Brave by Rose McGowan review – damn right she’s angry

The actor’s courage is palpable in this exposé that condemns Hollywood misogyny and the ‘monster’

Whatever else might be said about her, few could deny that actor Rose McGowan (The Doom Generation, Scream, Charmed) is brave. While recent explosive or erratic public appearances (shouting at a transgender heckler at a book event; babbling on talkshows) have disquieted even her supporters, McGowan’s courage is not in question. She’s the original woman who refused to shut up, whose rape accusation against Harvey Weinstein proved pivotal in felling the Miramax mogul and whose RoseArmy helped galvanise the #MeToo fight against systemic predatory misogyny within Hollywood and beyond.

Born in Italy, raised in the disturbing Children of God cult, then taken to America, where the then punk became homeless for a while (as detailed in this memoir/manifesto), McGowan, now 44, endured the kind of troubled background that merits respect just for surviving it. In addition, she says, she escaped from “the biggest cult of all: Hollywood”.

Brave, whose cover proudly displays her now signature shaven head (she views long hair as a symbol of Hollywood’s exploitation of her as “the ultimate fantasy fuck-toy”), is a veritable blizzard of sexualised attacks, indignities and injustices that she refuses to be silent about any more. In fact, one of the recurring themes is McGowan urging herself to “wake up!”.

Some of her riper “warrior woman!”-style rhetoric may be all too easy to lampoon (“Here’s to freedom, yours and mine. Now, go breathe fire”), but McGowan’s newfound politicisation is the revving motor of Brave and her sincerity feels real. Her brutal, candid revelations about her abusive treatment run the gamut from depressing and humiliating to terrifying and devastating. There is everything from being ejaculated upon by a shop owner in a changing cubicle, to having a water bottle pushed between her legs on a film set, to being publicly denigrated as a “whore” by gossip blogger Perez Hilton, and more. Quentin Tarantino, for one, must now be regretting making sleazy insinuations about masturbating to images of McGowan’s naked feet. And if some of these naming/shaming passages have the distinct whiff of score-settling then, frankly, who could blame her?

One man who isn’t named is Weinstein – McGowan refers to him as the “monster”. (“By now we all know the monster’s name. I have made a choice not to use it.”) But the alleged attack appears in a chapter named Death of Self, in which she dwells too long on Weinstein’s appearance (“oily-skinned… pockmarked… liver lips”, etc). While she clearly feels that she needs to signal his physical flaws (he claims their encounter was consensual), it’s overdone and unnecessary. It shouldn’t matter how a man looks, only what he does – there are plenty of conventionally attractive rapists.

However, as McGowan describes the alleged assault, your heart breaks for her. When she tries to leave the “meeting”, she’s manoeuvred into a Jacuzzi room, where, confused, her clothes are pulled off. As he forcibly performs a sex act on her, she freezes, dissociates, starts to cry silently (“Wake up, Rose!”) and resorts to faking an orgasm to make him stop. Here, McGowan’s voice is spare, sore, raw. Afterwards, she discovers that people knew about his reputation but let her walk into danger anyway. Moreover, that most people just want her to get over what happened – don’t anger the intimidating Hollywood giant. After Weinstein (still not admitting fault) pays McGowan $100K, she finds out that her reputation has been trashed throughout the film industry.

In Brave, McGowan rationalises taking the money (she felt that she wouldn’t be believed; her career seemed over), but I, for one, couldn’t care less if she, or anyone else, accepted cash. If it felt like the best course of action at the time, an acknowledgment that “something” happened, then who’s to judge? The same applies to McGowan’s occasional volatility and fragility in public. Granted, there are times in Brave when her intensity runs away with her (of the water bottle attack, she rages: “Don’t gaslight me, motherfucker. My vagina remembers”). But she makes no bones about having suffered damage (she mentions taking mild antidepressants). Let’s not forget that, sometimes, this is what long-term abuse looks like.

In this era of long overdue reckoning for male behaviour, it seems strange for the world to focus on McGowan’s credibility. What really counts is that, when it mattered, she stood up and spoke out and empowered many others to do so. Indeed, in Brave, she talks about how she’s “immeasurably proud of having had a hand in the cataclysmic global reckoning”. Ms McGowan, you should be.

• Brave by Rose McGowan is published by HQ (£20). To order a copy for £17 go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99


Barbara Ellen

The GuardianTramp

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