The XX Factor

Is Megan Fox a Lesser Jayne Mansfield?

In this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine , Lynn Hirschberg pens an intimate look at the behind-the-scenes identity of bombshell actress Megan Fox . And this time Fox’s habitual loggorhea doesn’t take the form of bizarre, highly quotable sound bytes: She doesn’t wax on about her love affair with a stripper named Nikita, or how her Transformers clothing always smelled like farts, or how she thinks she looks like the tranny doppelganger of Alan Alda. Instead she tells Hirschberg that her public persona is all an intricate, deliberate act-a form of self-defense against Hollywood’s swallow ‘em, spit ‘em out treatment of its starlets:

I’ve learned that being a celebrity is like being a sacrificial lamb. At some point, no matter how high the pedestal that they put you on, they’re going to tear you down. And I created a character as an offering for the sacrifice. I’m not willing to give my true self up. 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.

Selling oneself, especially as a sex symbol for the mass audience, is not a new Hollywood tactic (though at points it sounds like Fox thinks she’s invented it). After a reporter asked Marilyn Monroe what she wore to bed, she famously responded, “Chanel No. 5,” when the truth was, according to her first husband, she washed her face up to 15 times and slathered on cold cream and Vaseline before hitting the pillow. Fox, of course, peddles a more blunt sexuality than Marilyn did-think the Female Chauvinist Pig Ariel Levy wrote about-adapting a franker pornographic persona, treating herself as an object for mass desire, but also democratically objectifying other Hollywood women.

In her September 2008 GQ cover story , Fox likens herself-and by herself I mean mainly her libido-to a man, “If my mom were to tell me that I’d been born with male and female genitalia and that she had to make a choice, I would believe her.” Repeatedly she’s played into popular hetero-lesbianism by pointing out her desire for women while refuting the status of a lesbian. Olivia Wilde, for example, is so unbearably fuckable, Fox told GQ, that Wilde makes her want to “strangle a mountain ox” with her bare hands. Fox contends that these kinds of myths are necessary to sell herself to the public, though her fearful rejoinder in GQ - “Are you going to push an ‘Is she a lesbian’ angle?”-makes it seem like she easily loses control of her antics.

Fox has a tattoo of Marilyn on her right arm, and is duly obsessed with Monroe’s ability to play the game Fox is trying to beat: ”She lived her whole life as a character playing other characters…And that was her defense mechanism.” But rather than likening Fox to a modern day Marilyn, it’s hard not to see the parallels between Fox and 1950s bosomy starlet Jayne Mansfield. Fox positions herself as a lowly Angelina Jolie competitor (emphasis on lowly-even Fox admits she doesn’t know if she has acting talent. To GQ she commented: “I’m not Meryl Streep”), just as Mansfield was always framed against Marilyn’s status as a respected actress. While Monroe took a less-is-more road to sex symbol-dom, Mansfield, like Fox, sold herself to the public through a series of seriously lowbrow stunts. If the 1950s audience had been ready to hear a fictional account of Mansfield’s torrid love affair with a female stripper, I’m sure she would have willingly played the role. Instead, she constantly staged nipple slips, so many that she became reduced in a sense to her breasts-Raymond Strait titled her biography Here They Are, Jayne Mansfield .

This was much to Mansfield’s disappointment. She, after all, boasted an IQ of 163, spoke five languages, and was a proficient pianist and violinist. Like Fox, after selling herself on her looks, Mansfield complained that Hollywood didn’t care about her smarts, “They’re more interested in 41-21-35,” she told reporters. But here’s where the Mansfield/Fox comparison ends-if you’ve seen any of Fox’s movies, it’s pretty apparent that she doesn’t have obvious talents we’re not appreciating. And reading Fox describe her very inauthentic, planned-out persona like it’s anathematic to the rest of her Hollywood cohorts, seems strikingly naïve. Of course actors and actresses don’t present their authentic selves to the public. A recent Onion headline, ” Vince Vaughn Appears On ‘Tonight Show’ To Deceive Country About Latest Film ,” pokes fun at just the expectation that actors are doing something more than peddling their wares. To say that Megan Fox “is a fox,” as the piece begins, is to overstate her talent. She’s simply an actress.