Megan Fox Exorcizes…a Lot of Demons in New Poetry Book
The actress takes aim at abusive men in Pretty Boys Are Poisonous. The delivery is a bit melodramatic, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be treated seriously.BooksEntertainment
Megan Fox’s best-selling poetry book, Pretty Boys Are Poisonous, begins with a disclaimer: Her throat chakra is blocked. The actress and author has long ached with all she can’t seem to articulate, she explains in the book’s foreword. But make no mistake, it’s not that Fox fights to find the words. Those she’s got. It’s men, she thinks, that have always had a way of stifling all the things she has to say. The collection of poetry is Fox’s attempt at exorcizing the demons jammed in her gullet. And exorcise, she certainly does.
“I’ve always believed that I’m meant to be a sacrificial lamb; a ransom for the soul of whichever beautiful, broken, self-absorbed idiot is currently hunting me down and draining me of my life force,” Fox further confides at the start of Pretty Boys Are Poisonous, before explaining that the men who’ve, supposedly, loved her have left her feeling disempowered—especially when it comes to advocating for herself. “I am at once jaded and naive.”
“Relationships are complicated,” Fox commented to People in the wake of the book’s release. “For most of us it’s not a fairy tale. Relationships are not pretty. They are ugly. Sometimes they are a war. But through a wound enters an opportunity to grow and become a stronger, more whole version of yourself.” Of course, Fox is right. Relationships—especially heterosexual ones—historically have their warts. But reading this book might leave you worrying whether its author is, at times, nullifying abuse.
Pretty Boys Are Poisonous is comprised of 70 poems in which Fox deploys Greek mythology, theology, and yes, demonology, to detail the many sins of men—even and especially that of her current partner, Machine Gun Kelly (né Colson Baker)—and the suffering she’s endured by them. Fox’s syntax is simple and, at times, saccharine, and her text is printed exclusively in lowercase. If you were on Tumblr circa the early 2010s when Lana Del Rey, typewritten devotionals to indifferent indie sleaze douchebags, and the romanticization of self-harm got reblogged into oblivion, you could draw some parallels. In fact, Fox might just be the Poet Laureate of the 2010s Tumblr teens. Take titles like “manic-depressive peter pan” or “snow white and the complacent rock star” for instance. Enough said. Audre Lorde, Fox is most definitely not. To be fair, no one is. Still, if you’ve ever found yourself in a toxic relationship, some of her poems are affecting—even if you’re a self-identified cynic.
Reactions to Fox’s book (which haven’t exactly been kind) might remind you of that era online, too. If you weren’t there, it was a moment met by millennial teens and tweens keen on creative expression and, like me, chronicling their every thought from corny (open letters to easily identifiable unrequited loves) to cataclysmic (odes glorifying eating disorders and mean men). As a result, cries for help were often the point of entry for what every person overwhelmed by their feelings wants: human connection. Here, Fox seems as if she’s asking for that same compassion. To the average adult, the delivery might seem silly in that it occasionally airs on the side of melodrama. But that doesn’t mean each word shouldn’t be taken seriously.
In “fucked-up fairy tales” Fox describes a “violent boy, full of rage and insecurities” with “beautiful hands” who often cause her harm. “I wonder what you’re thinking when I cry and tell you to stop,” she writes. Then, she laments a love that “leaves bloodstains” on her sheets in “it’s giving patrick bateman.” Sadism, it seems, is a theme for Fox, who goes on to liken a relationship to repeated murder in “4:46am:” “How many times have you watched me die and still you don’t realize that you are the reaper?”
Frankly, much of Fox’s poems beg concern—and further scrutiny—for the health of her relationship with Baker. There are a few apparent allusions to her fiancé. In fact, allusions might be too benign a word. Many a verse seems punctuated by a warning bell.
“there he stands. tall, thin, twisted. like a tree you’d find in sleepy hollow/ refusing to grow toward the light,” Fox writes in “pretty boys are poisonous.” And in “a 32-year-old narcissist quantifies his crime…” she describes a remorseful man who’s caused her harm: “you keep telling me it was an accident/that you’d never hurt me on purpose.” Bear in mind that Baker, now 33, turned 32 while in a relationship with Fox. In case that wasn’t obvious enough, there’s also a poem entitled, “A 6’4 damsel in distress.” (Baker is very notably 6’4″.) Finally, there’s “to marry an arsonist,” in which Fox reflects on the “many secrets” behind a lover’s “scorched earth temper.” She confirmed to Good Morning America that Baker was the subject.
In “don’t worry darling,” Fox describes wearing a sweatshirt to hide bruises inflicted by a partner who’d been “abandoned” by his parents and didn’t know how to “control” his passions. Again, a reader is left to contemplate who the subject might be. Baker? Or another lover? Is the title a nod to Shia Laboeuf, her Transformers co-star, which Fox recently confirmed she had a romantic relationship with? The actor was the former lead of Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling, and has faced a number of public allegations of abuse from his ex-girlfriend, F.K.A. Twigs. Fox has yet to name names, instead telling GMA: “I’ve only been publicly connected to a few people that I shared energy with, I guess we could say, who were her horrific people and also very famous people,” she said. “But no one knows that I was involved with those people.”
The book isn’t entirely about men’s harms, of course. Fox also includes meditations on motherhood (“One Hour At A Time”), a devastating miscarriage (“i” and “ii”), and a modern take on Romeo and Juliet (“i would die for y— oh, j/k lol”). At times, she’s darkly funny—whether intentioned or not. In “7, the number of completion” Fox literally repeats “I hate men” seven times, and later in the book, in “why i wish i was gay,” she proceeds to list a number of positive adjectives and tells readers it doesn’t matter if a person is any one of those things—if they’re dating a man, they’ll inevitably be taken for granted. This is yet another theme that Fox explores in “serpent,” wherein she wonders if the original sin was actually just Adam’s neglect of Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Personally, I’m happy for all the angsty teens of today that might treat Pretty Boys Are Poisonous as sacred text. Hell, I’m certain I would’ve. But I also hope it spawns discussion in readers’ lives—Fox’s too—about unhealthy relationships, all of the harms women endure but shouldn’t have to, and the many manifestations of abuse.
It comes as no surprise that Fox dedicated the book to anyone who has a hard time believing they deserve to be heard, but it should be striking that she–the paradigm of a whole host of privileges–included herself in that, too. “This book is also for me,” she writes, “because fuck, I deserve better.”
No shit. I hope her words resonate with her, too.