By Frances Winston
Rose McGowan – Words+Ideas
National Concert Hall, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2
27th April 2019
Until 2017, Rose McGowan was predominately known for her work on the hugely-popular, and widely syndicated TV series, Charmed.
However, that year, she named movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein, as a rapist, bringing her to the forefront of the #MeToo movement. She was hailed as a hero by women’s groups, but the decision to speak out came at a huge personal price, seeing her blacklisted in Hollywood, and portrayed as a ‘crazy lady’ (her words) in the media!
This period, as well as her unconventional upbringing in The Children of God cult, her experiences in, what she calls, the cult of Hollywood, and her hopes for the future, were all discussed publicly in this talk, which was facilitated by journalist, Sam Baker. It’s part of a series of talks being run by the NCH.
Despite her huge screen success, and the almost cult-like (there’s that word again) following of some of her work, this wasn’t a sell-out, which I found surprising.
Less surprising was the fact that it was a predominately female audience, including several trans women. From the video introduction before she took to the stage, you knew that there might be some uncomfortable topics dealt with.
Although she is probably blue in the teeth from talking about her personal travails at this stage, it doesn’t show. She is measured, and steely, as she recalls her struggle with anorexia, the ill-treatment suffered by the only female director ever hired to work on the female-led Charmed, the sexualisation that was forced upon her (she describes a Rolling Stone shoot, in which she was given just a bullet-belt to wear as an ‘out of body experience’, and says her eyes are vacant in the shots) and her triumphant return to Sundance as a director – the first time she had been back since her sexual assault in 1997.
Weinstein doesn’t get a mention. Baker says he “doesn’t deserve the airtime”, and won’t even name him. But his presence looms large, as McGowan admits that the past couple of years have been tough. She concedes that she wasn’t sure she was going to survive them.
Clearly she has though, and has come out the other side stronger than before. Much reference is made to her memoir, Brave (which she reads from twice) and you get the impression that writing this book was quite cathartic for her – allowing her to speak her truth without the worry that it would be twisted.
She talks a lot about empowerment, which draws enthusiastic rounds of applause, and she gets a well-deserved standing ovation at the end. After all, anyone who has spent 90 minutes baring their soul in such a public confessional deserves at least that.
But this did feel very scripted at times. There were no surprises, and neither McGowan nor Baker ever went off-message, and everything they spoke about is already in the public domain. However, there was something refreshing about seeing McGowan herself discussing this, rather than reading it as a pull quote in an article about #MeToo.
Ironically, her life would make a fantastic script for the Hollywood she now seems to so despise. That is probably the furthest thing from her mind at the moment though, as she focuses on spreading her message of empowerment and survival. It’s almost impossible not to like and admire her moxie.
This was an extremely thought-provoking evening, that seemed to almost act as a call-to-arms for many of the audience.
And if there ever were doubt about the title of McGowan’s memoir, she proved that she is, indeed, Brave.