The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - THE TAKE -


If I had read Rose Mc­Gowan’s new me­moir, in a vac­uum, ab­sent the feats of in­ves­tiga­tive re­port­ing that took down Har­vey We­in­stein, I would have thought it over­wrought and para­noid. Mc­Gowan de­scribes a life of al­most cease­less abuse, of falling into the clutches of one sadis­tic ogre af­ter an­other as pow­er­ful forces con­spired to crush her rogue spirit. “My life was in­fil­trated by Is­raeli spies and ha­rass­ing lawyers, some of the most for­mi­da­ble on earth,” she writes on the first page. Come on – Is­raeli spies? Of course, we now know: Yes, Is­raeli spies. One of the great­est tricks that the pa­tri­archy plays on women is to de­lib­er­ately desta­bilise them, then use their in­sta­bil­ity as a rea­son to dis­be­lieve them. Much of

Brave reads like the di­ary of a woman driven half-mad by abu­sive men who as­sume no one will lis­ten to her. In this case, the truth was fi­nally – and, for Mc­Gowan, tri­umphantly – ex­posed, but read­ing Brave, I kept think­ing about how many more women must be writ­ten off as crazy and crushed un­der the weight of se­crets no one wants to hear.


That Mc­Gowan has turned out to be an aveng­ing war­rior, de­ter­mined to ex­pose Hol­ly­wood’s toxic lies and cover-ups, would have once seemed as im­prob­a­ble as the most lu­di­crous su­per­hero movie. For al­most two decades, she was seen as a good if un­der­used ac­tor, one whose ca­reer was ham­pered by her rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing, as the say­ing goes, “dif­fi­cult”. But it turns out both of th­ese sides to her pub­lic im­age – un­der­used and dif­fi­cult – may have had less to do with her and more with We­in­stein. This reads like a book writ­ten by a woman driven to near de­range­ment by decades of abuse and gaslight­ing. At times I wished Mc­Gowan could fil­ter her anger, high­light­ing the real abuses as op­posed to fold­ing them in among the gen­er­alised sex­ist garbage. But if she had been able do that she prob­a­bly wouldn’t have writ­ten this book: self-con­trol isn’t help­ful when you are kick­ing down doors. Mc­Gowan set out to write a book that ex­am­ines abuse, and she has done just that. She has also, in­ad­ver­tently, shown how much dam­age abuse can wreak in even the tough­est of women.


Us­ing a brash tone that will be fa­mil­iar to the mil­lions who fol­low her on Twit­ter, Mc­Gowan de­scribes her life, start­ing with the girl­hood years she spent in a reli­gious cult (“I was told I was worth noth­ing in the eyes of God”), the eat­ing dis­or­der she suf­fered as a teen (“I was never able to get be­low 92 pounds”), and her de­ci­sion to legally eman­ci­pate her­self from her par­ents at 15. Still, it is clear that Mc­Gowan, 44, has al­ways viewed her­self as a de­fi­ant spirit and still takes pride in the fact that she grew an­gry over be­ing made to wear a pink smock at school while the boys got blue ones. “I’m sure I was un­nerv­ing as a child be­cause of my in­ten­sity. I know I was be­cause I ba­si­cally was the same as I am now, and I tend to un­nerve peo­ple to this day.” Brave is in part an ex­plo­ration and ex­pla­na­tion of the rage con­stantly leak­ing out of Mc­Gowan’s pores. But her aim is not to en­gen­der sym­pa­thy – rather it’s to en­cour­age those feel­ing dis­em­pow­ered to chan­nel some of her plen­ti­ful anger. “Be­ing an­gry is okay,” she ad­vises, “no one is go­ing to die if we women let our anger out in healthy ways.”


Rose Mc­Gowan’s book tour for her new me­moir was can­celled only two days af­ter re­lease, fol­low­ing an in­ci­dent dur­ing which she en­gaged in a shout­ing match with a trans ac­tivist over what was per­ceived as her lack of sup­port for trans women and women of colour. At their best, the crit­i­cal dis­cus­sions around Mc­Gowan and her re­spon­si­bil­i­ties chal­lenge the role of a fem­i­nist leader and need for in­clu­siv­ity in this era of #MeToo.

Brave may not re­flect th­ese broader con­ver­sa­tions, but it is a valu­able and damn­ing in­sider view of an in­dus­try that has vi­o­lated women for way too long. Brave is just one weapon in Mc­Gowan’s multi-pronged plan of at­tack for her Rose Army, which was born out of the #MeToo move­ment. Al­though there are enough shock­ing de­tails to sat­isfy the gos­sip-hun­gry, the book tran­scends the typ­i­cal celebrity tell-all. It is a Hol­ly­wood take­down. Al­though Brave is framed as a call to arms, when Mc­Gowan ad­dresses read­ers with her man­i­festo, the mes­sage feels su­per­flu­ous.

Brave’s real power is the shout­ing voice of a woman whose sto­ries have been si­lenced for way too long.

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