As a 90s/early 2000s teen, I was a huge fan of Rose McGowan. Since I wasn’t all that “cute” or “thin” or “popular,” I idolized her in movies like Devil in the Flesh (a true guilty pleasure) and Jawbreaker, still a favorite to this day. I even liked her in Scream and Phantoms.
Like with most stars, though, she’d kind of faded out of my consciousness until recently. I follow her idly on Facebook because I’m old now, and that’s the social media platform us “old folks” use- not Twitter or Instagram. And, I”d noticed she was super-vocal, maybe even a little annoying.
I’d resigned myself to thinking that she was “too much.” Too liberal. Too vocal. Too angry. All her posts seemed that way. But, when I saw her book Brave at the local library the other day, I couldn’t resist picking it up. Didn’t I owe it to this woman, this woman I’d once idolized, to at least hear what she had to say in detail? I thought I’d give it a shot, not realizing it would affect my life- my perception of her, of Hollywood, and of myself in major ways.
As I read, I went from “she just loves to complain” to “oh my god, she’s so right.” Her book completely mindfucked me, in an amazing way that I’m glad I’ll never be able to undo. Here are just a few reasons/ways.
1. She Made me Rethink Fame
To start with, I must admit that I always wanted to be famous. When I was getting picked on in middle school, it was the panacea for all my pain and bullying. If I could just grow up and be famous, I’d be able to make my mark on the world, to be loved and adored, and to show them all. They’d all wish they could be me.
And, honestly, even though I’m a fully-grown adult now, and I realize there’s more to fame than just that, I still kind of always wanted to be famous . . . at least until I read Rose’s book.
Through her book, I learned that fame can be pretty awful. It can make you feel like you’re living under a microscope. It can subject you to abuses of power that you never imagined possible. It can also make you part of an ugly, horrific machine.
Suddenly, this thing I always wanted started to seem not-so-great and, even worse yet, it seemed like it could be a bad thing, not just for me, but for the world in general, which brings me into my next point.
2. She Made me Question the Hollywood Machine
My naive self always kind of thought of Hollywood as this wonderful place where everyone was liberal and free, and kind people would take you in and make you better than you ever dreamed you could be.
But, her book doesn’t describe it that way, to put it mildly. It defines it as a cult where you have to impress the right people, act the way they want, and then keep up that act indefinitely, the “love” and favor they’ve shown you always in danger of being snatched away at a moment's notice.
To be honest, that didn’t seem all that different from the strict, fundamentalist-Christian world I grew up in. When I’d finally found friends, they’d been fundies, people who, at every turn, made sure I didn’t like the wrong song (Black-Eyed Peas’ “Where is the Love” was anti-president, anti-war, and thus, anti-God), the wrong book (Catcher in the Rye was pure, rebellious evil), or ever step out of line or have a “wrong” thought.
She described Hollywood as a cult, and having come from a bit of one myself, just as she had, I could see the connections. I believed her. I understood her feelings.
Suddenly, that glittering, perfect world of celebrity seemed not like an escape, but like another snare designed to entrap not just the “lucky” famous people, but also everyone who consumes what it offers, which we all do.
Sure, I’d thought about the brainwashing of the media as that thing we all know that causes body image issues. But, she took it (and me) so much further. She really made me see that the people who design these things are perpetuating the world the way they want it to be- with men in control and women and others firmly on the outside. We buy into it without even knowing it. It goes beyond body image. It goes, as she explains, to the core of our beings and to every belief we have about ourselves and the way that we think the world “should” function.
3. She Made Me Question Myself
At one point in her book, Rose asks her readers to think about every belief they have about themselves, to question where those beliefs come from, and to go deep with it.
So, I did. Why do I think my hair is too curly? Why do I think I’m fat when I’m not? Why do I think I need to be popular, or rich, or anything else?
Some of those messages are from Hollywood. Some of those messages are from religion. Some of those messages are straight from men. But why do I believe them?
Rose showed me I don’t have to, and when you open up that line of thought...it’s pretty damn powerful.
After reading this book, I’ve been set on a real journey of self-discovery. And, I’m also sorry that I didn’t believe Rose at first when I saw her posts on social media. I’m sorry I thought she was “whining” or “complaining.” Now, I know why I thought those things- because women are taught to. We’re taught to see any act of speaking up, especially for ourselves, as wrong, rude, not our place. I know that now, and I know it because of Brave.
-Charity Campbell, Staff Writer
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