HarperOne | 2018
It doesn’t feel right “rating” an autobiography, especially one as intense and personal as this one, so consider my stars more of a decoration than a judgement.
Rose McGowan is an actress that had a significant presence in my formative years. (Favourite movie of all time: Scream. One of my favourite TV shows of all time: Charmed.) So, going into reading this, after the downfall of Harvey Weinstein, I felt a little bit of a connection to her. In some ways, I grew up with her. Perhaps that affects my opinion of this book, as opposed to someone that saw Death Proof once or remembers her from that time she walked the red carpet at the MTV VMAs essentially naked.
I know this is not the typical book review you might expect to find on a blog dedicated to mysteries and thrillers, but I believe this is an important one to read. For me personally, as a feminist and as a woman, but also just in general. All people should be reading this book. End of.
Whether you agree with her opinions or not, there is so much in this novel that will make you think, make you reconsider an opinion or give you a new perspective you might not have considered.
I had been seeing Rose pop up all over the place doing press for this, more than I remember seeing her in years and years (if I’m honest), and I was a little bit confused and disquieted by her behaviour – babbling nonsensically, screaming at a transgender activist at a book signing, and speaking erratic thoughts and concepts in such a way that you might think she was on another planet.
When she appeared on The View, she said something to the effect of: Weinstein/Hollywood made all of us think she was crazy so we wouldn’t take her seriously.
And maybe she’s right. Before reading this immersive account of her life, I did think she had gone a little bit crazy. And any creative projects she put out were coloured by my assumption that she’d lost her mind. When the audiobook starts she raps/sings and I remember thinking, “oh, ok it’s weird right away.”
I regret that opinion. Rose McGowan is so much more than an opinion you can form following celebrity news.
She’s smart and articulate and expressive. And she’s angry. Very angry. And determined. And with every right to be.
But whatever you think of her, one thing is undeniable. She is brave.
She is the first woman in Hollywood to refuse to shut up about the pervasive abuse she knows exists. She was instrumental in taking down “the monster”, Harvey Weinstein, when it could have cost her everything, and nearly did. And her Rose Army has helped to bolster the #metoo movement – fighting against misogyny and assault, not just in Hollywood, but everywhere women exist.
And that’s just the more recent news. Rose was born into the uber-creepy cult, Children of God. After leaving that cult and moving to the US, she endured abuse by her father, her mother’s boyfriends, sexual assault by strangers, abusive relationships, a severe eating disorder, drug abuse and homelessness, and just a general feeling of being shit on by life. After getting caught up in the Hollywood machine, she suffered numerous indignities and injustices that make you angry on her behalf just reading about them.
She deserves all of the stars for surviving everything she has and coming out on the other side, now 44, with a true sense of purpose and self.
Personally, there were a few moments in the book where her tone didn’t totally agree with me. And true to form, I have an opinion or two I’d like to share…
For one, Rose complains a lot about not really liking the work she does. I understand that some experiences with directors or producers were embarrassing or repulsive or inappropriate, and in the Weinstein case, straight up rape. I understand her initial involvement with acting was just for the money because she was trying to escape a bad family dynamic, but it seems to me that there are a lot of people who would kill to be able to follow their dreams of being an actor. And “being discovered” randomly and just immediately getting an acting job is not a thing that happens to people. It’s a fairy tale beginning. I think Rose recognizes how unusual her start in Hollywood was, but it comes with a negative side of “if this hadn’t happened at all, then…”
Perhaps her all the bad experiences are colouring her opinion, allowing her to discount anything good. She looks to place blame and to have that blame acknowledged, which is fair enough. But we can’t undo the past, we can only accept it and move on, and I think for a book that speaks to a lot of survivors, it would have been nice to see that message put out there a little more intentionally, not just with enthusiastic rhetoric-style lines.
“Here’s to freedom, yours and mine. Now, go breathe fire.”
To a lot of people, Hollywood is a place to express their creativity, to pursue writing or acting or comedy or directing. Rose has a tendency to wrap up everything coming out of “Hollywood” as an evil thing that must be stopped. Maybe I do not understand her point because I’m not in that life, but that’s the way it came across to me.
