I think most people would agree that the appeal of memoirs lies in the worlds they take us to and the struggles of people who may or may not be like us. We want to see the world through someone else’s eyes and experience how they handle life.
Cheering for the underdog is something most of us like to do. We’re ordinary people who want others like ourselves to come out ahead, even if we’re stuck in our own ordinary lives. We also want to know that chasing dreams is not a waste of time, that achieving them is possible. If someone else can reach the top of the mountain, maybe we can, too.
In the case of someone whose life is shattered by their choices, we look for the turning point, the signs leading up to the fall. Drawn to tragedy and moved by suffering, we sympathize or empathize — and perhaps learn from their mistakes.
It could be that humans are simply curious, like cats chasing shadows in a box. Curiosity could account for some of this attraction, but it might be more than that.
As an audience, we watch actors on the screen or stage interacting in the most intimate of ways, both physically and emotionally. We laugh when they laugh, cry when they cry, feel for them in their suffering, as well as their joy. Our hearts pound when a character we care about steps into danger. Then we leave the theater with nubs for fingernails, and stuffed full of popcorn we can’t remember eating. Is it any wonder we feel something for these strangers who share their lives with us year after year? When we’re drawn to someone, don’t we naturally want to know more about them?
Regardless of the reasons why some kinds of memoirs are more popular than others, they give us a chance to experience life from a different perspective and end up enriching our own lives because of it — and that’s a good thing.
What do you think of my theory about why we love celebrity memoirs?