Rose McGowan is very angry – and she wants the world to know.
The actress and activist has been one of the most vocal critics of Hollywood’s systemic sexism. She was one of the first people to speak up against film producer Harvey Weinstein, who now stands accused of sexual assault by more than 80 women. McGowan has taken her campaign forward through her recently launched memoir, Brave, and her documentary series Citizen Rose. The show was premiered on January 30 on E! network and will be followed by four more episodes over the next few months.
“I cannot tell you how enraged I am,” she says in the beginning of the episode. “Because it’s not just about me. It’s about anybody that’s ever been disbelieved.”
The episode offers a no-holds-barred glimpse into McGowan’s life in the days after she spoke up against Weinstein. It takes you back to the morning when the alleged rape happened – in 1997, at the Sundance Film Festival – and then into McGowan’s house, her room, her bathroom (she often directly speaks into the camera while sitting fully clothed in a bathtub, for reasons unclear) and into intimate and troubling corners of her life.
The series is powerful in all that McGowan says and doesn’t say. For instance, she refuses to take Weinstein’s name, constantly referring to him as “the Monster”. “I don’t like saying his name. The monster that is,” she explains. “He doesn’t deserve it. Doesn’t deserve my acknowledgement. You are beneath humanity. You don’t even get a name. Loser.”
Weinstein is not named in entirety even once in the episode. The montage of news coverage on the scandal beeps his surname out each time, referring to him only as Harvey. In every photograph, a black strip covers his eyes.
Her target is not only the disgraced producer, or the many others who have been accused of sexual misconduct in the days following the Weinstein scandal, but the culture of sexism in Hollywood as a whole.
McGowan, who was born into the Children of God sect, where her father was an influential figure, says she was taken from one cult into another – Hollywood. Both are abusive, she explains. In Children of God, the women worshipped men, opening them up to abuse. The male-dominated Hollywood industry is not very different, where women are sexualised and infantilised. “You get turned into a human Barbie doll,” she says.
Over the course of the episode, McGowan also touches upon various aspects of her personal life, including her strained relationship with her parents. McGowan says her father looked at himself as a god and she regarded him as human, which is why they never saw eye-to-eye. But in the years before his death, they grew close. We see the unresolved strains in their relationship play out when she visits his grave and apologises to him for not coming on a previous instance, because she was too mad at him.
Such moments makes you feel less a viewer and more a voyeur, someone who is not just looking at the family’s dirty linen but actively sorting through it. This is intentional. “Do I make you uncomfortable?” McGowan says at the start of the episode. “Good.”
But even as she lets the narrative go into uncomfortable spaces and into her many emotional troughs, McGowan is firmly in charge (she is one of the executive producers on the show). This is likely to prompt a healthy skepticism in the viewer. McGowan sees herself, her art, her work as part of a larger cause and movement. You see McGowan as the wild child who refuses to tread the line, McGowan who is fierce and brave and McGowan the activist who is spearheading a movement with universal resonance, in ways that sometimes reflect self-importance.
Yet, the show is powerful. After being a public figure without control over how she was portrayed, Rose McGowan is reinserting herself into the public eye, but on her own terms.