In the after, after, afterglow of her Transformers fame, Megan Fox has apparently decided to pivot to conspiracy theories — and the Travel Channel is totally on board. Actual archaeologists, however, are not.
According to Deadline, the network just gave the green light to Mysteries and Myths with Megan Fox, which bills itself as a “four-episode hourlong series starring Megan Fox, who serves as co-creator, host and executive producer.” Though Fox is neither an archaeologist nor historian, she will take it upon herself to portray their work as some sort of conspiracy, wherein archaeologists are gatekeepers of information, actively trying to hide “the truth,” whatever that may be.
“Fox has been obsessed since an early age with the history of ancient cultures, people and places — always questioning their ‘documented’ story,” a spokesperson from the Travel Channel tells Deadline. “Now she is embarking on an epic and personal journey across the globe, where archaeologists and experts will re-examine history, asking tough questions and challenging the conventional wisdom that has existed for centuries. The series will delve into some of the greatest mysteries of time, including whether Amazon women really existed or if the Trojan War was real.” (Emphasis is mine because are you kidding me?)
Most baffling of all is that Fox seemingly feels her lack of academic qualifications makes her more qualified to undermine the work that takes some archaeologists a lifetime to achieve.
“History only gives us a one-sided view of the truth,” Fox tells Deadline. “I haven’t spent my entire life building a career in academia so I don’t have to worry about my reputation or being rebuked by my colleagues, which allows me to push back on the status quo. So much of our history needs to be re-examined.”
David S. Anderson, an archaeologist who specializes in debunking pseudoarchaeology, takes umbrage with Fox’s assertion.
“To me, this clearly shows she has embraced the idea that professional archaeologists are too narrow-minded to see the truth,” he tells Inverse. “It is a touch offensive to the profession, but sadly, it is also a vast misrepresentation of the profession. New ideas are constantly being introduced and debated. The field is very active and flexible; the characterizations of it as narrow-minded are clearly pejorative views that originate outside of the field by those who have little familiarity with what goes on inside of archaeology.”
It’s true that historiography, or the study of historical writing, presents a host of problematic perspectives. This is mainly because in the ancient world, historians were extremely wealthy, land-owning men. Take Livy, the famous Roman historian, for example. Sure, he could wax poetic about lavish bacchanalias in the capital, but his life was practically an ocean apart from that of the common Roman. He could never write the experience of a what a poor Roman — or a captured person living under Roman rule — lived through every day.
The annals of ancient history are full of these secret lives, ghosts from a time we’ll never get to see, because to so much of the aristocracy, that’s what they were — an apparition, better to be ignored.
That said, the answer to the abundant issues within archaeology and history is not to suggest that highly trained professionals are actively trying to distort the truth. Fox, for example, is a known advocate for the popular conspiracy show Ancient Aliens, which suggests extraterrestrial life — not humans — build some of the world’s most incredible structures. Is this the narrative she and the Travel Channel will continue to push in their new show?
“The belief that ancient achievements like pyramids and megalithic structures could not have been created without some kind of divine or otherworldly intervention is always troubling,” Angie Keller, senior archaeologist and principal investigator for Statistical Research, Inc., tells Inverse. “At best, it’s just a shortsighted misunderstanding of the engineering prowess of past societies. At worst, it’s thinly veiled racism.”
While archaeology doesn’t have a perfect track record, researchers are actively trying to make their communities more inclusive. Anderson says the work is paying off every day.
“It is absolutely true that in the past archaeological research and historical narratives have been manipulated for nationalist agendas and worse,” he explains. “As a field, archaeology has actively worked to correct those manipulations. That doesn’t mean all of our interpretations today are perfect, but it does mean they’re getting better bit by bit.”
Those who manipulated archaeology in the past have no hand in the important work so many of these professionals have done to address these issues and move forward. To suggest Fox’s “fresh and unbiased view” toward history is qualitatively better than that of a highly trained expert is not just offensive — it’s wrong.
“The notion that there is no value to expertise or authority is a highly dangerous attitude to take,” Anderson says. “I’m guessing that if one day Fox needs a root canal, she won’t go down the street to the local real estate office to have it done, just as if she needs to sell her house, she won’t turn to a dentist.”