The Consequences of Speaking Out

by Melissa Silverstein on May 25, 2010

in Actresses,Sexism

The news last week was that Megan Fox is off the third Transformers movie.  This being Hollywood both camps have differing responses to her departure.  Her side told The Wrap that said she walked away because director Michael Bay was “verbally abusive” and had just had enough of his crap.  She’s also talked about how he made her tan so much for the film that’s she’s nervous about getting skin cancer.  Bay is known to be an ass to his female actors, and the article goes on to say that another of the female actors in Transformers 2 Isabel Lucas wouldn’t do publicity for the film because of Bay.

But he gets away with this shit over and over because no one has the power — or the guts — to hold this man accountable.  He could never get away acting like this in an office environment.  It’s also probably true that the if the executives who hire Bay and tolerate his behavior acted like he did, they would be in court up on charges.

So why does being a director make you exempt these laws?

The studio side said that Fox’s option wasn’t picked up, but the rest of the cast will be returning and in franchise films it’s pretty common to being back familiar cast members.

Bay is already said to be auditioning several models to replace Fox in the role as Shia LaBeouf’s girlfriend.  And speaking of LaBeouf.  He spoke out last week at the Cannes Film Festival when promoting the Wall Street sequel and talked about how disappointed he was with the last Indiana Jones film.   He took some of the blame himself saying: “I feel like I dropped the ball on the legacy that people loved and cherished.”

When asked whether he was going to get in trouble for speaking out here his response:

I’ll probably get a call. But he [Steven Spielberg] needs to hear this. I love him. I love Steven. I have a relationship with Steven that supersedes our business work. And believe me, I talk to him often enough to know that I’m not out of line. And I would never disrespect the man. I think he’s a genius, and he’s given me my whole life. He’s done so much great work that there’s no need for him to feel vulnerable about one film. But when you drop the ball you drop the ball.

So the question is will LaBeouf suffer any fallout for speaking out?  Who knows?  He’s already on board for Transformers 3 and he is one of the most sought after young actors.  But he was not speaking out about how he was treated.  It’s different when a woman stands up against sexism vs when a man stand up about the film content.  It just is.

Megan Fox will have a reputation for being difficult (about something people already know about) because she spoke up, and Shia LaBeouf will have a reputation as an honest kid for what he said.

No matter what you think of Megan Fox she will most probably suffer for this and Michael Bay will still get away with treating women like shit.

Megan Fox Quit ‘Transformers’ Over Michael Bay’s Abuse (The Wrap)

Cannes 2010: Shia LaBeouf: We botched the last Indiana Jones (LA Times)


{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy Schwartzman May 25, 2010 at 1:04 PM

Great point, Melissa. I’ve never really like Megan Fox, thought she was “controversial” to be “controversial” or whatever, but it takes guts and honesty to stand up to the Michael Bay franchise.

This question of why directors have a free pass to be horribly abusive (producers, too), needs more discussion. What the fuck? These are grown men, adults, and its not like they are doing life-saving open heart surgery or rescuing people from burning buildings. They are directing films.

Abuse, manipulation, coercion, and rape (Monsieur Polanski, I’m talking to you are not par for the course when directing films, sorry.

Sounds like “dictator” might be the job he’s after?

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist May 25, 2010 at 1:16 PM

I really hate Michael Bay, he sounds like a loathsome, sexist director asshole who takes advantage of young women at auditions.

Like Nancy above, I didn’t care too much for Megan Fox but I admire her guts. and now I honestly feel bad for her after going through such a traumatizing experience at the hands of a misogynistic asshole on a film set. She deserves better. (actually, all women deserve better)

Sean Mannion May 25, 2010 at 1:42 PM

I’ve got no love for Michael Bay. Megan Fox had my sympathy last year for some of the backlash due to her overexposure, which I started noting when the dismissive comments about Jennifer’s Body went from “Oh, that movie by the over-rated writer of Juno” to “Oh, another movie with Megan Fox, like we need more of her.” I’m not really a fan but the backlash against her seemed excessive. (The backlash against Diablo Cody also bothers me but that’s a rant for another day.)

