper Machine Gun Kelly. How, you might be asking, did Megan Fox entering into a relationship that they both seem excited to be a part of, begin to tarnish a newly-restored respectable reputation? To put it simply: cringe.

Since it might be pertinent to start closer to the beginning of this story, 2020 seemed to be around the time that Megan Fox began to see some of the respect she deserves as an actor and, simply put, as a human being. Specifically, as she began to speak out about sexism and typecasting, sexual harassment, and some of her experiences in Hollywood, people not only became aware of the way she and many other women are routinely treated in the industry, but she also presented herself eloquently and gracefully, articulating deep, complex thoughts and experiences extremely candidly. To put it more simply: people began to pay attention. 

“If I had been a typical starlet and said all the right things, I wouldn’t have escalated to this level. I sit down and do an interview and I talk like a person and that, for some reason, is shocking. All women in Hollywood are known as sex symbols. You’re sold, and it’s based on sex,” she said in a past interview. The sentiment rang true ten years later in 2019 when Fox said of being sexualised in the industry: “It was every day of my life, all the time, with every project I worked on and every producer I worked with. It preceded a breaking point for me. I think I had a genuine psychological breakdown where I wanted just nothing to do. I didn’t want to be seen in public at all because the fear, and the belief, and the absolute certainty that I was going to be mocked, or spat at, or someone was going to yell at me.”

But her relationship to modern feminism has always been complex. In 2018, she spoke on the topic: “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.”

And while we like to think that the public, especially the subsections concerned with social justice, would be kind and accepting, she was unfortunately correct when she foreshadowed the judgement coming her way. Specifically, because a lot of these communities are ones that cross over with a bit of harmless poking fun at “hetero cringe”.

When Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly started their relationship, they did so very publically. They shared their origin story of how they met (which spawned the “I am weed” quote that everyone jumped on for a while), and have pulled a variety of stunts like getting an engagement ring that hurts to take off, drinking one another’s blood, claiming to be twin flames, and posting bad Instagram poetry. This kind of relationship isn’t for everyone, and that’s totally fine. However, it does seem that public opinion and social media are all addicted to judging the “cringe”.

There are tweets about how Fox and Kelly are the “cringiest human beings on earth” and how they “won’t let people breathe”. And so much more of this vitriol is directed at – you guessed it – Megan Fox.

I guess the reason this surprises me so much, and why it makes me sort of uncomfortable, is because it seems as though the moment Megan Fox found refuge from an unrelenting public, they had to find another reason to become yet again unrelenting. Of course, sexual harassment and sexualisation are different from ridicule for being cringe, but upon saying that, we should be forced to ask ourselves, are either of those examples of dignified ways to treat people?

Although it might not be fun, I think it’s important to examine why there’s so much scrutiny around Megan Fox—albeit a different kind from that which she experienced before. This is especially pertinent when there are celebrities and public figures who have actually behaved in problematic or abusive ways, and deserve more accountability. 

Megan Fox has license to be cringe if she wants to, just like she’s always been beautiful. And maybe the time has come for us to truly allow her to live her life, and focus on her actual work and career—or else not say anything at all.

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