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Though the disgraced Hollywood mogul precipitated the national reckoning on sexual harassment, and is directly tied to McGowan’s story, leaving his name and likeness out of McGowan’s personal and revealing two-hour documentary was a decision made by the actress, who talks about the triggering effects he has had for his dozens and dozens of victims, including herself, ever since his name has been proliferated in the news cycle.
Instead, McGowan refers to him as “the monster.” His name is blurred in print, jumbled in audio and his eyes are blacked out if his image appears on screen.
“I don’t like saying his name — the monster, that is.” McGowan explains. “He doesn’t deserve my acknowledgement. You’re beneath humanity. You don’t even get a name. Loser.”
Citizen Rose launched after a day of full-court press from McGowan. During back-to-back interviews, McGowan revealed new details about her 1997 hotel encounter with Weinstein and her allegation that he raped her — an incident detailed heavily in her new book, Brave, which also came available Tuesday. (Weinstein denies the claim and released a new statement Tuesday.) The documentary shows a pivotal moment that she referred to throughout the interviews: Before entering his hotel room that day, the rising star turned to the MTV cameras who were following her for “a day in the life” segment and said with a chipper smile, “I think my life is finally getting easier.”
“That haunted me because I felt like, ‘Goddammit I jinxed myself. Goddammit, Rose,'” says McGowan, now looking back.
The two-hour documentary will be followed by four subsequent episodes to air on E! in the spring. Theoretically, they will pick up where Tuesday’s feature, which followed McGowan through December, left off.
For those who have not been closely following the news cycle, revelations in the documentary like the ex-Mossad agents reportedly hired by Weinstein to discredit his accusers will be shocking. McGowan talks about the woman, named “Diana Filip,” who posed as an activist and befriended McGowan only to gain access to her book.
But even for those who are up to speed, Citizen Rose still goes behind the scenes for an intimate look at McGowan’s journey. For example, many watched or even attended her first public remarks about Weinstein and the #MeToo movement at the Detroit Women’s Convention, but the camera captures her nerves before the big speech and shows her being moved to tears after.
“Someone listened to me,” she says in disbelief.
Moments of fragility and relief for the defiant McGowan abound. The film and TV star is actually seen on camera the day the news first broke about Weinstein, speaking to a group of fellow survivors after a women’s center march Oct. 5. “Today felt like I’m slowly releasing masses of stress that I’ve had on me for the last 20 years,” she says to the camera. “I’ve had this giant thing attached to me for 20 years and it feels like, for the first time, it’s getting off of me.”
During a tour through her house, she compares her younger self to a piece of artwork illustrating a bound and gagged ballerina. After her speech in Detroit, now no longer gagged, she is so excited to celebrate the next-day news coverage that she converses with a stranger about it in a parking lot.
She opens up about her upbringing in the Children of God cult and compares it to the “cult” of Hollywood. Her late father, who suffered from undiagnosed manic depression, got the family out of the cult after adult-child sex was being encouraged. “Everything is about pleasing the men and I was like, ‘No. This is not working,'” she recalls.
In an emotional confrontation with her mother on Thanksgiving, McGowan finally finds the strength to tell her: “Nobody has ever asked me what it was like for me. Nobody in my family has ever asked.” Through tears, she says, “I didn’t get to be me for 17 years.”
She also uses the autobiographical 2014 short film she directed, Dawn, to illustrate how she felt after Weinstein’s alleged assault: “Part of you has just been left behind — you just got killed. The very sweet, very innocent person that I was did get killed. But they built a motherfucking beast and they built a motherfucking problem. And I am that problem.”
As a result, she has launched her own Rose Army movement: “It’s not just about me. It’s about anyone who has ever been disbelieved.” When she finds out Time magazine plans to recognize her as a 2017 Person of the Year, she is overwhelmed and says her father would be proud of this moment where the narrative is beginning to change.
