England, Celebrity and Biography

I had a bit of a shock when perusing the “biography” section at my local Borders. (Yes, I go to Borders and not some nice UK store like Waterstone’s… my bad. Another great example of the convergence of globalization and homesickness.)

I love reading biographies and have a reasonable collection on my own book shelf. They tend to feature strong women through history, including feminists and monarchs up to and including matinee idols like Lauren Bacall and my very favorite hero, Katharine Hepburn. But I can honestly say there was not a single biography that caught my interest on this UK Borders expedition. Why?  Here are examples of the biographies of females that rested on the shelves:

  • Jordan aka Katie Price, “Jordan: A whole new world” (note this is the second in her autobiographical series, the first was “Being Jordan”)
  • Kerry Katona, “Too much, too young: My story of love, survival and celebrity”
  • Collen McLoughlin, “Welcome to my world”

OK, first of all, these are women of a tender age who are currently alive. These are all autobiographical titles, and thus not really “biographies” as per the signs in Borders. (Note this is not unique to the female subjects; the male subjects on the shelves were all either recent football/soccer players or cricketers).

With the possible exception of Jordan, it is extremely unlikely that anyone would have ever heard of these people off this tiny and clearly crazed island. These are not biographies in the true sense, but merely long-form articles from OK! magazine. And while I sheepishly confess to occasionally purchasing OK! myself (no, really, it’s cultural research, I don’t actually enjoy it!) I can’t imagine that the lives and stories of these particlar women are more than a few pages long up to this point. The UK fascination with celebrity, or really infamy, has propagated this drivel to the point that actual historical figures are absent from the “Biography” shelves and all we are left with is ingenues who are notoriously “famous for being famous”. I’ll stick with Kate Hepburn.

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