photo by nacrowe
ever since i saw GREGG ARAKI's stridently apocalyptic THE DOOM GENERATION (DESPERATE PICTURES, 1995) film in high school i was a fan of ROSE MCGOWAN. she really seemed to exude an inner confidence that manifested in her physical being. and really that was read on her throughout her early career. that she was this impossibly beautiful, no bullshit force of nature.
in her recent memoir BRAVE (HARPERCOLLINS, 2018) that was released in the aftermath of the #METOO and #TIMESUP movements that had a long overdue cascading effect on the male-dominated AMERICAN entertainment industry, MCGOWAN eviscerates any notion that HOLLYWOOD is not a cult that we are all subservient to in one fashion or another. and she should know, being raised as a member of CHILDREN OF GOD as a child in ITALY, escaping and then living broke on the streets with no security system until being plucked out of obscurity by a production assistant.
for me, her life details were only interesting in that they empowered her overriding thesis that any system (whether they be political, religious, regional or even personal in nature) which demeans our individual sense of identity and self-worth is inherently destructive and should be eradicated. in her case, this focus of her ire is the entertainment industry and the networks of supplicants that allow power-brokers to go on unchecked in sexually assaulting young women as had been done to her by (now newly convicted) HARVEY WEINSTEIN of MIRAMAX/THE WEINSTEN COMPANY notoriety. it wasn't just that she was raped by an influential producer of OSCAR-nominated films who subsequently black-listed her, it was also the fact that other managers, co-stars, agents, producers, directors, etc. knew about her situation (as well as other similar victims) and did nothing in fear of upsetting the apple cart. some, like former partner and director ROBERT RODRIGUEZ even had her reenact her trauma in his PLANET TERROR (DIMENSION, 2007) film.
i share her disdain for an industry that routinely cannibalizes itself. i also greatly admire her sense of courage in relating her story, even as such no doubt will expose her to professional retribution in loss roles. but i doubt she cares about that anymore. she is on a new powerful path of advocacy for the exploited. perhaps my initial reading on her was correct.
one of the really prescient observations MCGOWAN makes in the book is how as consumers of the media, we are all susceptible to its messaging. all of us. whether we consciously reject or acquiesce to it matters not at all. as a member of a media-consuming population we are inculcated with belief systems and biases that are deep at root in our ability to self-define who we are as individuals and our role in society. she takes ownership of her role in that "cult" she describes us all being subject to. i respect her for that.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
you ruined my childhood.
that's what i loved hearing from my high school students after having them read ANGELA CARTER's genius feminist reinterpretation of classic fairy tales from her 1979 short story collection THE BLOODY CHAMBER (PENGUIN, 1979).
i always loved the idea of a palimpsest, which is an artwork that has layers created over time. think of a wall in NYC that has graffiti, flyers and "post no bills" scribbled and glued on top of one another. there are layers of meaning literally stacked on each other.
same with FAIRY TALES, most were written in FRANCE in the 1700s as a way of controlling young women. many of the stories are exceedingly misogynist and artifacts of their era. many got reinterpreted in GERMANY in the 1800s and then again in 1900s in the UNITED STATES, most predominantly by WALT DISNEY. in many ways the DISNEY films are relaying a similar message about what is expected of young women, namely to seek marriage and motherhood as validation in a male-dominated society. it is super interesting and most don't even give it a second thought.
that is why CARTER and her reinterpretations are so shocking to kids. if you know the basic narrative and its variations, then if you are thrown a new interpretation these new alterations become cogniscent choices and oftentimes criticisms of earlier texts. for CARTER it feels almost as though she is correcting the narrative and releasing it from its chauvinistic worldview. the fact that such is jarring really showcases the level to which our basic identity in western society is built upon such gender power imbalances.
needless to say, my students had a hard time with DISNEY films thereafter. but my hope was that they gained a critical eye towards the relatioship between a coded message and its intended audience.
ah, critical thinking. too bad they can't put that in a scantron test. american education system is screwed. good luck.