E!’s ‘Citizen Rose’ series gives an intimate portrait of the activism of Rose McGowan, Harvey Weinstein’s most vocal accuser

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  • “Citizen Rose,” a limited series following the life of activist and actress Rose McGowan, premiered its first episode on Tuesday night.
  • The show revolves around McGowan’s activism in the months after the reports of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment and assault were published.
  • McGowan, who reached a settlement with Weinstein in the 90s, has accused him of rape.

In one of the most powerful scenes in “Citizen Rose,” actress and activist Rose McGowan is at a hotel in New York City with Ronan Farrow, the journalist who broke stories about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment and assault in The New Yorker.

In the scene, Farrow says he started calling women after McGowan told him she knew there were many other victims of Weinstein’s behavior. Farrow says when he spoke to these other women, he told them he didn’t think the story would ever be published, and even if it were, that it wouldn’t affect Weinstein.

“Nobody believed that it would change the world,” Farrow tells McGowan in the hotel.

“Citizen Rose” is a limited reality series following McGowan, which premiered on E! Tuesday night.

McGowan has been an activist for some time now, but her voice became amplified after the accusations of sexual misconduct surfaced against Weinstein, jump-starting the #MeToo movement that is dominating our culture and Hollywood. While McGowan’s voice is sometimes divisive within the movement, it’s important, poignant, and necessary.

Without the #MeToo movement, which McGowan herself has criticized (specifically the #TimesUp Golden Globes initiative to wear all black), “Citizen Rose” probably wouldn’t have a platform like E!

Rose the activist

McGowan made headlines after The New York Times reported, in its first story on the Weinstein accusations, that McGowan had reached a settlement with him in the late 90s after an incident in a hotel room at the Sundance Film Festival. McGowan didn’t comment in the Times story, but she was vocal on Twitter. She accused Weinstein, without fully naming him (“HW”), of raping her (he has denied it through lawyers).

In “Citizen Rose” McGowan, who refuses to say Weinstein’s name – only calling him “Monster”- contends that saying his name only makes him more powerful. In the series, Weinstein’s name is bleeped when spoken and blurred out of headlines, and his eyes are covered with a black rectangle.

While it comes across a bit silly at first, the editing out of Weinstein in “Citizen Rose” shows visual impact of this movement. A man, once everywhere with seemingly unlimited power, is erased and powerless. McGowan doesn’t let her Monster break her anymore: She lets what allegedly happened between them when she was 23 guide her activism, which anchors the emotional two-hour premiere.

In one scene, McGowan is in Detroit. She talks to a man on the sidewalk about the Weinstein story, which just broke. The man tells McGowan that he finds it disturbing that some powerful men are sexual predators, and speculates that there must be something mentally wrong with them. McGowan tells him that the most disturbing part is all the enablers, the people who let it happen and cover it up.

“The enablers aren’t crazy like them, so what’s their excuse? They’re more guilty,” she says.

Rose the victim

The episode’s other powerful moments also stem directly from McGowan’s “Monster.”

Later in the episode, McGowan meets with Asia Argento, who spoke to Farrow for his story in The New Yorker. Argento told Farrow that Weinstein sexually assaulted her in a hotel room in the 90s.

“I can’t even remember. I blocked everything,” Argento tells McGowan in the episode.

“I remember,” McGowan says.

“I remember only the first,” Argento says.

Making unique experiences accessible

The series feels a little clumsily shot and edited, with a handheld feel that sometimes doesn’t quite work. But it is, after all, reality. This makes McGowan, who does most of her confessionals from her bathtub, human. She’s had a unique life: she grew up in a cult, then worked in Hollywood, which she also refers to as a cult.

In “Citizen Rose,” McGowan makes her unique experiences relatable to all women, and hopefully others as well. In one scene that I related to in particular, McGowan is filmed in her home in no makeup wearing a Taco Bell sweatshirt, saying directly to the camera that her weapon is “truth.”

“Citizen Rose” isn’t perfect, but it succeeds in one of the primary goals of the #MeToo movement: making women feel less alone.

You can watch the trailer here: