30 August 2019

This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philipps

I've always been a fan of Busy Philipps but I could never put my finger on why. She's always been annoying in everything I've seen her in. Having read this book I feel like I can finally articulate it: Philipps is a celebrity we all have a real chance of being. Her 'vibe', for lack of a less cringey word, feels mildly attainable to us nobodies.

The book is written in essay format, but fairly chronologically which is unique for these celeb-memoir books. Each 'chapter' has a different song title to reflect a mood in Philipps' life at the time, which I thought was quite cool. The epigraph is the Stars lyric, "when there's nothing left to burn you have to set yourself on fire". I very angstily had the lyrics to this song written along the trim of my childhood bedroom so this felt like immediate compatibility to me. The various chapters cover her childhood, her family dynamics, her relationships, and largely, her career.


I wasn't aware until reading this that Philipps had recently made a name for herself using Instagram stories. I knew her as sort of a b-list celebrity, but she apparently has become an Instagram personality, hence her recent increase in popularity. This made perfect sense though, after reading the book and watching some of her stories. Philipps has a consistent voice that comes across on all platforms. It's authentic, down-to-earth, carefree, but also a little insane. She seems like someone you'd want to be friends with, and from that perspective Instagram stories is a perfect platform for her. Her voice also makes her book feel less book-y, and more like you've just sat down to brunch with someone you've known for a while.

And in between all that, I work out every morning, I make mac and cheese for my kids, I forget their favourite stuffed animals in Hawaii and start a transpacific search party, I cry when my TV pilot doesn't get picked up by NBC, I go see bands play, I hang out with my best friends, I have anxiety attacks and eat nachos and drink margaritas and go on vacation and live my life and live my life and live my life and live my life. For me. For you. To entertain you. To be seen. It's the only thing I've ever wanted."

Philipps talks a lot about her life as a teenager and how she made stupid decisions about boys, sex, friends, etc. (as we all do/did). With all of the recent anti-abortion legislation in the USA, she's begun publicly speaking about her own teenage abortion in the media. There's a really interesting dialogue about this in the book, how her then boyfriend's parents felt, versus her parents', versus herself. One of my favourite stories she tells from these 'teenage years' is of the time she bailed on going to see Nirvana with her sister because a guy she liked said he 'may hit her up later'. The dude never called. Kurt Cobain died a month later. I know it's not funny but it's just so much something that would happen to me that it's hard not to laugh.

There was a lot of content about her career, and how hard she had to grind. Philipps took a lot of flack over the course of her career for not being stick thin. She recounts the endless auditions, the constant body shaming, and the friends and foe she met along the way. Her real big break was Freaks and Geeks, which I've never watched but know to be a cult favourite. Something I find so cute is that Philipps herself has never watched Freaks and Geeks but she's planning to watch the whole thing with her daughter when she turns 13.

From there she gained more popularity as Joey's loud roommate on Dawson's Creek. I lived and breathed Dawson's Creek in my teen years. I was in love with Pacey, wanted to be Joey, and deeply despised Dawson (male middle parts are not, and have never been, cool). For this reason alone I practically drooled reading all of Philipps behind-the-scenes takes on the set of the show. She became very close with Michelle Williams who I adore, and sadly noted that the entire cast really wasn't all that chummy. I enjoyed the below passage about actors like James Van Der Beek and Katie Holmes feeling 'held back' by the show that made them:

Some people on TV shows get fooled into thinking that the very thing that made them to begin with is the thing that's now holding them back. It's a weird phenomenon that happens mostly because I think their reps start telling them, 'Just wait. As soon as you're OFF THIS SHOW, the opportunities will be ENDLESS!' But the opportunities exist because of the show. And when you stop being in people's living rooms week after week, the other opportunities start to disappear." 

the 'extended' cast of Dawson's Creek (including Jack and Audrey)

Because of Philipps friendship with Michelle Williams, there is a really sad bit about Heath Ledger dying. I have a knack for forgetting these are real people with families and feelings. Philipps did a good job of bringing that point home.

As usual, I loved the content about her marriage and family. The 'attainable' persona I described earlier carries into this phase of her life, where she admits to struggling both with her children and her husband, Marc. Her and Marc are still married but she notes how multiple times over the course of their relationship she was committed to divorcing him, but they recovered. I found this to be frankly refreshing. Maybe they are a bit fucked up but so are we all, and she makes it clear that it's ok to go through bad spells and still have a loving and fulfilling relationship that's every bit as good and real as anyone else's. I loved her thanking him at the end:

Marc, for loving me so completely and wholly- good and bad, better and worse, rich and poor, crazy and sane, chubby and thin, panicked and strong, drunk and sober, in love and out and back again, and for showing the fuck up when he needed to."

Philipps and her husband Marc Silverstein

I know I read a lot of these celeb memoirs, and I like 90% of them, but this one was really good. I know why I'm a Busy Philipps fan now, annoying as the roles she takes are, and I look forward to watching her grow in her career. The book is a great combination of funny, celebrity anecdotes and serious, hard-to-talk-about topics, all delivered in Busy's signature, relatable voice. This bitch may have even talked me into thinking I could enjoy a Disney cruise. 

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