But then, on Nov. 5, when she is pulled over by a policeman in Colorado, her cellphone footage shows the officer informing her that she has a warrant out for her arrest. McGowan explains to viewers what was detailed by Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker about Weinstein’s “army of spies,” shedding light on the details behind her reported warrant over felony drug charges.
She rails against the injustice and when she finds out that Weinstein successfully obtained the first 125 pages of her forthcoming book, McGowan says, “I can’t tell you how violating it felt. It was like being back in that room with him all over again. Only this time, it was the inside of my mind and not my body.”
When she ends up turning herself in (she was released on a $5,000 bond), she jokes about posing for her mug shot. But underneath, the pain is evident. “I wish I had more middle fingers,” she says. She likens the traumatic experience to her assault. “The second they stuck me there and put those handcuffs on me that were very heavy and cold, I did exactly what I did when I had been raped. I snapped out of my body and floated to the ceiling. That’s what trauma people do.”
She still faces an arraignment and preliminary hearing. “It’s so upsetting,” she says.
But it’s when Farrow himself pays her a visit that the pair sum everything up for all the viewers who haven’t been following the story as closely.
“Nobody believed that it would change the world in this way,” Farrow tells her of inciting a watershed moment in history. Throughout the two hours, the Hollywood men accused of misconduct in the wake of Weinstein flash across the screen. “All of this is like a detective novel,” says Farrow. He admits that had McGowan been the one to come out about the conspiracy of spies Weinstein is alleged to have had at his disposal instead of letting him report it out in the New Yorker, “everyone would have just said you were crazy. And [they] did for some time.”
When actress Amber Tamblyn visits her, the paranoia she had referenced earlier becomes a reality. She tells her friend that she believes people are trying to kill her. Hugging Tamblyn through tears, McGowan whispers, “If I die, you have to keep all my work to be studied. It’s our purpose. Everything I’m doing has a purpose.”
It’s that moment, along with a conversation with fellow Weinstein accuser Asia Argento, that bring viewers a newly intimate look at her very public fight. “I really dislike not being allowed to be a victim,” McGowan tells Argento. “I think a part of me will always be a victim because it’s frozen in that time. The rest of me is very victorious. But there’s a part of me, the dead part, the part that I carry as a victim, I mourn for her. I’m currently in mourning because I didn’t have time.”
When their tearful conversation turns to the topic of complicity, McGowan cites the time Meryl Streep referred to Weinstein as “God” during the Academy Awards (Streep has been a previous target of McGowan’s). She also stands by her critique of the Golden Globes blackout: “I’m sure a lot of these women are well-meaning, but it’s a PR machine stunt overall because the people behind it are the agents that sent us women, not me but others, into the lion’s den to be eaten and consumed. It’s not just dresses — it’s a lie.”
After hosting a conversation with several accusers of famous figures, including President Donald Trump, McGowan explains her hope for a domino effect, evoking an earlier comment about disrupting the power structure, a cage that doesn’t like to be rattled. “What I hope to accomplish ultimately is to allow women to express anger and rage, because people are very scared of that,” she says. “But you know what, they should be. We don’t want to be angry. Just stop fucking with us.”
Throughout the documentary, McGowan’s family members describe her as an indignant child, someone born with her fist raised, but who attracted the gaze of men starting at a very young age. By the end of the documentary, when McGowan finally visits her father’s grave, her aunt notes a softer change in McGowan. About her father, she had said, “His greatest flaw was being a man that needed to be worshipped. It was the hardest thing in our relationship and something that I could never give.” Now she says, “He was the great love of my life. And when I went to visit him, I forgave.”
Her goal, she explains, is to raise human consciousness by 10 percent: Ten percent more awake, more cautious, more artistic and more awesome. “The fight for justice is not over,” she vows. “I want us to all be what we were meant to be before they told us we couldn’t. We can rise. We can fly. We can heal. Let’s get brave.”
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