Why Rose McGowan Once Slammed Natalie Portman Over A Cape

Rose McGowan, perhaps best recognized by most millennials as Paige Matthews from the beloved fantasy series "Charmed," has evolved into a fervent advocate for social justice after largely stepping away from Hollywood. She set up the #ROSEARMY initiative, a social media campaign dedicated to promoting empowerment, equality, and justice, which gained public traction amid the #MeToo movement. Prompting women to share their experiences of sexual harassment and assault, #MeToo became a powerful catalyst for a collective call to action and cultural change.

Speaking with Thought Economics, McGowan emphasized the need for a platform like hers, asserting, "Society needs to push back at those abusing power; why should anyone be allowed to abuse, whether they have power or not? It just doesn't make sense." However, the "Grindhouse" star once slammed fellow actor Natalie Portman quite hard over her 2020 Oscars ensemble, even labeling Portman a fake activist. McGowan wasn't critiquing the entire ensemble, as her activism doesn't extend to fashion, but rather a specific element of Portman's Oscars outfit — a cape.

McGowan took to her Facebook account to share a lengthy post about Portman, calling out her fellow A-lister for trying to appear more virtuous than she truly was. Soon after posting, McGowan regretted her outburst, even though, surprisingly, Portman agreed with her.

The outspoken activist called Portman out for not doing any real work

Natalie Portman, renowned for being a prolific actor, director, and founder of the production companies "handsomecharlie films" and "MountainA," made a quiet yet impactful statement at the 2020 Oscars. Dressed in a custom, floor-length black Dior gown, adorned with gold detailing, and a matching cape, she used the occasion to spotlight her solidarity with eight female directors who, despite their outstanding work in 2019, were overlooked for Oscar nominations.

Portman had their surnames intricately embroidered in gold thread on one side of her cape, explaining, "I wanted to recognize the women who were not recognized for their incredible work this year in my subtle way," she explained (via X, formerly known as Twitter). While Portman's intentions were undoubtedly admirable, her attention-grabbing outfit sparked criticism from Rose McGowan. In her lengthy post, the outspoken star stated, "I find Portman's type of activism deeply offensive to those of us who actually do the work." 

McGowan continued, "I'm not writing this out of bitterness; I am writing out of disgust." She called the Oscar winner out for only working with one female director, other than herself, at that point in her career and for only hiring a single woman filmmaker (herself) through her production companies too. The "Jawbreaker" star also argued that Portman should not be praised for her symbolic gesture, railing, "Lip service is the problem. Fake support of other women is the problem."

Portman acknowledged McGowan's criticism and pledged continued efforts

In the aftermath of Rose McGowan's public shaming, Natalie Portman acknowledged having worked with very few women throughout her career. In a statement shared by Vanity Fair, the "Black Swan" star sided with McGowan's criticism, listed some of her female collaborators, and clarified that she'd repeatedly attempted to work with more female filmmakers on projects that never saw the light of day. She humbly rejected the notion of being deemed heroic for her Oscars look, emphasizing that the real focus should be on the women fighting to take down Harvey Weinstein, who was at the center of over a dozen sexual assault allegations at the time. 

Portman concluded, "I have tried, and I will keep trying. While I have not yet been successful, I am hopeful that we are stepping into a new day." McGowan later expressed regret over her reaction on X, as reported by The Guardian, although she later deleted the post. "I realize that by critiquing someone personally, I lost sight of the bigger picture," she wrote, adding, "All voices, however spoken, are valid."

The 2020 Oscars weren't the first time Portman called out Hollywood's sexism. At the Golden Globes earlier that same year, when presenting the Best Director category, in which none of the nominees were women, Portman seized the opportunity to highlight the gender disparity by quipping, "Here are all the male nominees." The star went on to support many initiatives that promote women's safety, education, and empowerment.