Rather than letting her sex appeal burn her out, she is trying to contain it, channel it, make it work for her, not others. To see if that’s possible.
Deep in her house, Megan Fox and I are discussing human sacrifice. I tell her about an Aztec ritual practiced five hundred years ago in ancient Mexico during the feast of Toxcatl, when the Aztecs picked a perfect youth to live among them as a god. He was a paragon, beautiful and fit and healthy, with ideal proportions.
Fox has been telling me about the toll that celebrity has taken on her, how the only way to keep from bending to the outside is to bend within. She’s sitting on a sectional sofa in workout clothes and a sweatshirt that hide her body, her knees folded beneath her.
The sacrifice’s year was filled with constant delight, I tell her. He danced through the streets adorned in luxurious clothes given to him by the master, decked in flowers and incense, playing magical flutes that brought prosperity to the whole world. He had eight servants and four virgins to attend to his every need, and could wander wherever he pleased. But at the end of the year, when the feast of Toxcatl came around again, the perfect youth had to smash his flutes and climb the stairs of the great temple, where the priests would cut out his heart and offer it, still beating, to the sun.
Megan Fox is not an ancient Aztec. She’s 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.
“It’s so similar. It totally is,” she says quietly.
The room, which has the feel of a finished basement, is packed with pinball machines and Lord of the Rings and Star Wars memorabilia. Darth Vader stares down from a poster on the wall. A life-sized model of R2-D2 keeps watch in the corner.
“I don’t think people understand,” she says. “They all think we should shut the fuck up and stop complaining because you live in a big house or you drive a Bentley. So your life must be so great. What people don’t realize is that fame, whatever your worst experience in high school, when you were being bullied by those ten kids in high school, fame is that, but on a global scale, where you’re being bullied by millions of people constantly.”
At the end of the year, the beautiful youth had to go up by himself. He had to go up willingly. That was part of the deal.
Now she is shaking her head. “Not everyone understands that that’s the deal,” she says.
Megan Fox will not go willingly to have her heart cut out.
The symmetry of her face, up close, is genuinely shocking. The lip on the left curves exactly the same way as the lip on the right. The eyes match exactly. The brow is in perfect balance, like a problem of logic, like a visual labyrinth. It’s not really even that beautiful. It’s 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. What she is is flawless. There is absolutely nothing wrong with her.
Megan Fox is a bombshell. To be a bombshell in 2013 is to be an antiquity, an old-world relic, like movie palaces or fountain pens or the muscle cars of the 1970s or the pinball machines in the basement. Bombshells once used to roam the cultural landscape like buffalo, and like buffalo they were edging toward extinction.
Liberation and degradation both played their part. If you want to see naked women, of virtually any kind, do virtually anything to their bodies, it’s a click away. And women no longer need to be beautiful in order to express their talent. Lena Dunham and Adele and Lady Gaga and Amy Adams are all perfectly plain, and they are all at the top of their field.
For every Jessica Alba who is dismissed out of hand, or Lindsay Lohan, whose incremental fall into the abyss of drugs and obsolescence we follow like the weather — boring and expected, with a spectacular storm here and there — there’s a Scarlett Johansson telling everyone who will listen just how thoughtful an actor she is.
It’s not Johansson’s fault. Today, unfettered sexual beauty is an impediment. To be serious and respected, it is better to be homely or cute. Or else you must disfigure yourself, like Charlize Theron in Monster. Or you must allow yourself to be brutalized, like Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball. Or you must pretend that you’re really just average, like Tina Fey.
There’s no doubt that this transformation has been overwhelmingly excellent. But we’re losing something in this process. Because creativity is, was, and always will be sexual. Some of the very first works of art were figures of hugely fecund women dropped all over Europe tens of thousands of years ago. American movies expressed that great fusion of sex and art, too. They are magnificent pagan dreams, utterly profane and glorious. Such movies need bombshells. They need to consume beautiful flesh in their sacrifices. They need women like Megan Fox.
She is preparing for the end times.
“I’ve read the Book of Revelation a million times,” Megan Fox says. “It does not make sense, obviously. It needs to be decoded. What is the dragon? What is the prostitute? What are these things? What is this imagery? What was John seeing? And I was just thinking, What is the Antichrist?“
She’s relaxed now. She’s much more comfortable talking about the Antichrist than her career.
“When war breaks out in the Holy Land, like it is right now, if that is a sign of the immediate end times, then where are the other signs? Is it possible that it’s the Internet or fame itself or celebrity?”
If you’ve ever wondered what Fox is doing with Brian Austin Green — thirty-nine to her twenty-six; an actor whose career climaxed twenty years ago with the role of David Silver on the original Beverly Hills, 90210 — the answer is simple: He offers a measure of protection. For instance, rather than let paparazzi take their pictures and leave, which is standard celebrity practice, Green gets in their faces, tries to ensure that any shot they get is marred by grotesque anger rather than glowing beauty.
She believes that people are inherently bad. When she read about the nanny who allegedly murdered two young children in New York, she fired her own. She couldn’t hide her pregnancy entirely, but she did manage to keep the birth of her three-month-old son secret, a quasimiracle given the cash value of that information to an entire industry of celebrity watchers. For the birth, she had no doula, no midwife. She left the hospital in just over twenty-four hours.
She is currently being helped by her mother and her sister. She can trust them because they knew her before she was transformed from a big-smiled fifteen-year-old girl dancing in a banana suit for a Florida smoothie bar into the megawatt celebrity she thought she always wanted to be.
Her career spun out of control in the way it was supposed to: She played a girl in a bikini dancing under a waterfall, then moved to L. A., then played jailbait on Two and a Half Men, then the ditzy daughter on Hope & Faith, then the Belly Leaning Over a Camaro in the Transformer movies. Once the momentum began rolling, the only direction was forward.
