Rose McGowan could hardly have known she was a metaphor in 2007, playing Cherry Darling in the movie “Grindhouse.” When the bad guys made Cherry lose her right leg, she had a machine gun prosthetically replace it, and used it to take down her tormentors. Replace the machine-gun leg with activism against sexual harassment and assault, and it’s not surprising that McGowan is at the vanguard of women who call themselves the Rose Army — after the thorny flower and not her, she says, but still.
That army is much in evidence in the documentary series “Citizen Rose,” airing Tuesday at 8 p.m. on E! Produced by Bunim/Murray, best known as the reality-show machine behind “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” the two-hour special is an actual documentary, albeit with a point of view.
It follows McGowan, 44, from women’s symposiums to Thanksgiving with family to promotional efforts for her memoir, “Brave.” The documentary began production even before the storm of sexual-assault claims was ignited last fall. Reports in The New York Times and The New Yorker had centered on since-fallen Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein, whom McGowan alleges raped her in 1997 — a charge his representatives have denied while confirming a $100,000 payment to her that year.
“Rose met with Bunim/Murray a few months before everything happened with the Harvey Weinstein stuff coming out,” says E! development and production executive Amy Introcaso-Davis by phone from Los Angeles. McGowan was aware of Ronan Farrow’s upcoming Weinstein expose in The New Yorker, “and my understanding,” says Introcaso-Davis, “was she couldn’t tell [the producers] what was going on but that ‘It’s gonna be really interesting, and you might wanna follow me.’”
“When Rose first approached Bunim/Murray, it was immediately apparent that we would collaborate on this,” says Andrea Metz, one of the executive producers and the documentary’s day-to-day producer. In Germany for her next project, and responding to emailed questions, she says that, “Even though it was a few months before the [Weinstein] story even broke, we sensed the urgency and importance of Rose’s story and her message, and quickly began shooting.”
A raw, DIY aesthetic permeates the production, as does a fascinating choice: Nowhere is Weinstein’s name mentioned. Audio and text of his name are garbled, and images of him have black bands across the eyes. “Out of respect to Rose and all victims, we followed Rose’s wish of distorting him the way he has distorted her and so many others,” Metz says.
Will the film be a document of a single historical moment of outrage, or a record of the genesis of a movement on the scale of civil rights, gay rights and suffrage? “I hope this movement has a lasting impact on humankind,” Metz says. “This is not a moment of outrage. This is a moment of truth.”