There is obviously a culture permeating through the industry, one that protects men who do vile things and allows women to be marginalized and used. And, yes, that need to be exposed and the pressure needs to be so great that to even attempt calling up a young actress to your hotel room would be too scary a thought for someone.
But…there are also a lot of amazing things happening in entertainment that mean something to people. Am I wrong about that? I don’t feel like I am, as a fan. I’m sure business is shady, and there are personal politics at play. We’d all love for things to be honest and pure, but does that mean that all products of those shady business practices (I’m NOT talking about abuse of women here, just bad business) are now fruit of the poisonous tree?
Maybe. It’s a big concept, one I can’t unwrap here, but my bottom line would be that there are good people with creative souls who create entertainment with pure intentions, because they have a story living inside of them, be them actors or writers or directors. These people are making things we are affected by. Fandoms exist for a reason. Those connections are real. Charmed is one of those things for me, even if Rose doesn’t value that show herself.
TV shows that makes us cry or help us feel represented and acknowledged, documentaries that make us think and expose that which needs to be exposed, and movies that take us on wild rides that we’d otherwise never get to experience – these are amazing things to me. And I think they’re important.
But, this – if my understanding of Rose’s opinion is correct – is a cult that we’ve all bought into. One where we’ve been brainwashed – the things we like we’ve been tricked into liking, the things we think we’ve been conditioned to think. I mean maybe…I did eventually hop onto the This Is Us bandwagon. But is that really so bad? A show about family and diversity and struggle? How dare they make such a moving show!
Rose makes a point of saying that someone like Kevin James having a beautiful wife on a sitcom is a misogynistic choice we should be insulted by and fight the system to stop. I mean maybe, sure, I can see why you’d reach that opinion from a certain perspective….but isn’t it also kind of insulting to assume a beautiful woman would never date a man who wasn’t conventionally attractive? Isn’t that a cog of the patriarchy machine that we’re trying to dismantle?
To look at Kevin James and think: “As if Leah Remini would ever be with that! This is clearly Hollywood trying to use women only for their looks!” doesn’t strike me as a particularly progressive thought process.
As a creative person, I struggled to connect with this part of Rose’s novel, because while I think there are definitely aspects of Hollywood that are completely missing the progress being made (sexy chicks in bikinis selling burgers for instance,) I also see a lot of good happening. Rose sees things through an intense lens, a sniper ready to pick off every moving target. But sometimes I felt like she has blinders on.
I can’t exactly blame her.
I know the feeling. Coming out of something horrific – angry and ready to lash out. That kind of personal revolution is like a bomb going off. There’s an initial impact, but the dust does settle. You stop being so reactive and start trying to pick up the good pieces that you forgot would be destroyed in the blast.
Rose seems to hate every project she’s ever worked on. Scream sucked. Charmed was the worst 5 years of her life professionally because the hours were long and a director was mean. I inherently get my back up a little bit when I feel like people are being ungrateful when they’ve been given an opportunity the rest of us will never get. I understand that she’s been through a lot, had shitty experiences that would have ruined most of us, and considers herself pretty enlightened now. But parts of the book came across less like a woman who was sharing her experiences that she had learned from, and more like a woman who is very angry and ready to take a flamethrower to everything.
I was in an abusive relationship for 4 years. That was six years ago now, but I still have lingering trust issues with my husband, who has never been anything but loyal. Those residual effects are a hard thing to shake. When I was first free of that bad relationship, I had some PTSD that coloured a lot of things for me. But now I can look back and say, well if it hadn’t been for that experience I wouldn’t be who I am. If I wasn’t for that relationship I wouldn’t be where I am.
I, personally, feel like that this is an important step in the healing process – looking back at the terrible situation and finding some silver lining and being able to put the bad to peace and move on with a greater understanding of yourself. Because we can’t undo the past. There’s no such thing as going back and making different choices. I think it’s really important to find acceptance in the choices you did make, in the situations that happened to you, and look for the good in those places. How else do you move on if you don’t?
