Citizen Rose

TV review by
Jenny Nixon, Common Sense Media
Citizen Rose TV Poster Image
Trauma, healing explored in imperfect, powerful documentary.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Citizen Rose examines Hollywood's systematic mistreatment and misrepresentation of women, both on- and offscreen. The subject of the docuseries stresses the importance of sexual abuse survivors being heard and being believed, and how that can lead to healing and increased self-esteem.

Positive Role Models & Representations

McGowan herself is an outspoken and brave presence here, and the many activists, leaders, and abuse survivors she interacts with add varied and valuable insights to the conversation.

Violence

Though we don't see any violence, the stories shared by the many survivors of assault can be harrowing and triggering to listen to. The sheer number of victims who come forward to report abuse is truly disheartening, and illustrates just how widespread these problems really are across every walk of life, in every industry.

Sex

There is frank discussion of sex acts, but the content is in no way titillating or exploitative. McGowan rightly tells a man she meets who seems confused about why rapists find violence "romantic": "It's not about romance or sex, it's about power."

Language

Some swearing -- "bitch," "s--t" -- but heavier four-letter words are bleeped.

Consumerism

McGowan's autobiography Brave (which went on sale the same day the series premiered) is mentioned frequently, as are other creative projects, like her album RM486 and her directorial debut, Dawn.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

McGowan is frequently seen vaping, and she and other adults drink alcoholic beverages. Narcotic drugs are mentioned.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Citizen Rose is a five-episode documentary series that unflinchingly examines issues of sexual assault and abuse in Hollywood and beyond. The show's subject and producer, Rose McGowan, alleges she was raped by a powerful movie mogul at age 23, and she discusses the agonizing personal aftermath and career ostracism that followed. More than 90 other women have since come forward about the same man, and some of their stories are heard in this series, in sometimes disturbing detail. There is blunt talk about assault and trauma, and some off-color language like "bitch" and "s--t" (heavier swears are bleeped). There are some references to drugs, and McGowan is shown drinking wine and vaping.

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What's the story?

CITIZEN ROSE is an unflinching and surprisingly lo-fi documentary series that examines actress Rose McGowan's role in helping to invigorate the #MeToo movement after revealing the alleged sexual trauma she suffered at the hands of a powerful Hollywood producer. It also addresses her painful past growing up in the Children of God cult with a father who believed he was "God with a lowercase g," and the complicated process of healing and rebirth.

Is it any good?

Some will criticize this documentary as an opportunity for McGowan to re-brand herself and to sell a lot of books -- and while its star is definitely cast in a self-reverential light, these critics would be missing the point. After 20 years of feeling silenced and ostracized after her alleged attack, she has earned the right to express herself and work out her demons in whatever messy, audacious, contradictory, or inspiring way she chooses. There are no "perfect" victims, and as McGowan herself expresses to fellow accuser Asia Argento, "I can be many things all at once." With Citizen Rose, she finally gets the chance to tell her story on her terms.

That said, the E! network -- best known as the breeding ground for empty, glossy fluff like Keeping Up with the Kardashians -- seems a strange home for a show so openly and deeply critical of the plastic artifice of the Hollywood media machine. The series doesn't follow the usual reality format at all, with a visual and editorial aesthetic that reads more "indie film" than E! True Hollywood Story. Though her artsy monologues about misogyny and justice can be powerful, they're also very repetitive. The show is most illuminating when it shows McGowan re-entering the world, talking and listening with other survivors, friends, and family. We witness the sheer relief on her face as she breaks down after speaking at the 2017 Women's Convention -- her visible, palpable gratefulness at finally being heard and taken seriously -- and it's moments like these when the series becomes a true catharsis with the potential to spark conversation and compel action.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about sexual violence and the silence that often surrounds it. Citizen Rose discusses the way McGowan made certain claims about her harasser for years, only to be disbelieved, and how it took a male journalist vetting and publishing her story for people to take her seriously. Why is this? How might this issue (among others) affect a victim's willingness to come forward? 

  • Why is the issue of sexual abuse so prevalent in Hollywood, and how do the power dynamics enable this cycle to continue?

  • McGowan has received some criticism for using this docuseries as a platform to reference her newly published autobiography and other creative projects, such as a film and an album. Did the mentions of these projects make you skeptical of her claims or her motives? Why or why not?

TV details

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