There are no coincidences. There is only the conflations of things – incidents, attitudes, reverberations becoming real and pushing someone or something forward. Cultural movements and revolutions are messy, hard to decipher in real time.
To some, U.S. President Donald Trump is their sun, moon and stars. What he says in his State of the Union address (Tuesday, all major U.S. networks and all-news channels, 9 p.m. ET) will be cheered as common sense and straight-goods wisdom.
The address will be parsed and analyzed. Someone, probably on Fox News, will describe it as "presidential" and claim the surface chaos of the administration is just that – mere surface. Others will wring their hands and shake their heads at the bombast and theatricality of it all.
While the speech airs across all those channels and the scrutiny gets under way, a channel not airing it will have a two-hour special that is just as relevant to the soul of the United States as Trump's speech. It's powerful, strange and discomforting. It probably wouldn't exist if Trump had not been elected and a string of events – from the Women's March in January, 2017, to the fretful, intense interest in The Handmaid's Tale, to the salacious interest in the opinions of stripper Stormy Daniels (who appears on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Tuesday, as an impertinent response to the State of the Union address) – had not become inflamed and all-consuming in entertainment, media and politics.
Citizen Rose (Tuesday, E! 8 p.m.) is the two-hour start of a series that sometimes awkwardly documents Rose McGowan's battles against Harvey Weinstein and her continuing efforts to expose abuse and harassment.
The series – later parts will air in the spring – was under way months before The New York Times and The New Yorker exposed allegations of vile acts of rape, assault and harassment by Weinstein. Before those revelations, McGowan let it be known she was writing a book, Brave (it's published Tuesday), about her life as a survivor of abuse and betrayal.
"Do I make you uncomfortable?" McGowan asks at the start. "Good!" she says, answering the question.
In the opening, there are references to the alleged rape by Weinstein, whose name is never uttered. Even when the screen shows his face when documenting TV and print coverage, his full name is masked and a black line drawn across his face. When the alleged incident took place at the Sundance Festival in 1997, an MTV crew who aimed to capture her glamorous life was trailing her. The last thing she said to the camera before her meeting with Weinstein was, "I think my life is getting easier." And she recounts that in her shocked state afterward she kept thinking, "I jinxed myself."
Her anger is focused, in the matter of Weinstein's fall. And yet there is a surreal quality to what viewers see. Perhaps the most illuminating segment is a conversation she has with investigative journalist Ronan Farrow, who wrote an explosively revealing piece in The New Yorker about Weinstein's methods for intimidating his victims. Farrow suggests that if McGowan had gone public with her suspicion that she was being followed and shadowed by people masquerading as supporters, but intent on undermining her, she would have been thought crazy. And, of course, he was able to report that Weinstein used an elaborate network of informants, including former Mossad agents, to stop accusers from going public and have accusations suppressed.
Farrow's reporting gives McGowan some solace, but she still faces charges of drug possession, something she sees as engineered by agents of Weinstein. Viewers see her turn herself in to police, fully aware it will be a struggle to get the authorities to believe she was being followed and was set up.
Much of the program is a vehicle for McGowan to expose Hollywood as an industry that ceaselessly exploits women. "This town is paved on women's bodies," she says as she gives the outline of her career as an example of an abominable system. She was infantilized, she says, then marketed and sold as "a bad girl." She rarely worked with female writers and directors because they barely exist, and she says her time on the series Charmed left her completely numb.
She is angry and unafraid, quick to react and uses social media to argue her point. While the first episode of the series was being distributed to the press on Monday, McGowan was already reacting sarcastically to an early review of Brave in The New York Times. There is a searing scene in which McGowan confronts her mother, who says her daughter expressed a lot of hate toward her. There is another stark scene in which she meets Asia Argento – another victim of Weinstein, by her account – and they talk about recovering from it.
What McGowan is doing in this unsettling series is taking control of her own narrative and pushing forward a movement – the winds have shifted and countless men are being held accountable for their actions. She helped start it all.
Meanwhile, the man who is in charge of the United States will be rambling at length about his policies and triumphs. It was the shock of his election victory that electrified so many women and led to that "Weinstein moment." There is no coincidence, only the meaningful strangeness of Citizen Rose airing as the State of the Union airs.