Britney Spears biography: the problem with celebrity memoirs

Britney Spears biography: the problem with celebrity memoirs

by Suswati Basu

It was announced this week that beleaguered singer Britney Spears is the next celebrity releasing a memoir this year, which begs the question why on earth are we seeing this influx of literature? Spears says that this time the book will be “on her own terms”, as it’s not the first instance a book about the popstar has been published. “The Woman In Me” will be published by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, in October this year.

Whilst many people have gone into a tizzy about the release, there definitely seems to be a bizarre increase in the number of stars who’ve decided to put their pen to paper, or at least get a ghostwriter to do the job. Among those included Prince Harry’s “Spare”, Pamela Anderson’s “Love, Pamela”, as well as Barbra Streisand’s memoir, “My Name is Barbra”. So we’re asking why now in particular and why should we care about these people?

Pamela Anderson memoir. Celebrity memoirs
Pamela Anderson is among a host of celebrity memoirs

What’s the big deal with memoirs?

Much of this trend, that publishers seem to be lapping up, is thought to be due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Memoirs are traditionally written in order to provide an intimate and subjective account of an author’s experiences. They often delve into personal and sensitive topics, addressing significant moments, relationships, challenges, successes, and transformations.

Some of those considered the GOAT include the likes of “Night” by Elie Wiesel, “Educated” by Tara Westover, or even “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi. “The Diary of Anne Frank” is still read more than seven decades after the death of the young, courageous, and articulate writer. So it seems a little ridiculous that we’re reading about the pride and privileges of people that don’t necessarily show us anything extraordinary.

“There’s now a scoff whenever we hear another star, whether an A or Z-lister, is about to join the crowd.”

It might seem a bit pretentious that we don’t consider the likes of Britney’s book on the bestseller list, but it’s more the fact that publishers are seeing the dollar signs, than the substance itself. TikTok star Avani Gregg’s “My Backstory” and Love Island 2017’s Chris Hughes’, “You Bantering Me?” offer just a few examples of this shift. According to Ghost Writers & Co, autobiographies reigned supreme on the 2021 non-fiction list, with the Obamas taking up two of those spots.

Why are we seeing an increasing trend?

Biography expert Rutger Bruining, CEO/founder of StoryTerrace, the UK’s leading biography writing service, says: “I think a lot of celebrities used lockdown to reflect on their lives.” Speaking to CNN, he added: “What better time to reflect and write a book when there were no other professional obligations to distract them? There [are] spate of memoirs coming out this year. Also, as this post-pandemic time gave many cause to reflect on their lives, there is a built-in interest in learning from the lives and experiences of others.”

Prince Harry Spare review
Prince Harry Spare review

He also believes there’s a broader audience for memoirs than traditional genres, saying: “Look at [Prince] Harry’s memoir, for example. You’re going to have royal watchers and supporters who are probably an older demographic reading the book, as well as potentially younger readers who are interested in Harry and Meghan’s story or their philanthropic endeavours.

“whether they’re an actor, or an athlete, a trauma victim, or a royal – is going to have an impact on whether a reader picks up the book”

Rutger Bruining, CEO/founder of Storyterrace

“Obviously, a certain level of interest in the memoirist’s area of focus – whether they’re an actor, or an athlete, a trauma victim, or a royal – is going to have an impact on whether a reader picks up the book, but I think it’s less important than for other categories or genres.” But while celebrity memoirs are dominating the market right now, Bruining said like anything, the trend won’t last forever.

That sense of fatigue is already starting to set in. There’s now a scoff whenever we hear another star, whether an A or Z-lister, is about to join the crowd. It’s like watching another superhero movie or anything with a time warp these days – it’s having an adverse effect.

Why there is such thing as too many celebrity memoirs

Imagine if every Tom, Dick and Sally, who gets their 15 minutes of fame, is given a publishing deal? For one, it reduces the quality of content that is released and gives those from marginalised communities less chance of being promoted. Secondly, we end up with a host of infinite boring stories – enough to put anyone to sleep. And eventually, it’ll stop people reading memoirs if they equate everything to one bad Marvel movie.

The problem is that now a book deal is part and parcel of what’s considered success, alongside a large social media following, and perhaps a crossover between a music / film career similar to the likes of Harry Styles or Lady Gaga. There’s no more elusiveness or barrier between the likes of us and them. And somehow we realised some of these people aren’t as interesting as we thought they were.

Read: Hanif Kureishi’s Dispatches: an ode to writers in recovery

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