Citizen Rose Is a Flawed Portrait of an Artist Mourning Her Inner Victim 

Image via Youtube/E!

If you were to judge Rose McGowan based solely on her
celebrated 1990s filmography, you’d come away thinking she was
the coolest girl in high school. She was the delightfully
foul-mouthed Amy Blue in The Doom Generation, the
self-aware slasher bait in Scream, and a high school
queen bee in Jawbreaker so vicious she’d make Regina
George cry, just to name a few. Strong, gorgeous, funny women
who feared nothing were her forté.

But just as McGowan was moving from cult movies to Hollywood,
one of the industry’s most prolific abusers caught her in his
snare. As
reported first
in the New York Times this past
October, a 23-year-old McGowan was paid $100,000 by Harvey
Weinstein (whom she refers to as The Monster) after, she says,
he raped her at the Sundance Film Festival in 1997. And so
began two decades of silence until January 2017, when McGowan
sat down
for an interview with Ronan Farrow about the
alleged assault for a story that CBS eventually killed.

Watching the two-hour premiere for Citizen Rose,
McGowan’s new documentary show airing on E! January 30, it’s
clear that the actress will never be silent again. Pulling
together professional documentary footage and more intimate
scenes shot by McGowan herself (often from the comfort of her
bathroom), Citizen Rose begins with the Weinstein
allegations being revealed and trails McGowan as she deals with
the newfound spotlight, reflecting on the years she was legally
not allowed to speak about what the producer did to her.

McGowan is asking us to
think critically about how the culture is actively promoted in
media and how movies sell women to audiences.

Citizen Rose is an unpolished project, but then again
so is McGowan’s fight against sexual assault in Hollywood. When
the documentary begins, McGowan is clumsily established as a
sort-of universal feminist savior, with the show following her
through the Women’s March and in meetings with other abuse
survivors, assuring all that she’s “just like them.” The ease
with which McGowan can sloganize her own trauma, from her
#CITIZENARMY “movement” to her repeating “these motherfuckers
built a beast,” can be admittedly uncomfortable, as are the
subtle built-in sales pitches for her forthcoming album and
clips from her short film Dawn.

But Citizen Rose only gets stronger as it grows more
specific to McGowan’s experiences, cataloguing just how the
#MeToo movement has thrown her world upside down. Growing up in
the cult
Children of God
, McGowan is quick to call Hollywood a cult
in the same vein, or explain to people why the industry is “the
messaging system for your mind.” Her frank views on the
industry go several steps further than those many of her peers:
beyond targeting bad men and changing a system that enables
sexual abuse, McGowan is also asking us to think critically
about how the culture is actively promoted in media and how
movies sell women to audiences.

There’s also a sense of warranted paranoia that permeates every
second of Citizen Rose’s premiere as you watch McGowan
deal with Weinstein’s corrupt forces. In one scene, when she’s
stopped by a cop who warns her that there’s a warrant out for

her arrest
, she replies dryly: “It’s the strangest story…
it involves Mossad agents.” “Oh, good!” the officer replies,
and you just have to laugh because as crazy as it sounds,

it’s true
. Elsewhere, her experiences manifest as something
more terrifying. In another scene, after actress Amber Tamblyn
comes to visit her one night, McGowan hugs her goodbye and
whispers: “If I die, you have to keep all my work to be

“I really dislike not being
allowed to be a victim,” McGowan says, crying. “I can be many
things all at once.”

Citizen Rose is technically flawed; the editing could
have been better and a stronger director should have been
hired. But Citizen Rose is itself a story of how a
woman who was molded and marketed to be, as McGowan says
herself, a sexy “bad girl,” is finally allowing
herself to have flaws. On screen, McGowan might shoot
bad guys with a
machine gun leg
, but in Citizen Rose, crying and
vaping and going to Thanksgiving with her family, she’s a
three-dimensional human who couldn’t always fight the
real-world villains.

There’s a particularly powerful scene towards the end of the
premiere between McGowan and Asia Argento, a fellow Weinstein
accuser, that looks like it’s filmed with a camera that’s been
perched voyeuristically on a nearby table. Argento says that
she doesn’t want to be called a victim, that instead she is
“victorious.” “I really dislike not being allowed to be a
victim,” McGowan says to her, crying. “I can be many things all
at once… there’s a part of me that’s a victim and I am
currently mourning for her because I didn’t have time.” Finally
afforded the time to speak, Citizen Rose is just one
part of McGowan’s emotional mourning process.

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