The #MeToo movement gets the documentary treatment, with a little reality-TV and art-house flair, in “Citizen Rose.”
The five-part docuseries, which premieres Tuesday on the E! Network, focuses on the plight and message of actress-tuned-activist Rose McGowan.
McGowan, who executive produced the series, has been the equivalent of rocket fuel for the #MeToo movement after the former “Charmed” star came forward last fall with rape allegations against film mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Since then, she has remained incredibly vocal, emerging as a social media warrior for women’s empowerment issues and as a colorful proponent for resistance and change.
McGowan is an eccentric and egotistical personality who repels as much as she attracts, and that’s what makes her a particularly interesting entry point here into a vast and overwhelming subject.
Her mercurial nature and willingness to call it as she sees it (she criticized the Time’s Up campaign and the black dresses worn in solidarity on the Golden Globes red carpet as “Hollywood fakery”) have also made her a controversial personality.
That means, of course, she’s got what it takes for a successful reality series. But this is a much more serious effort than most of the fare on E!, a network best known for more tawdry and glamour-infused programming like “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and red carpet coverage.
“Do I make you uncomfortable?” asks McGowan provocatively in the first few moments of “Citizen Rose.” Her voice is pitted against glam shots of her as a Hollywood starlet and today’s McGowan — close-cropped, dark hair and heavy eyeliner more akin to punk rock anarchy than cinema glam.
“Good,” she says. “Let me tell you how enraged I am, not just for me but for anyone who’s been disbelieved.”
McGowan, 44, has alleged that Weinstein raped her in a hotel room during the Sundance Film Festival in 1997. He’s denied the charges, but she claims that he kept her quiet for years with $100,000 in settlement money.
She along with Ashley Judd spoke out in a New York Times investigative report in October, which laid out a damning history of alleged predatory behavior and crimes by Weinstein stretching back decades.
Over the hourlong debut episode and four more half hour episodes airing this spring, “Citizen Rose” documents her rise to fame — the objectification of Hollywood, the loss of innocence — and the ways in which she was sidelined by an industry that once championed her as its sexy “bad girl.”
One of the more compelling aspects of the show is watching the actress who once starred in such titillating films as “Jawbreaker” reinvent herself as a spokesperson for women’s rights.
The cameras follow as she speaks at large rallies, sits in a circle at intimate women’s groups and conducts one-on-one interviews with the press about her ordeal and the larger reckoning with harassment in workplaces nationwide. The cameras follow behind her on the journey, giving the show a real-time feel.
The docuseries is a mixed bag of selfless activism, self-promotion and gut-wrenching accounts by McGowan and other women about the indignities suffered at the hands of those who abused them.
The series shows how her anger and healing are intertwined with an attempt to rebuild her career. It’s no coincidence that McGowan’s book “Brave” will be released the same day her E! show debuts. And she has an album coming out.
Her rebirth is part of the healing process, and watching her piece her life back together is something anyone who’s been victimized can relate to, no matter their occupation.
Another five-part series exploring similar terrain, PBS’s “#MeToo, Now What?,” is also due this week. It, however, is fronted by an activist turned host for the show, Women for Women International founder Zainab Salbi. The PBS docuseries, which isn't yet available for review, doesn’t rely on just one personality to bring viewers through the history and current events that brought #MeToo into the spotlight in 2017. Instead, it aims to take a broader look at the topic from multiple points of view.
The E! networks docuseries is undoubtedly the more high-profile and provocative of the two. But the mere existence of both prove the point: Sexual abuse and harassment have a wide and long arc, no matter whether you’re a Hollywood star or a drugstore clerk.
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Rating: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children younger than 14)
‘#MeToo, Now What?’
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Rating: Not rated