brave

Brave by Rose McGowan (HarperCollins, $29.99)

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“I have a million more stories I could tell in this book, but I don’t have the energy…By using a few of my stories as descriptors, I hope it will have a domino effect.  More women will rise up, take their power, and say ‘no more.’  And men will stand as allies.”

-Rose McGowan (from Brave, page 213)

My home is predominantly decorated with cinematic memorabilia, most of which are framed or laminated movie posters.  Some of them are there because I love the movie, some because I love the poster as art, and some both.  One such affiche in my bedroom is of the 2007 Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez double-feature tribute to the exploitation genre called Grindhouse.  (This is one of the instances where I am more fond of the poster than the film.) I purchased the busy, blood-splattered bill from a liquidation discount kiosque in Place Vertu mostly because it reminded my of a bygone era when as a teenager I would attend midnight showings at the Rialto Theater on Park Avenue (then a seedy venue in an even seedier neighbourhood).  It was there where I first saw fare like Charles Bronson in Death Wish II, Stallone as Rambo in First Blood, and The Road Warrior starring some Australian guy.  The left side of the Grindhouse poster features an image of an actress (who stars in both halves of the double feature) in a short skirt and tube top, with an M-16 rifle (equipped with a grenade launcher, no less) for a right leg under the tagline “The last hope for humanity…rests on a high-power machine gun!”  The actress in question is Rose McGowan (probably best known for her 5 seasons as Paige in the TV series Charmed), who after over 25 years in the entertainment industry, has penned a memoire of her experiences called Brave.

McGowan’s “tell-it-how-it-is” (page 4) book recounts the epic story (a tale worthy of Dickens or Brontë) of her childhood in a European cult, through her difficulties dealing with her parents and dysfunctional family growing up, to Hollywood, which made the aforementioned misadventures seem like Ozzie and Harriet (look it up if you don’t know the reference).  And with chapter titles like “Brutality” “Captivity” and “Destruction” one does not expect a description of a Rotary Club meeting.  The ordeals she describes, especially those with the motion picture executive she refers to as “The Monster” (you know who he is) and the thinly veiled filmmaker she calls “RR” alone were enough to make me want to take long breaks just to gather myself before I continued.

While reading Brave I felt that it could have gone through the spaghetti machine once or twice more.  McGowan calls Hollywood a cult so early and often that by page 25 I got sick of hearing it, and her effort does contain numerous redundancies and repetitions.  For example: On page 82 she uses the word “spoiled” to describe someone twice in one paragraph.

But eventually I started to get what she was doing:  This book is a rant.  Unfiltered. Emotional.  Unpolished.  Its rawness is its strength.  Rage is its power.  To do otherwise would lessen the intensity and impact.  McGowan is venting her spleen with a punk rock attitude; rules go out the window.  Yes, the book is incredibly angry (and she has every right to be), but not a hateful anger, rather more like frustration.

Brave isn’t just a cautionary tale; it is a story of resilience and courage not only for women, but for everyone, especially the young, because the brutal crimes it details are not unique to religious cults or show business.

And that Grindhouse poster?  I no longer look at it the same.  Where once it was a reminder of my youth by a couple of directors I don’t think are cool anymore, now it hangs as a tribute to a survivor.

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