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Saturday, May 25, 2024
The Observer

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Why we read celebrity memoirs

Almost monthly, there seems to be a new announcement. Celebrities across the spectrum of relevancy are releasing their new tell-all autobiographies which offer never before seen insights into their lives. But what about celebrity autobiographies compels readers across the world to propel these potential cash grabs onto the New York Times Best Sellers list?

Is it because we legitimately care about the day to day lives of the lawyers from infamous trials and the actors from our favorite 90s sitcoms? Or is it because we’re so deeply invested in where public figures like Prince Harry have been since their (not so) private time away from the spotlight? Do we hope to open up page 79 and find a (not so) secret family recipe for making the perfect medium rare steak?

Or does coverage on social media and by media outlets continue to make characters out of real life people who might actually want to become more connected with other humans? In recent years, memoirs like Prince Harry’s “Spare” and Jennette McCurdy’s “I’m Glad my Mom Died” quickly flew off the shelves and into our hands as online personalities took their stories into their own hands and drew direct links to the characters people have come to make out of them.

There is, undoubtedly, room to say that the reason why these stories are even being shared, and the reason why we’re ordering their books at midnight on preorder day, is precisely because of their celebrity status — not in spite of it. Why wouldn’t we be interested in the gossip and details of the lives of people who’ve performed in front of our faces for as long as we’ve had a screen available to us?

This isn’t to bash the projects, some of which actually hold profound commentaries on the societal expectations on their personal identities or provide tales of success and failure, offering their audience a chance to value the lives they live. In these stories, the celebrity authors show themselves, and a part of us in the process. They show the places that life will take you regardless of your origin. They show what might be made from nothing and how gaining success and privilege might not be the best end goal.

Consider this a cautionary tale of sorts, the next time you go to purchase a memoir online or at a local bookstore. (If you’d like to support a local bookstore, find one here.) Take a double look at that cover. What really draws you to their story?

In a time when celebrities are increasingly reclusive — showing themselves only to their fanbase on social media or in rare interviews, only on their own terms — who might we find on the page that doesn’t exist in real life?