Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Is it Possible to Interview Megan Fox Without Fawning All Over Her?

Everyone knows the hardest role to play in Hollywood is that of the buxom bombshell. At least that’s what the latest profile of sex symbol Megan Fox seems to purport. But while there’s definitely room to examine the value the celebrity world places on certain traits for certain people — bombshells are people too, after all — Fox’s write-up in Esquire falls victim to the actress’ evidently unavoidable allure. The problem is, her siren song is the surefire signal of an impending shipwreck. No matter how many times his words try to tell us about the thoughts going through her pretty little head,
the author gets lost in her lips. Or her eyes. Or the “sublime” nature of her flawless face. This, my friends, is textbook fawning.

The profile opens by comparing Fox to a modern day Aztec sacrifice, only instead of taking her life, this celebrity-obsessed society wants to hold her still-beating heart while it still rests in her chest. But Fox is not exactly an 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,” writes author Stephen Marche. He later justifies her marriage to “the actor whose career climaxed twenty years ago,” Brian Austin Green as a marriage of convenience, painting Green not as her white knight, but as a troll under the bridge, ready and willing to whip out his “grotesque anger” to keep photogs from capturing Fox’s “glowing beauty.” Marche's description is more tinged with jealousy of Green’s good fortune than a factual glance at the couple’s marriage.

So far, is it a bit much? Definitely. But it’s the profile’s muddled argument, overshadowed by its complete dismissal of Fox’s own words, that provides the real issue.

Marche argues that the American bombshell is dying and that it’s something worth saving, lingering on Fox’s “unfettered sexual beauty” as an impediment, while “perfectly plain” stars like Adele, Lady Gaga, Amy Adams, and Lena Dunham are at the tops of their fields. With the exception of Dunham, who’s been plagued with ruthless criticism of her body and face, none of these women have ever occupied a space anywhere near “plain.” Unless, of course, the person doling out descriptions was blinded by the divine sight of Megan Fox.

What’s more is that the author, who spends precious graphs early in the story describing Fox’s inescapably arresting beauty, acts as if none of us could possibly understand the beauty he was witnessing in that moment:
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.
That’s great, but what does Fox, who’s tried and failed, to escape the overwhelming expectation for her to play the bombshell in every instance, who’s needed comedy heavyweights like Judd Apatow go to bat for her (She’s funny you guys! I promise!) have to say about this? Simply that she’s tired of being bullied as a celebrity. And what is she usually bullied for? For being a bombshell.

But one could argue it’s important to paint an accurate picture of one’s subject. Still, the piece continues to put Fox on a dainty pedestal, literally interrupting her musing on modeling her career after Ava Gardner instead of her former role model, the doomed Marilyn Monroe. It’s a moment that should speak for itself, it should say in Fox’s self-professed revelation that this is a woman who gets it. A woman who understands the need to grow and change, and mature, and to deliver beyond the gorgeous facade. Instead, the realization is stinted by Marche’s distraction mid-speech. “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,” he writes. Suddenly, this isn’t so much an exploration of Fox’s graces, but one of Marche’s self control. And he’s failing.

Now, the profile is running in men’s magazine (though men's magazines aren't code for "without responsibility") and Marche isn’t the first journalist to be unbound by his subject’s arresting features. Just last year, actor Michael Fassbender was the subject of hyperbolic adoration in every profile written about him, the most memorable being the description in Vogue: “He sucks all the air out of the room, mesmerizing even the preschoolers in strollers … His voice is as deep and gravelly as Harrison Ford’s, his carriage as upright and intense as Daniel Day-Lewis’s, the blue/green/gray eyes as attention-grabbing as Paul Newman’s,” writes Vicki Woods. As distracting as it is, that outpouring of obsession isn't uncommon.

So what’s the harm? If it afflicts both men and women, why worry about one over-indulgent, fawning profile here or there? It simply accomplishes the opposite of a profile’s goal. Where an interview seeks to give life to a pretty face and a body scantily clad on glossy magazine covers, or in Fox’s case, stuck playing the role of Resident Hot Bimbo Babe, it seeks to provide depth below the glittery water’s surface. However, Fox’s Esquire profiler is so enrapt by her physical gifts that any words directly from the babe’s mouth fall flat. In adulating her visual virtues, he actually completes the cycle he fears so greatly: the extinction of the American bombshell.

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