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Hollywood’s outrageous it girl

The scene was one of barely controlled pandemonium at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month. A crush of paparazzi and screaming teenage fans you could hear from a block away had mobbed the Canadian cultural capital’s Ryerson Theatre for the premiere of “Jennifer’s Body,” the horror-comedy written by Oscar-winning “Juno” screenwriter Diablo Cody. But the glitzy event’s undeniable focal point was a femme fatale of a different stripe: Megan Fox. The 5-foot-3 screen siren worked the red carpet like a veteran, frequently turning and posing so the asymmetrical hem of her strapless mini-dress showed as much bare thigh as possible. “This is outrageous,” a stunned Cody told a reporter. “It’s a little intense.”

Fox portrays a demon-girl cheerleader who (literally) devours her horny high school classmates in the film, which hit theaters Friday and earned a lackluster $6.8 million at the box office over the weekend. But her movie stardom is almost beside the point, anyway. Fox is becoming to the current generation what Farrah Fawcett was during her ‘70s heyday or Pamela Anderson was at the apogee of her “Baywatch” / Tommy Lee sex-tape fame in the ‘90s. That is, a sex symbol of the highest order: a woman whose hotness has become emblematic of a specific era. Call Megan Fox the first bona fide sex symbol of the 21st century.

While such lithe enchantresses as Paris Hilton, Bar Refaeli and even Tila Tequila have come to be associated with the S-word in recent years, their public images are all too stage-managed, too contained, too inextricably connected to selling products -- reality TV shows, lingerie, a “famous for being famous” myth -- to confer them reigning sex symbol status.

Not so Fox. Time after time, to the deep chagrin of her publicist, she has displayed a refreshing candor, blurting out whatever’s on her mind -- damn the consequences. Especially on carnal matters.

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There are a handful of salient facts about her that have exploded into the public consciousness, mainly because the 23-year-old, Tennessee-born ingenue has said them for maximum effect in numerous magazine cover stories. It’s helped that the articles invariably arrive accompanied by suggestive photos of Fox in a bikini or lingerie or Daisy Duke shorts or perhaps naked beneath a faux-fur blanket or in a towel that leaves just enough to the imagination to linger in the imagination after you close the magazine.

What we have come to know so far: that she carried on a lesbian love affair with a Russian stripper at age 18; that Fox was once “obsessed” with porn star Jenna Jameson; that Fox struggles with the idea she has a “mild form of schizophrenia,” fearing she’ll wind up like her idol Marilyn Monroe (whose face is tattooed on Fox’s right inner forearm); and that Fox “was always ubersexual.”

Which is just as well because at least once over the course of each of these stories, the model turned actress, who was named sexiest woman in the world last year by FHM magazine, will say she is at peace with being a sex symbol. “I know I’m seen as a sex object,” Fox told Esquire. “I’m just really confident sexually, and I think that sort of oozes out of my pores. It’s just there. It’s something I don’t have to turn on.”

Unlike so many of the sex bombs of decades past, though, Fox has achieved a level of pop-culture ubiquity, thanks to having her photos endlessly splashed across the Internet. Despite the fact that she has yet to bare it all in a photo shoot and has vowed to never be featured in a sex tape, she seems to have particularly captivated a number of celebu-blogs that strike a unique comedic tone by worshiping Fox’s physical attributes while also endlessly lampooning her outre self-revelations (some of which are apocryphal, according to her latest Rolling Stone cover story).

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“She oozes sex and isn’t ashamed to do so,” said Trent Venegas, author of www.pinkisthenewblog.com. “She seems very willing to use her sexuality to her maximum benefit without giving too much away. She definitely became a Hollywood it girl because of her looks rather than her talents.”

While other on-screen ingenues, models and TV stars are undeniably attractive -- foxy, even -- few outside Fox (nickname: “Mega Fox”) can be viewed as having embraced the adulation as a means to an end in itself. While, say, Jessica Biel laments in an interview that being named sexiest woman alive has been a liability to her stated goal of being a Serious Actress, Fox abides. “I didn’t decide I’m going to be an actress cause I want to be respected for how I play chess,” Fox told “Entertainment Tonight.” “Part of Hollywood is being perceived as attractive.”

With her mane of black hair, taut physique, eight tattoos (including the Shakespeare quotation “We will all laugh at gilded butterflies” from “King Lear”) and bedroom eyes, she projects an unapologetic sultriness whether she’s wearing a bikini in GQ or bending over a ’76 Camaro in a tiny blouse in her breakthrough role in 2007’s “Transformers” (which not coincidentally has taken in more than $700 million in worldwide box office). And that’s another crucial difference between a sex symbol and a comely superstar like Angelina Jolie, to whom Fox is frequently compared. Jolie is undeniably hot stuff, but her pronouncements on such subjects as the need to ban land mines in Southeast Asia or repatriate Afghan war refugees can come off as attempts to mitigate her sex goddess image.

“Jennifer’s Body” marks Fox’s first starring role and is a high-profile follow-up to her last film, June’s robot thriller “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” this summer’s most successful blockbuster. As well, Fox’s body is the primary marketing vehicle for “Jennifer’s Body"; the movie’s major talking point is the make-out scene between Fox and costar Amanda Seyfried. And on the movie’s poster, Fox appears dressed in a schoolgirl’s outfit with the words “Hell yes!” scrawled on a chalkboard behind her.

But among the blognoscenti, there is a school of thought that Fox may have crossed a line with some of her recent comments -- remarks that could potentially imperil her sex symbol status. Among the comments in question: Fox’s interpretation that the tween TV-movie franchise “High School Musical” is really “about this group of boys who are all being molested by the basketball coach. . . . It’s about them struggling to cope with this molestation"; her widely reported verdict that “Transformers” director Michael Bay “wants to be Hitler"; and the admission in Rolling Stone that she’s cautioned her on-again-off-again boyfriend Brian Austin Green (of “Beverly Hills, 90210" fame), “You have to go and stop talking to me, because I’m going to kill you. I’m going to stab you with something.”

“There was a point when Megan Fox was this heavenly creature of hot that you’d probably throw your grandmother under a bus just to sniff her hair,” said the blogger who goes simply by “Mike,” the writer of www.thesuperficial.com. “But ever since she’s been making insane comments in the press, her hotness is waning.

“Megan’s mouth is definitely going to sabotage her career,” Mike said. “You can’t just go around bad-mouthing directors and constantly playing the drama-queen card, because we live in a nation chock full of hot chicks who can easily stand next to fighting robots, hawking Mountain Dew.”

But according to blogger Venegas, in this age when only the most outrageous acts make noise above the constant din of celebrity blather, there’s no such thing as bad publicity -- especially if you’re a loose cannon sex symbol like Megan Fox. “The feedback is decidedly mixed,” he said. “Some people love her and others hate her. In the celebrity game, that is the perfect place to be.”

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chris.lee@latimes.com


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