Rose is not there completely, maybe she never will be. Maybe she doesn’t want to be. I’m not here to give her advice, clearly. And I do recognize that this is what long-term abuse can look like, and she shouldn’t have to move on from a safe space until she’s ready to. But as a someone who has gone through my own experiences with abuse and rape, her anger, and readiness to destroy everything she’s seeing through that sniper lens, felt like a negative step back for my own personal healing and it wasn’t a place I could stand to be for much longer.
I didn’t find her anger empowering, more like a drain. That’s just my personal feelings, not a judgement on anyone else.
In a lot of ways though, that does say something about the book and the emotions involved – they are palpable and readily accessible. Rose’s descriptions of her descent into anorexia, or the abuses she suffered, make your heart break for her. This book reads like an exercise in catharsis.
“Don’t gaslight me, motherfucker. My vagina remembers.”
There’s a feeling of score-settling throughout a lot of the book that I didn’t really like. Rose calls out people like Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriquez and Perez Hilton, as well as her monster, Weinstein. She takes personal shots – shots that felt antithesis to the message she espouses about women (we’re more than just our looks). A great deal of time is spent on name calling of sorts and mocking personal appearances. It’s overdone and unnecessary.
Sure, Weinstein is a pig of a man, but what does his “oily, pockmarked skin” or “liver lips” have to do with his being a rapist? Again, that red-hot anger inside Rose bled through everything. I could feel it, I could hear it. I don’t blame her, but for me, it diminished the point.
Let’s talk about how any man, liver lips or conventionally attractive, rape. Because it’s not about “he can’t get a girl because he’s fat and ugly”, it’s about the power rape provides. Let’s talk about the power in Hollywood Weinstein had and how it’s been taken away in glorious fashion. Let’s make sure that anyone in his position now, good-looking or not, famous or not, doesn’t ever attempt to pull a Weinstein again. Let’s keep those who know they’ve done wrong on their fucking toes.
Leave the personal insults out of it. Rise above and expose what really matters.
This is a time of reckoning for male behaviour. This is a time of teaching. I have an 18-year-old stepson who watches what’s going on and says things like, “why would a guy ever do something like that?” I can see the effect this reckoning is having first hand, and it’s pretty amazing.
There is no reason, now, to focus on Rose’s credibility or “crazy” behaviour. We are well past that. What matters is that she stood up and exposed the truth and refuses to stop. In doing so, she’s empowered so many to do the same.
“I’m immeasurably proud of having had a hand in the cataclysmic global reckoning.”
…as she should be.
I feel humbled and honoured to be able to pick up a book like this and hear these personal stories and triumphs. I might have some opinions, but it in no way is meant to diminish the beautiful phoenix I think Rose McGowan is.
My life, as you will read, has taken me from one cult to another. Brave is the story of how I fought my way out of these cults and reclaimed my life. I want to help you do the same.-Rose McGowan
A revealing memoir and empowering manifesto – A voice for generations.
Rose McGowan was born in one cult and came of age in another, more visible cult: Hollywood.
In a strange world where she was continually on display, stardom soon became a personal nightmare of constant exposure and sexualization. Rose escaped into the world of her mind, something she had done as a child, and into high-profile relationships. Every detail of her personal life became public, and the realities of an inherently sexist industry emerged with every script, role, public appearance, and magazine cover. The Hollywood machine packaged her as a sexualized bombshell, hijacking her image and identity and marketing them for profit.
Hollywood expected Rose to be silent and cooperative and to stay the path. Instead, she rebelled and asserted her true identity and voice. She reemerged unscripted, courageous, victorious, angry, smart, fierce, unapologetic, controversial, and real as f*ck.
Brave is her raw, honest, and poignant memoir/manifesto—a no-holds-barred, pull-no-punches account of the rise of a millennial icon, fearless activist, and unstoppable force for change who is determined to expose the truth about the entertainment industry, dismantle the concept of fame, shine a light on a multibillion-dollar business built on systemic misogyny, and empower people everywhere to wake up and be Brave.