Review: Annette Funicello, America's Sweetheart by Marc Shapiro

Annette Funicello: America's Sweetheart, An Unauthorized Biography - Marc Shapiro

Pre-read thoughts: I need to start checking authors on NG more often when I request, but this is by the same biographer who wrote E.L. James's unauthorized biography that I read earlier this year. I'm going to give it a try though since this is written on someone I grew up listening to (some stories there, but too many to go into in this reflection), so we'll see how it goes.

Post read thoughts: Bad enough I read a biography from this author that I completely didn't like, but he also managed to screw up presenting details on a person I actually admire. Honestly, it's worth your time to read A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes: My Story, Annette Funicello's own autobiography versus this book, because all this book presents is just a compilation of information from that and from various secondary sources, plus the author's own biases. And there is under the bus throwing in this, which - despite him not naming names, doesn't make much of a difference if he's still doing it.

Full review:

I think the biggest way to sum up Marc Shapiro's biography of Annette Funicello is that it's poorly written, sensationalistic, and just downright patronizing, at least in it's respective tone. Shapiro evokes this image of Funicello as "America's Sweetheart," but it's almost like he's talking down to the reader and telling them what to think about her respective history and such, using the language of "we know she was/did such and such" and everything else. He doesn't approach her legacy with any kind of maturity. Annette Funicello had much to give to the world, not just with her sweet demeanor and portrayals on screen, but for the causes she worked for as well.

I have a connection to Funicello in that her first name is a part of my name, and a close member of my family was named after her since my family member was born the same year that Funicello first appeared on the Mickey Mouse Club. I grew up listening to some of Funicello's songs like "Pineapple Princess," which was recorded in 1960. Some people may remember my status update where I posted part of the lyrics to that song on the day she died. The loss definitely hit home with me, and I do remember memories of seeing animations put to her music (some might remember DTV which broadcast back in the 80s, where various songs were set to Disney animations - Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and pretty much all the Disney gang were emotionally matched in fun, sometimes emotional montages to the music.)

But tangents aside, my biggest disappointment was that there really wasn't anything new or constructive in Shapiro's narrative. You could just as well read Funicello's autobiography "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes" and get more from that than you could in this narrative, even with the listing of her filmography and recordings included at the end of the narrative. Plus, Shapiro somewhat sensationalizes relations and makes it more of a "trainwrecky" narrative with great liberties taken in the delivery - taking shots at Walt Disney among a number of other figures, and it really is inappropriate in terms of showcasing Funicello's legacy and contributions. I'm not even sure why he went there. For a biography, that is not how you write it, and the biases were really in full view here.

About the only thing that would be newer in terms of Funicello's life offered in this was more narratives leading up to the time she died. She was diagnosed with MS and suffered from complications in silence for quite sometime before she disclosed it to the world. There's a mention of when she made her last sitcom appearance on the TV series "Full House." (And I actually remember that episode.) She did so much to bring light to discussions and research for a cure to MS through her life, and with all that, Shapiro focuses somewhat on it, but then turns around and puts a bird's eye view on her debilitation condition, even saying at one point she "wasn't pretty." By that point I was just glad I was almost done with the narrative.

Long and short story of the matter, skip this one. It does nothing to contribute itself as a good biography of a wonderful person and entertainer.

Overall score: 0.5/5 stars

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.