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The hotly anticipated memoir from Rose McGowan, the actress turned #MeToo activist, lives up to its hype. Brave (Harper One, Jan. 30) is a painfully honest look at her life and career and a searing indictment of Hollywood’s tolerance for sexual assault, the way the industry treats actresses in general and the impossible standards of its beauty culture. McGowan offers up details of her own alleged sexual assault by disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, details her hard-luck childhood and reveals what it’s really like to be a woman in Hollywood.
McGowan doesn’t have much love for fame or Hollywood. “Fame is like you’ve suddenly moved into the tiniest town in the world with all the small-town gossips doing their best to shame the local girl they deem ‘loose,’” she writes. “Just like in tiny towns, the gossips sit in their homes and peer out their curtains and track your every move, flaunting their precious bits of intel, exchanging it with others like shaming is a currency.”
Here are six key takeaways from Brave.
McGowan uses pseudonyms — first names or initials — for her abusers
Many stories about McGowan are already well known — her alleged rape by Weinstein, her relationship with Planet Terror director Robert Rodriguez — but when she writes about them in the book, she doesn’t identify them directly. Her alleged rapist is the “studio head” or simply “the monster” (the latter term is also how she describes Weinstein in her E! docuseries Citizen Rose, which launched on Tuesday). The married director she had a relationship with is “RR.” The abusive boyfriend she had when she was 15 (a Beverly Hills trust funder) is only identified as “William.”
She had a Dickensian childhood
McGowan had a tough, tough childhood. She was raised in the Children of God religious cult (her father ran its Italian branch), was a runaway at 13 and barely schooled, shuffled between the homes of her mother and “cruel” father, and was essentially abandoned by her mother at 15 and left in the care of her 20-year-old boyfriend, the “William” mentioned above.
She was sexually assaulted from her first days in film
McGowan took her first work in the business as a $35-a-day extra when she was 14 (to earn money because her father demanded she pay $300 a month in rent). The 40-something extras coordinator invited her on what she thought was a group outing, only to find herself alone with him. He grabbed her, forcibly kissed her and stuck his hands up her shirt, she writes.
A few years later, in 1995, while making Doom Generation, her first major role, one of her major co-stars put a water bottle under her skirt and pressed it against her vagina while filming a scene in a car. She says director Gregg Araki, who was in the backseat, shrugged it off with an “Oh, children.” McGowan calls it a “defining moment” for her, “when the favoritism, the misogyny, the toxic environment became real.” She said she learned “nobody was going to protect me.” (McGowan notes that the actor later apologized, which “I completely accept.”)
The details of her sexual assault by “the studio head” at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival are horrifying
McGowan alleges that Weinstein (aka “the studio head”) insisted on giving her a tour of his hotel suite after a meeting to discuss projects. While standing by the suite’s jacuzzi, she says he pulled off her clothes, orally penetrated her and pleasured himself. “I did what so many who experience trauma do,” she writes. “I disassociated and left my body.” McGowan faked an orgasm (“He seemed satisfied,” she writes) in the hopes of ending the alleged assault faster.
She says she told co-star Ben Affleck immediately after
McGowan and Affleck were at Sundance to promote Going All the Way, a movie they both were in. Immediately after the alleged assault, McGowan went to a press event for the film. “I am shaking and my eyes fill with tears,” she says of telling Affleck what happened. She writes that he said, “Goddammit, I told him to stop doing that.” (Weinstein has released an email from Affleck, written several months before The New York Times and New Yorker published their exposés on Weinstein, in which the actor denies McGowan’s story).
McGowan struggled with the demands of Hollywood’s beauty culture
She said she had an eating disorder trying to get as thin as the fashion models she saw in magazines. After filming 1996’s Scream, her dentist told her she didn’t have “movie star teeth” and wanted her to get what she calls “the fake overly white chiclets” many in Hollywood sported. When she went to the premiere, all she could focus on was how terrible her teeth looked. Her eating disorder recurred as her fame grew because so many in the business kept telling her she wasn’t pretty enough or thin enough. Later, when she had to have plastic surgery to fix a “pinched eye” caused by an accident during sinus surgery, her publicists told her to say it was a car accident because they thought it would be bad if the public thought she was having elective plastic surgery.
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