I’ve decided to migrate my review of Rose McGowan’s book, BRAVE, to my new and improved blog. This book review was originally composed for my old blog. It was posted on February 13, 2019. Enjoy! (Edited to add: I had no idea yesterday, when I reposted this review, that Rose McGowan would be in the news and this book would be mentioned.)
Before I read her 2018 book, BRAVE, I wasn’t at all familiar with Rose McGowan’s career. Rose McGowan now bills herself as a “former actress”. Now that I’ve read her book, I can see why she’s supposedly left Hollywood. Her book, BRAVE, is mostly a tale about an industry that abuses and exploits women. As I was reading the last pages of her story, I recognized the crescendo that can come from a person who is gathering steam, telling off someone whose had it coming for a really long time.
Rose McGowan was born September 5, 1973 to her American parents, Daniel and Terri McGowan, in Certaldo, Tuscany, Italy. Her parents were members of the sex cult, Children of God. The late actor River Phoenix, and his famous siblings, Summer, Joaquin, Liberty, and Rain, were also in the Children of God. I was interested in reading more about this cult, which seems to have attracted so many talented people and enticed them to live a life of poverty and exploitation for its charismatic leader, the late David Berg.
McGowan’s family left the cult when she was still a child. Her parents were abusive and neglectful, and after they left Italy, she had a very troubled upbringing in the Pacific Northwest and Colorado. She was shuffled between her parents, both of whom were apparently kind of “fucked up”. Her mother was a writer and her father was an artist. It was through her father that Rose McGowan got her break into show business, first as a child model when she was still living in Italy. When her parents divorced, McGowan’s lifestyle became more troubled. For a time, she was a runaway and associated with drag queens. At 15, she became emancipated, and moved to Los Angeles. She had her first credited film role in 1992, playing Nora in the movie Encino Man.
Despite her rather unconventional upbringing, McGowan was able to break into Hollywood. She modeled and acted, appearing in Scream, and eventually becoming the “face” of the clothing brand Bebe. She also made music, starting while she was dating Marilyn Manson.
This sounds like the career of dreams for many ambitious people. Rose McGowan has led a life of fame and fortune, rubbing elbows with legendary actors and musicians and having her face displayed on the covers of many magazines. And yet, according to McGowan’s book, BRAVE, the lifestyle apparently makes her miserable. Actually, apparently, it’s the men in the lifestyle that make her miserable.
Starting in the early 90s, when she was still somewhat unknown, McGowan dated a man who bought her exercise equipment and encouraged her to lose weight. She writes that she felt like a “failure” when she couldn’t manage to get below 92 pounds. As she became more famous, she ended up in more abusive relationships with men, including one she refers to as RR (Robert Rodriguez). She describes him as very possessive and obsessive. One time, after working very hard all day on a movie set, she came home to find what appeared to be a man in her bed. RR had put a male dummy in her bed with a cowboy hat, apparently to scare her if she’d come home with another man.
McGowan describes working with the director Quentin Tarantino on the film Death Proof. She writes that Tarantino hates women. Apparently, all of the women in his films, particularly the powerful ones, end up dying horrible, violent deaths. McGowan writes that she tried to give her character, Pam, an “angelic” quality so that audiences would feel something for her when she inevitably dies. I haven’t seen Death Proof, so I have no idea if McGowan was able to pull off that quality in her character. But I did find her comments about movie directors interesting. She says you can tell how a director feels about women by how the female characters in their films are treated.
Rose McGowan also starred in the series Charmed, joining the cast after actress Shannen Doherty departed. She played the long lost half-sister Paige Matthews. I only saw a few episodes of Charmed, and I don’t think they were the ones that included McGowan. Still, I grew up with Aaron Spelling’s television shows, so McGowan’s comments on working on Charmed were interesting to me. They kind of made me want to watch Charmed. McGowan was not herself a viewer until she was asked to meet Aaron Spelling. She writes that she watched the show’s pilot while flying, and she has never seen Charmed offered on any other flight since then. Apparently, being offered that role was like “kismet”.
BRAVE reads a bit like a manifesto. McGowan rails against sexism in Hollywood, even comparing it to a cult. She apparently doesn’t like the constant pressure to be thin, beautiful, and accepting of the way women are treated by the men in charge. It doesn’t surprise me that Rose McGowan experienced sexism and sexual harassment in Hollywood. And yet, so many people would trade places with Rose McGowan. Regular people dream of being stars, even though she makes it sound like a miserable experience. People don’t realize that stars work very hard. The hours are long and not that glamorous, and there’s constant pressure to measure up to physical standards that are very difficult to maintain. McGowan’s disdain for the way her image was marketed to the masses is palpable. This book is her way of calling out the industry. She flat out writes that she “despises” Bill Cosby, and claims she faked an orgasm with Harvey Weinstein. Both of these men have been accused by many women of exploiting them sexually. For what, though… a career the women wanted in Hollywood?
To be honest, it took me awhile to get into BRAVE. From the beginning, it’s a very confrontational book to the point of being kind of unpleasant. McGowan uses raw language and seems very angry, which isn’t the most soothing thing to read before you go to sleep. I usually read before sleeping, so McGowan’s style was kind of jarring to me. But then, as I kept reading, I found her book more interesting. I think she really was brave to write it, given that she’s been in an industry that blackballs people. In fact, she writes that she was “blacklisted” at least once. On the other hand, there were times as I read this book that I kind of felt like she had a choice. Rose McGowan had a choice to leave Hollywood. It wasn’t like she was forced to be an actress or a model. Like anyone else, she could choose to go a different way. I suppose she kind of has with this book… but I won’t be surprised if she eventually stops referring to herself as a “former” actress.
Anyway, if I were rating BRAVE, I’d give it 3.5 stars out of five. I see that it’s a pretty controversial book on Amazon, with people seeming to love it or hate it. I thought it was reasonably well-written and interesting, but the writing is very much “in your face”. Some people will like that and others will not. My guess is that Rose McGowan is a complicated and, probably, a very troubled woman. McGowan seems to think all men are the same, which I think is a shame. Not all men are abusive bastards.
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