At one point during the two-hour premiere of Citizen Rose, her new E! docuseries, Rose McGowan describes her life as “trauma on top of trauma on top of trauma.” The series, which delves deep into McGowan’s upbringing in a cult and her Hollywood sex symbol status, as well as her alleged sexual assault and its aftermath, is far more substantial and devastating than standard E! programming.
Watching McGowan’s story get the reality-TV treatment is at once slightly disturbing and incredibly powerful. On the one hand, employing the pacing and editing techniques typically reserved for the Kardashians to make a survivor’s journey all the more watchable raises difficult questions. Between the flashes of tweets and the celebrity cameos, Citizen Rose is designed to be, if not purely entertaining
, at the very least compelling. The prospect of bingeing on a series about one of the worst things that could ever happen to a human being ought to make audiences uneasy. How should we feel when we are consuming McGowan’s story—especially considering that the actress’s recurring trauma seems to result from decades of commodification and consumption?
Of course, the flip side of this discomfort is the miracle of there being an appetite for a survivor’s story in the first place, and the fact that the #MeToo movement is mainstream enough to merit a major E! series is pretty remarkable.
Citizen Rose takes on a portion of one of the biggest news stories of 2017: the outing of Harvey Weinstein as an alleged serial rapist and sexual abuser. Weinstein, whose name and face is obscured in McGowan’s series, is one of the many characters on Citizen Rose who has become a household name. And while the series takes pains not to amplify Weinstein’s infamy, it gives over its platforms to some of the heroes of the Weinstein saga. Ronan Farrow, the journalist who helped expose Weinstein with his New Yorker reporting, appears on Citizen Rose to thank McGowan for coming forward. It’s one of the many moments in the series that successfully brings audiences behind the scenes of crucial moments in the #MeToo timeline. We learn that McGowan was one of the first women to talk to Farrow, as he recalls, “When I first talked to you…at the end of that interview, when I said, are there others, and you said, ‘I know there are others,’ I then went out and started calling women.”