I believed the comments Fox made about Bay. It rang true for what I’d heard before about him and I don’t doubt he’s just one of many directors doing more or less the same thing. While I think her approach, which included referring to Bay as Hitler, needs some refinement, there should certainly be more people stepping forward and declaring the behavior of a director, or any prominent member of a film’s production, as unacceptable. Sadly, I think Bay and others will continue to get away with this for some time to come.

Elizabeth May 25, 2010 at 6:58 PM

While I think the points about why LaBeouf won’t get any flack for his comments are valid, I think it also helps that he made them regarding a man who is unlikely to flip his lid and fire back with knee-jerk reactions in the media the way Bay did last summer when Fox first talked about her issues with him. I can’t really picture Steven Spielberg trying to drag someone’s name through the mud in revenge like that.

emily blake May 25, 2010 at 10:39 PM

Honestly, they’re both behaving like little kids. I have sympathy for neither party.

sally May 26, 2010 at 1:30 AM

It’s frequently told story that Megan had to wash Bay’s car, wearing little as he taped it to try out for the first Transformers. I can imagine she’s had enough of his shit.

I don’t know how far the series can go with a big reboot in any case. I heard she has a big role coming up in some sci fi movie. I think it would be great for her to make hay while the sun shines and move on.

Tootie May 26, 2010 at 9:32 AM

James Cameron was also an a**hole on set…I think he’s changed his ways because he didn’t like being known for that.
Melissa, is it possible to get a hold of Megan for more? I would like to hear the comments of others like Shia on the situation…not that they’d be likely to wade in.
(Shia’s comment about Spielberg dropping the ball is silly. He did a good job directing it – it was the screenplay that sucked very badly…George Lucas is one of the writers – what a surprise. A bad movie is not the director’s fault and Shia should have been corrected.)
I loved the film made by Rosanna Arquette about how women being treated like sex objects on set (Searching for Debra Winger, Lions Gate Films, 2002). It was good for some famous women actors to be able to vent about it in the film, but some were pretty guarded and I don’t think there were a lot of solutions posed. Debra Winger got out of the industry – her solution.

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist May 26, 2010 at 10:53 AM

I’ve also heard those rumors about Fox being forced to wash a car in bikini while Michael Bay filmed her. If that’s true, that’s so f–king disgusting. Michael Bay needs to be EXPOSED for the pig he is, and he needs to be RUN out of Hollywood. Women who were exploited by him, need to UNITE and bring him down!!!

I hope his career will be destroyed as soon as possible.

Scott Mendelson May 26, 2010 at 11:18 AM

What astounds me about this whole episode is the sheer glee that so many people (including MANY women) took at the idea that a young actress was allegedly fired/forced out of a job because she spoke out about her (allegedly) misogynistic boss. It’s amazing how preconceived notions about people color what should be black and white issues. A woman being fired for openly discussing (in, frankly, a non-critical fashion) her experiences on the job, as well as her own limitations thus far at performing said occupation. A guy getting arrested in a foreign country and being threatened with jail time in the states after fleeing the US for raping a kid 30 years ago. These are pretty obvious good/bad issues that are being subverted in the public dialogue because one person is inexplicably loathed and the other is universally beloved by the community in question.

For those who care –

snobographer May 26, 2010 at 4:38 PM

What makes it even more baffling that Bay gets away with being a misogynist asshole is the fact that his movies suck. They have high production value and cool special effects but that’s just because the rich white dudes in Hollywood have this thing where they like to rake together all their money in a big pile and roll around in it and throw it at each other. No women or POC are invited to these parties. Transformers 2 cost $200mil to make. What would happen if they put that kind of cash behind a Julie Dash project for once?

