Blurring Gender Boundaries – Masculine Confessional in Celebrity Auto/biographies

Hanna Kylloen

Abstract


This paper examines the representation of masculinity within the feminine genre of auto/biography through an analysis of biographical discourses used in the construction of star personas. Auto/biographies have the potential to reverse gender roles with male stars’ confessionals often discursively constructed as feminine, blurring gender distinctions within auto/biographical writing. The compulsion to confess has traditionally been seen as a feminine preoccupation but the intensification of celebrity culture would appear to have extended this compulsion to male stars. This paper examines two authorised biographies written about pop star Robbie Williams: Robbie Williams – Somebody Someday (McCrum, 2002) and Feel: Robbie Williams (Heath, 2005) and comedian and actor Russell Brand’s two autobiographies: My Booky Wook (2008) and My Booky Wook 2 – This Time It’s Personal (2010).

The paper analyses how in these auto/biographical narratives male stars are represented as using masquerade and role-play, as well as descriptions of mental illness and addictions to construct masculine personas. Masculinity is asserted by representing male stars through the myth of the creative genius whose talents and artistic sensitivities make them vulnerable to mental illness. Part of the masculine persona is constructed through drug/alcohol addiction and re-asserts masculinity through descriptions of promiscuous sexual adventures. There is a tension between the feminine nature of celebrity discourse and the discursive construction of a masculine persona, which appears to blur any rigid or traditional gender boundaries in these biographical narratives, and in the process of doing so, to ‘prove’ the ‘authenticity’ of the star persona.


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