Citizen Rose, actress and activist Rose McGowan’s new E! docuseries, starts simply but powerfully with an intimate close-up. “My name is Rosa Ariana McGowan — Rose McGowan,” she says in voiceover, her face looking ethereal but pained. “Do I make you uncomfortable? Good.”
It’s the perfect tone to kick off the first episode of the five-part limited series, which follows McGowan as she pursues her art and works to create a new social narrative in the wake of the watershed #MeToo movement — and McGowan’s own phoenix rising experience after coming forward as one of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers.
Here are six things we learned from watching the first episode of Citizen Rose.
1. MTV cameras had followed McGowan to the hotel where she was allegedly assaulted.
In a candid conversation with her friend Greg, McGowan speaks carefully about the day she says Weinstein assaulted her during the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. (Weinstein has continued to deny there was any nonconsensual sex with any of his accusers.) “I had a 10 a.m. meeting in a restaurant,” she recalls. “He’s not quite ready yet they want you to go up to his office up there, he’s still on a call.” Affecting a chipper stance, she says brightly, “OK!”
From there, things take a darker turn. McGowan says two male assistants left Weinstein’s hotel room just as she was arriving, and wouldn’t make eye contact with her.
“I have an MTV camera crew following me — it was supposed to be ‘Rose McGowan: a day in the life,'” she recalls. “I turn to the cameras right as I was going into the hotel, and I said, ‘I think my life is finally getting easier.'”
Greg embraces her as she cries, saying, “It’s been a really lonely road, and everyone treated me like dirt while I get to turn on the TV and see Gwyneth Paltrow giving him humanitarian awards.”
From here, throughout the series, Weinstein is either referred to as “the Monster,” or his name is scrambled.
2. Her #ROSEARMY initiative is more than just a social media movement.
McGowan has been incredibly vocal on social media for years, but her message has intensified in the wake of the New York Times and New Yorker exposés on Weinstein. At one point in the show, McGowan makes her mission clear: “I cannot tell you how enraged I am. Because it’s not just about me, it’s about anybody who has been disbelieved.”
Cameras follow her participating in the East L.A. Women’s March last October, after which she sits with victims of domestic violence and lets them know they’re not alone. Later, McGowan shares her message at the Women’s March event in Washington, D.C. “Rose Army isn’t about me,” she tells the cheering crowd. “It’s about being roses in our own lives because we have thorns, and our thorns carry justice.”
But the scope of her goals becomes clearer when cameras follow her to a Rose Army retreat in Colorado, and she’s overcome when someone present shares with her that a woman told her how grateful she is for what they’re doing.
3. Her family life is complicated.
McGowan speaks honestly about the challenges her family faced early on, when her father swept up her mother at age 18 and whisked her away to a cult, the Children of God, in Italy. When her friend Josh asks how her mother is, McGowan says sadly, “My mother … she didn’t text me for days. I know this has all been really triggering for her. And she’s had so much trauma.” McGowan goes on to admit her relationship with her mother is strained because “I scare her.”
Later, when she visits her mother for Thanksgiving, the two have a revealing exchange, in which her mom stops short of trying to minimize McGowan’s pain. “I don’t ask you a lot of things because you spent a lot of years talking s*** about me, and you didn’t want to talk on the phone. I can’t talk to someone that hates me, is how it felt,” her mother says.
McGowan replies, “I probably approached it like a sledgehammer because I was mad, but I had a lot to be mad about.”
McGowan is also candid about her father. “He called himself god with a little g,” she says, all but rolling her eyes. “I was like, b****, please.” During her family visit, McGowan reveals that her father died on Thanksgiving (“I really don’t give a f*** about sweet potatoes,” she tells the camera).
And although his undiagnosed manic depression made him “vicious,” as she says, a picture of him on her brother’s bookshelf brings her to tears. Later, while visiting her Aunt Rory in Seattle, the two visit his gravesite, where McGowan has another emotional moment.
“I couldn’t come visit you last time, ’cause I was really mad at you,” she says, crouching over his grave.
It’s a small but revealing glimpse into the issues that plague her history.
4. Weinstein’s alleged spies reportedly got their hands on McGowan’s book before it was published.
Looking equal parts exhausted and on edge, McGowan has a conversation with New Yorker reporter Ronan Farrow about the complex network Weinstein allegedly set up to help discredit his accusers. (Weinstein has denied this.) McGowan shows how raw she still feels, on hearing the news that her paranoia about being followed was in fact a reality, particularly when Farrow mentions the name Diana Filip, one of the people enlisted by Weinstein’s team to insinuate herself into McGowan’s life and pose as her friend and benefactor.
“She inserted herself into my life as a women’s rights activist,” she tells Farrow, adding that Filip had promised to invest $5 million to $7 million in #ROSEARMY. McGowan also talks about how she and Filip walked the Venice, Calif., boardwalk for hours, talking and eating gelato.
“You know, they were trying to get their hands on your book before it was published, and they actually did,” Farrow says.
McGowan, clearly upset, gets off the couch and begins to pace. “Please use all your investigative powers to figure this out, because I need help,” she says, later adding, “I can’t tell you how violating it felt. It was like being back in that room with him again, except this time it was the inside of my mind, not my body.”
5. Asia Argento says she blocked out Weinstein’s alleged assault.
In the shadow of the New Yorker building, McGowan and actress/director Asia Argento — who has also accused Weinstein of assault — argue about the weight of the word “victim,” and whether they are victims.
McGowan tells Argento, “I think part of me will always be a victim, because it’s frozen in that time. The rest of me is very victorious.”
While discussing their assault experiences, Argento tells McGowan there are pockets of time she just can’t access. “I blocked everything,” she says. “I remember only the first… I remember arriving and leaving.” She says she does remember seeing “the Monster’s” former assistant. The assistant later wrote Argento an e-mail, saying she was sorry. “I never replied,” Argento says defiantly.
But as McGowan applauds her for her bravery and honesty, Argento’s voice breaks as she recounts the lasting impressions the assault left on her. “I wish I was softer,” she says quietly. “It made me hard. It made me… it didn’t soften me, it made me worse as a person.”
6. McGowan and Amber Tamblyn share a special bond.
From the moment the actress and director Amber Tamblyn shows up at McGowan’s New York outpost for dinner, the two become the girls you most want to hang out with. They start with girlfriend catch-up talk, with McGowan asking of Tamblyn’s daughter, “Does she have the countenance of a saint?”
“She does!” Tamblyn exclaims. “Of course! She was built in the era of Trump!”
When Tamblyn tells McGowan that the daughter she was expecting started kicking on the night of the election, McGowan says admiringly, “That’s pretty punk, actually.”
After the two discuss Hollywood and the need for change, they share a tender moment when McGowan offers Tamblyn a gift of some earrings. Then Tamblyn has to go.
“No, I want you to stay,” McGowan tells her, showing true vulnerability. “I want you to sleep on the couch and I can keep babbling.”
Tamblyn agrees. “I want to consensually spoon you!” she says.
McGowan tells her honestly that people are trying to kill her — a confession Tamblyn doesn’t want to hear.
As McGowan hugs her goodbye, she cries. “If I die, you have to keep my work to be studied. It’s our purpose,” McGowan says. “Everything I’m doing has a purpose.”
Tamblyn just hugs her tighter.
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