Panty Buns May 26, 2010 at 6:54 PM

Good for Megan Fox for making a stand and speaking out against Michael Bay’s misogynistic behavior and shame on the executives who employ him for putting up with it. i won’t be watching the “Transformers” movies. When someone is let go for speaking out they should tell what they were speaking out about to everyone on earth that will listen.

sally May 26, 2010 at 7:44 PM

I would believe that she quit. It’s hard to believe that someone would walk away from millions, but on a very much small scale…been there. I’ve quit after seeing the situation was going to be very abusive. I hope to someday be in an even more improved financial situation so I can not ever be held in abusive situation for a check.

So I don’t believe she was fired for being uppity, I believe they could not make her an offer that would come close to dignity. Besides, she’s booked on other movies and now has time to get in a better position – she would never be progressed much by another Transformer. Sweet Jesus I hope she can seize the day (and please back off the Botox so she will be able to act better, if she wants that career that’s not just about being a Maxim model, the door is open to her now. Other actresses would kill for the chances open to her now.)

Now… the firings on Twilight… that was about punishing uppity women.

Dominique May 28, 2010 at 1:28 PM

I wonder if this is connected to the crew apparently finding her standoffish. The letter they wrote in support of Bay reportedly had all these insults about her not “appreciating” the work they did. What, mewonders, constitutes “appreciation” of the crew members? What was it they were expecting that they didn’t get? I have a few hypotheses and would not be surprised if Bay hired crew members who acted and thought just like him. Bosses often do that. It would add to the whole experience, wouldn’t it? It would be so groundbreaking if one day an actress finally filed a sexual harassment suit in Hollywood, as I’m sure California has the same rules as elsewhere about “quid pro quo” type harassment (i.e., it’s illegal).

biofreak May 30, 2010 at 7:24 PM

you couldnt be more wrong. she insulted the director during transformers 2 by comparing him to hitler and was horrible to work with. why would bay spend time and money hiring her again? and what exactly is this verbal abuse? he got angry on the set? he said a few mean things? give me a break, the movie business is a tough job, these people are dealing with millions of dollars, she should just suck it up like the rest of the actors there. His job is to make a movie, not to be friendly with his cast. about leboef on the other hand even if he had something to say treated spielberg with respect. that’s the difference. megan fox didn’t speak out for herself, she was rude to the man who gave her a job and pretty much made her career.

Lila May 31, 2010 at 7:49 AM

Although I don’t agree with comparing your director to Hitler in public, I could tell that Megan was very disturbed by his predatory sexist behavior. For example being asked to dance in a bikini under a waterfall when she was 15 years old. I’m a director, but I can tell you that many of these guys (producers, directors) consider sex with young women in the biz a “job perk” that they deserve. They literally treat the young women like prostitutes in a brothel and you go along or your career suffers. In my case, I didn’t give in. Megan was very courageous to speak out about the harassment that goes on every single day in Hollywood.

Castor June 5, 2010 at 10:20 PM

There is two sides to every story and we probably will never know for sure what happened. Fox being a diva and biting the hand that gave her a career or Bay truly being a misogynistic sad case. Really, I would not be surprised if both were true…

Dusty June 17, 2010 at 11:44 PM

Have any of the above commentators worked with Michael Bay? There seems to be a blanket assumption that Bay is guilty, and Fox is innocent. Why? If Fox is so circumspect about being “objectified,” why does she insist on posing for cheesecake pictures and working on movie roles (Jennifer’s Body) that portray her as a lust object? It takes only a modicum of intelligence to figure this one out: she’s enjoying the attention! A feature in Rolling Stone about Fox revealed that she “misused” her sexuality when she was younger. Fortunately, she was able to resolve the issue. Fox realized that the resolution was being able to make men “fear her sexually.” Megan Fox can pack her stuff up anytime and find some pushover to support her. Pretty girls don’t live difficult lives. Look at the new movie she is in: Jonah Hex. What does she play? A sexy vamp. Imagine that. I’m sure someone forced her to do it.

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