Last week, I reported that Megan Fox’s new Legends of the Lost brought in disappointing ratings when just 429,000 people tuned in, according to preliminary figures, putting it in the same Tuesday ratings class as Motor Trend TV’s Bitchin’ Rides (424,000) and CNBC’s The Profit (430,000). The numbers are roughly average for Travel shows, and just two-thirds of those of those of new episodes of Mysteries at the Museum, the highest-rated series on the network, but on par with day-side and early prime reruns of Mysteries. Nevertheless, despite the manifest lack of public interest in her program—representing 0.1% of the U.S. population—the media remain fascinated by… I almost said “a movie star doing a cable show about weird shit,” but that isn’t true. Zachary Quinto is also a movie star doing a cable show about weird shit, to three times the ratings, and almost literally nobody in the media cared. The media are fascinated because a certain set of editors are hot for Megan Fox and titillated by the idea of an attractive woman doing “man” stuff like archaeology.
How else can we justify this weekend’s New York Times interview with Fox in which a giant glamor shot of Fox in full evening hair and makeup and a low-cut dress with her bosom heaving forward illustrates an interview with Times reporter Kathryn Shattuck ostensibly about history, science, and the “dirty” work of historical research and archaeology? Just try imagining their recent article about Alien Con illustrated with a boudoir photo of Giorgio Tsoukalos on a bearskin rug. It’s not happening.
I don’t know why this strikes me as so offensive, especially since I found Fox’s show to be a pointless waste of electrons, but it bothers me that of all the popular approaches to history, science, and archaeology that appear on TV or in print, even so venerable an institution as the Times still prioritizes LOOK AT THOSE BOOBIES over either the value or the importance of work in question.
Anyway, the Times continued its trend of soft-pedaling Ancient Aliens and UFO claims, a trend that I find both strange and disconcerting. I’m not sure why the Times has such a soft spot from the History Channel’s cult hit, but it routinely now depicts the program as “controversial” but not fictitious, fraudulent, false, fantastical, or any of the other more accurate adjectives that would describe its mixture of demonstrable lies, illogical interpretations, and flirtations with racism, Nazism, and Russian propaganda. It’s a show that all but literally told viewers to worship Satan, and it still gets treated like it’s Mr. Wizard with actual wizards.
Fox explained to the Times that Ancient Aliens not only influenced her but was in fact the cause of her belief in the ancient astronaut theory:
How did “Ancient Aliens,” a controversial show about prehistoric extraterrestrial visits to Earth, inspire you to create your own series?
This is disturbing at many levels, but it gives the lie to the claim that (a) Ancient Aliens is harmless “fun” and (b) nobody watching the show really takes its claims seriously.
The Times also confirmed something I intuited from watching her show, namely, that while she has extreme beliefs, the Travel Channel and the production company stacked her show’s production team with people better versed in mainstream science to keep the show from going too far off-brand in the direction of Ancient Aliens. That doesn’t stop the self-identified uneducated Fox from claiming to be able to intuit the truth about history better than scientists and scholars can investigate it themselves:
You’ve said that your theories are alternative, while your production team is more science-based. Have they ever gone, “Megan, you’re off the wall?”
And yet somehow she didn’t see that her program would be an expensive, unwatched boondoggle!
Speaking of which… tune in tonight for her investigation into “sonic healing” at Stonehenge. Ugh.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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