In another era, before powerful men were being made to account for past misdeeds, the husky voice and the bee-stung lips might have denoted seduction.
Not now, because the mind behind that voice and those lips has no time for your male chauvinist crap.
“Do I make you uncomfortable? Good,” declares Rose McGowan, the actor and artist turned activist and lightning rod for the #MeToo movement, in the first moments of her new reality show, “Citizen Rose,” which premiered Tuesday on the E! channel.
The documentary miniseries aims to show McGowan as she confronts sexism in Hollywood and media and the tactics of the man she calls “The Monster” — the dethroned movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
In both the TV series and her new memoir, “Brave” (which also debuted Tuesday), McGowan chooses not to say or write that man’s name.
“By now we all know the Monster’s name, but I have made a choice not to use it,” McGowan writes in “Brave.” “I do not like the Monster’s name, and though I know it, and maybe you know it, I refuse to have his name in my book.”
That statement comes in the most harrowing chapter of “Brave,” the one where she tells the story she has refused to tell the media to date, not even on her own TV show. It’s the story of when, she says, the Monster raped her.
She goes into painful, personal detail. It was in January 1997, when she was in Park City, attending the Sundance Film Festival, where she was appearing in a movie called “Going All the Way.”
After the movie’s premiere, she writes that she was summoned for a restaurant meeting with The Monster at the Stein Eriksen Lodge. Once she got to the restaurant, she was told that he was delayed in his room upstairs, and she should go meet him there. As she went inside, she told the MTV film crew that was following her for one of those “day in the life of …” pieces, “I think my life is finally getting easier.”
The pages that follow describe a scene of sheer terror, a few minutes in the suite’s hot tub that have haunted McGowan for decades.
I believe Rose McGowan’s accusation of rape, because I have no reason not to. The description in “Brave” is so authentic and personal that she’s either telling the truth or she’s the greatest horror author since Stephen King.
Consider the payoff made to McGowan to buy her silence. “My lawyer got me a hundred thousand dollars,” she writes in “Brave.” “That money felt dirty, anyway. I largely gave it away. It brought me no solace. But it was the only way I could put the pig on notice that I was not OK with what he did.”
Consider the retaliation she has endured even before The New York Times exposé that brought down Weinstein in October. In January, an arrest warrant was issued for McGowan in Virginia, on a drug-possession charge, after evidence of drugs was found on her luggage when she traveled to the Women’s March on Washington. She alleged ex-Mossad agents working for The Monster planted the evidence — which sounds like a crazy, paranoid rant, except that The New Yorker’s Dylan Farrow (who appears in “Citizen Rose”) reported on The Monster’s spy network in November.
In “Brave,” McGowan writes about what led to that fateful day in Park City and what happened after. She writes about her upbringing, first in a cult in Italy and later with an abusive stepdad in Oregon. She writes about her relationships with rocker Marilyn Manson and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez — the latter ending when he cast her in the exploitation flick “Planet Terror,” which he then sold to The Monster’s distribution company.
The book also discusses how McGowan, after being chewed up and spit out by the Hollywood machine, found her passion in her art. (She directed a short film, “Dawn,” that premiered at Sundance in 2014.) She also found her voice via Twitter, decrying Hollywood sexism and, as the articles in The New York Times were hitting, talking directly about being raped by The Monster.
One must admire McGowan for chutzpah, for choosing E! as the perch from which to launch her attacks on Hollywood sexism. E!, after all, is the channel that allowed the Kardashians to flourish, let Joan Rivers run her “Fashion Police” and continually deploys Ryan Seacrest to schmooze on red carpets. It’s a perfect example of subverting the system from the inside.
McGowan is not, however, the perfect spokeswoman for the #MeToo movement and the Time’s Up campaign that have grown out of the accusations against powerful men in the media. As she acknowledged after calling out Meryl Streep about the Golden Globes gesture of women wearing black on the red carpet, McGowan is finding her path as an activist as she goes.
But, as “Citizen Rose” and “Brave” demonstrate, McGowan is the essential voice for this issue in this moment. She’s been there, she’s stared down The Monster and she has 20 years of pent-up anger to release on anyone standing in the way of change. If that makes you feel uncomfortable, that is good — and that’s on you, not her.