Rose McGowan Defends Her 1998 MTV VMA Appearance

In 2020, Rose McGowan’s primary work has been her advocacy against sexual assault, ramped up since the 2017 Harvey Weinstein case and the rise of the #MeToo movement. McGowan also makes headlines when she argues with former Charmed costar Alyssa Milano on Twitter. Back in 1998, McGowan used the MTV Video Music Awards to make a statement, and also made her own headlines with the MTV VMAs.

Rose McGowan
Rose McGowan | Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images

The MTV VMAs will be different in 2020, because of coronavirus (COVID-19) safety protocols. McGowan gave Yahoo! an interview during which she reflected on her 1998 appearance with modern eyes. 

Rose McGowan never liked red carpets

Red Carpets were a necessary evil of McGowan’s job. As the star of films like Scream and Grindhouse, McGowan would have to walk the red carpet, pose for pictures and give interviews, but she hated it. Likewise at awards shows like the MTV VMAs.

Rose McGowan - Grindhouse premiere
Rose McGowan | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Variety Magazine

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“You have these big men, a hundred of them yelling at the top of their voice trying to get you to look at them,” McGowan told Yahoo!. “Your body doesn’t understand why it’s being screamed at and aggressed on. I’m like, ‘I feel like I’m being shot with guns right now.’”

Rose McGowan attended the VMAs with Marilyn Manson in 1998

In 1998, McGowan was dating singer Marilyn Manson. While attending the MTV VMAs as a couple, she wore a see through dress to make a statement. In 1998, she had not spoken out about exactly what happened with Weinstein.

“It was my first big public appearance after being sexually assaulted,” McGowan said. “I just felt like, ‘Oh Hollywood, would you want a body just that you can use and throw away? Then I’ve got one for you!’ It was like at the end of Gladiator when he comes out and he’s like, ‘Are you not entertained?’”

McGowan did not intend to titillate with her revealing dress, however.

MTV VMAs - Rose McGowan and Marilyn Manson
Marilyn Manson and Rose McGowan | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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Did people get the message?

McGowan said she incurred a lot of negative reaction for her appearance at the VMAs. It was overwhelming at the time.

“It was kind of hard,” McGowan said. “I hadn’t really ever dealt with global media shaming. But it prepared me for later on it happening to me a whole bunch. It was also like, ‘Sorry you’re square and I’m not bummer.”

Rose McGowan
Rose McGowen | Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images

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With 2020 eyes, McGowan has found other ways to make her statements. Would she reconsider her 1998 VMA dress?

“I’m like, ‘Why did I do that?’” McGowan said. “I’ve had to look at that. When you do stuff sometimes on instinct and in a mood, like when a mood overtakes you on, you analyze what it was that brought you to that mood or that choice. So, I’ve certainly had a lot of time to analyze and I’m looking at the timeline. But I completely understand why I did what I did.”

How to get help: In the U.S., call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to connect with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.