“I felt powerless in that image,” she says. “I didn’t feel powerful. It ate every other part of my personality, not for me but for how people saw me, because there was nothing else to see or know. That devalued me. Because I wasn’t anything. I was an image. I was a picture. I was a pose.”
She’s tried to escape from her fate as a sex symbol. She starred in Jennifer’s Body, a magnificent, delicious, criminally underrated parable about a bombshell who literally devours men, her sexual appeal a kind of demonic possession. More recently, she has taken her reluctance into comedies. She is the gorgeous girl who hates being hit on in Friends with Kids, and in December, in Judd Apatow’s This Is 40, she plays a woman so gorgeous that the other characters cannot quite believe it. Rather than letting her sex appeal burn her out, she is trying to contain it, channel it, make it work for her, not others. To see if that’s possible.
She holds out her right arm to show me her tattoo of Marilyn Monroe. All that remains of Marilyn is a few drops of black against skin that is the color the moon possesses in the thin air of northern winters. She decided to get it removed, and after a single treatment the sex symbol of another age is barely recognizable. “I feel like I willed it be gone,” Fox says. “They told me it was going to take six sessions and it’s nearly gone in one.”
Other tattoos may be going soon as well. A quote on her rib cage reads: “There once was a little girl who never knew love until a boy broke her heart.” She thinks it’s stupid now. And she isn’t entirely sure about the line from Nietzsche either: “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
But Marilyn will go first.
The reason is that Marilyn Monroe lost control. “I started reading about her and realized that her life was incredibly difficult. It’s like when you visualize something for your future. I didn’t want to visualize something so negative.”
But she was a great actress, a great icon, a figure of power.
“She wasn’t powerful at the time. She was sort of like Lindsay. She was an actress who wasn’t reliable, who almost wasn’t insurable…. She had all the potential in the world, and it was squandered,” she says, curled defensively on the sofa. “I’m not interested in following in those footsteps.”
“Ava Gardner. She had power. She was a broad. She got what she wanted and said what she needed.”
Ava Gardner did have control, over herself and others. But even as Fox says the name, a self-aware smile plays over those ultrasymmetrical lips. Self-awareness is her most attractive feature.
It’s not like Ava Gardner ended that well, either.
Fox began speaking in tongues around the age of eight, when she attended a Pentecostal church in Tennessee.
“The energy is so intense in the room,” she says, “that you feel like anything can happen. They’re going to hate that I compare it to this, but have you ever watched footage of a Santeria gathering or someone doing voodoo? You know how palpable the energy is? Whatever’s going on there, it’s for real.”
Others in her situation have found release in booze and pills. Fox has found hers in church.
“I have seen magical, crazy things happen. I’ve seen people be healed. Even now, in the church I go to, during Praise and Worship I could feel that I was maybe getting ready to speak in tongues, and I’d have to shut it off because I don’t know what that church would do if I started screaming out in tongues in the back.
“It feels like a lot of energy coming through the top of your head — I’m going to sound like such a lunatic — and then your whole body is filled with this electric current. And you just start speaking, but you’re not thinking because you have no idea what you’re saying. Words are coming out of your mouth, and you can’t control it. The idea is that it’s a language that only God understands. It’s the language that’s spoken in heaven. It’s called ‘getting the Holy Ghost.’ “
She’s read the playbook. She’s seen how the story ends for sex symbols. She doesn’t want to end up like Lindsay or Britney or Marilyn.
“I can’t stand pills. I don’t like drinking. I don’t like feeling out of control,” she explains. “I have to feel like I’m in control of my body. And I know what you’re thinking, Then why would I want to go to church and speak in tongues?
“You have to understand, there I feel safe. I was raised to believe that you’re safe in God’s hands. But I don’t feel safe with myself.”
Megan Fox doesn’t particularly want to be famous anymore. Her agent has to beg her to read scripts or do magazine shoots so she isn’t lost or forgotten. Her body, her perfectly symmetrical bombshell body, is what makes money and pays her bills, she knows that. She may want to forget about it, but she can’t give it up entirely. Instead she escapes.
She would much rather be an archeologist exploring the ancient ruins of Israel and Egypt. “I feel like there’s stuff literally buried there and buried where the Maya were,” she says. Ancient aliens who gave rise to ancient civilizations on earth. “I would like to uncover the secrets of the universe. In my fantasy.”
And soon she is off, no longer stuck on this couch in this basement afraid of everything outside.
“I believe in all of this stuff. I believe in all of it….
“I like believing. I believe in all of these Irish myths, like leprechauns. Not the pot of gold, not the Lucky Charms leprechauns. But maybe was there something in the traditional sense? I believe that this stuff came from somewhere other than people’s imaginations….
“We should all believe in leprechauns. I’m a believer….
“You and I are humans, this is not all of it. This cannot be, because we are so disappointing….
“Films don’t hold the answers I’m looking for….
“Would you not be so much more interested in finding out that bigfoot existed than in watching a really good movie? …
“I believe in aliens….
“I am childlike in my spirit, and I want to believe in fairy tales.. .
“Loch Ness monster — there’s something to it….
“There’s the Bell Witch…
“What distracts me from my reality is bigfoot. They are my celebrities.”
Megan Fox, the last American bombshell, guides me up the stairs. On the way out, I notice something I hadn’t seen on the way down. In the hallway sits a tall pedestal topped by a red-and-gold Byzantine icon of a crucified Christ and rows of white candles. The candles are usually lit, she tells me, before she leaves to go upstairs to take care of her newborn son.
His name is Noah. In the ancient story of the flood, Noah and his family are the only ones who escape the general destruction of the corrupt world.