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Rose McGowan on awards show protests: “That’s a Band-Aid to make yourself feel better”

One of Hollywood’s most outspoken voices against sexual abuse is skeptical that the system can be changed from within.

2018 Winter TCA Tour - Day 6 Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

As far as Rose McGowan is concerned, her continued existence is nothing short of miraculous.

“Do you understand what I’ve been through for 20 years?” McGowan said, steel-jawed, at a Television Critics Association press appearance for her upcoming E! docuseries, Citizen Rose. “Do you understand that my sitting here is a miracle? I have fought. I have clawed. I have scraped. And I have done it strategically, so I could arrive at this moment.”

After years of tumultuous treatment by the entertainment industry, McGowan was one of the first public names to come forward against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein when the allegations became public last October. (Though she initially thought she had signed a nondisclosure agreement barring her from speaking out in specifics, McGowan told the TCA press that she was, much to her own frustration and shock, misinformed.) Though McGowan had already become one of the more unfiltered voices in Hollywood by that time, the bombshell report lent her an elevated platform, which she is now using in order to produce Citizen Rose “on a global scale.”

But McGowan’s place in the burgeoning movement to expel sexual harassers and abusers from their respective industries has not been without complications. Before the Golden Globes, McGowan railed hard against Meryl Streep and the widespread planned action of wearing black in protest, insisting in a since-deleted tweet that “YOUR SILENCE is THE problem. You’ll accept a fake award breathlessly & affect no real change.” (Streep has denied any knowledge of Weinstein’s alleged crimes.)

McGowan has also specifically derided the Time’s Up initiative — the newly announced coalition of hundreds of Hollywood actresses and various women’s advocacy groups to fight sexual abuse across industries — as a fallacy, calling those wearing black at the Globes “fancy people wearing black to honor our rapes.” Later, she pointed out that Time’s Up meetings have been scheduled to take place within CAA, one of the talent agencies that she has often slammed as being an intrinsic part of Hollywood’s systemic problems.

So it’s not surprising that when I asked McGowan if she thought there was any way for something like Time’s Up to effect change from within the broken systems it’s trying to transform, I barely got my question out before she responded with an unequivocal, “No.”

“I know the people that are behind [the system],” she said. “I know where they have their meetings. I know who’s sponsoring them. I know a lot of things. And people actually think I make pronouncements and proclamations like I live in Enid, Oklahoma, or something ... [but] I know these people. I’ve known them for a really long time.”

As for the Golden Globes protest — which McGowan did not see, as she insisted that red carpets “aren’t my thing” — she didn’t hold back. “People see on the outside, they see the red carpet. I see behind the scenes. So I know a lot of things. I think the system is massively broken. That’s a Band-Aid to make yourself feel better about what you’ve all known about, and been silent witnesses to and/or participants in that silence — and no, I do not forgive.”

Citizen Rose premieres Tuesday, January 30, at 8 pm EST on E.

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