By now the American people have been regaled, again and again, with anecdotal evidence of confessions in Jessica Simpson’s memoir, Open Book, on shelves now. The moments that were once casually tended-to rumors (John Mayer treated her like crap, her dad is sort of a creep) have been canonized as fact. John Mayer, in fact, broke up with Simpson dozens of times, drove her to drink and to crowd-source editing of her texts to him, and did totally unhinged things like show up at her parent’s house to serenade them with his guitar like some sort of incestuous Tiny Desk concert.
Fans of the singer can read about all of this and so much more (like, detailed descriptions of miracle post-meditation sex with her current husband) in the tome, but there are a few things we were hoping to learn, like the celebrity gossip gluttons that we are in our weakest moments, that are (perhaps conspicuously) absent.
Otherwise known as, Are you still a Republican or not, Jessica Simpson? It’s possible to read Open Book for all the signs of her partisan allegiances, and that is exactly what we did. It’s clear to even the most novice of Simpson scholars that hardcore conservatism is her default setting: She’s from Texas; she’s a pastor’s daughter; she used to be both a country and a Christian rock singer; she’s in E! News’ photo gallery titled Red Hot Republicans; she frequented USO tours and state dinners during the Bush presidency. But, much like W., her political fervor seems to have faded in the last decade.
Open Book makes no secret of all the aforementioned clues of conservatism, but with literally no context or reflection. She discusses going to Iraq to support the troops but makes no mention of the revelations that currently color most people’s opinions of that war. She admits she performed at abstinence rallies but doesn’t endorse or denounce the practice. She spends lots of time listing current husband Eric Johnson’s progressive tendencies — meditation, yoga teacher training, Marianne Williamson seminars — without telling us if she thinks he’s a crazy liberal or if she, too, wants to namastay fighting for universal healthcare.
Were we expecting a holistic takedown of the Trumpian platform or an insightful rumination on fabricated weapons of mass destruction? Of course not. But it does seem pointed that, in 2020, a person can write about their passion for gay rights without reckoning how her past vocal political support has been at odds with that very issue.
Y’all, this book is 407 pages long and doesn’t even make mention of The Ashlee Simpson Show. Ryan Cabrera? She doth not speaketh his name. We acknowledge that the sisters are two separate people but it’s pretty fascinating when siblings find themselves competing for the spotlight in the exact same industry, and a bit of discussion about that would have been appreciated. We do not stand for Ashlee erasure.
Jessica Simpson has been inside the fame industrial complex for decades now — it’s clear that a life in the spotlight is the only thing she knows. But it isn’t clear if she knows it’s the only thing she knows. Stars like Jennifer Lawrence are the epitome of self-aware: As quick to make fun of themselves for mentioning a private jet flight as they are to take the private jet flight. Open Book is full of descriptions of habits and practices that are, for lack of a more delicate descriptor, totally bats—.
Her friends staged her intervention while she was having an in-home session with the celebrity hairstylists at 901 Salon. She incorporates paparazzi jargon into her daily lexicon (a picture of her with ex-husband Nick Lachey is “a two-shot”). She spends $150,000 on one of Nick’s birthday parties. She thinks of her divorce in context of “the statement” to the press. Her grandmother frames her InStyle Magazine wedding spread instead of, you know, the actual wedding photos. In the days after her divorce announcement, she army-crawls from her parent’s house to her sister’s house to avoid detection by paparazzi. She postpones a visit to her doctor after a positive pregnancy test to allow more time for an elaborate undercover transportation plan that involves rented cars and parking-garage switches. She had a big wedding to Eric Johnson because a magazine offered a deal for the eventual photo exclusive. She recovers from a post-birth tummy tuck in a hidden luxury hotel near the hospital.
Are these all things that are necessary? Sure. But that doesn’t mean we should all take them at face value or accept as remotely normal. Without evidence to the contrary, Simpson doesn’t get it.
We all know 2007-ish was this generation’s Golden Era of Fame, when internet culture merged with paparazzi culture merged with the erosion of our collective moralities. This period bore out Perez Hilton, the Bling Ring, and the inner circle of celebrity club kids. Jessica might not have been at the level of the Lindsay Lohans or the Orlando Blooms of the day (which is to say: an obvious target for the aforementioned Ring), but she was right there alongside it. She acknowledges her hard-partying ways, making mention of dinners at Red O and nights at unnamed Hollywood VIP establishments but fails to deliver on any of the juicy goings-on there. We know she witnessed some s—. Don’t we deserve a glimpse behind the curtain?
The prologue of the book describes Jessica sitting in her study writing after her children have gone to bed and she often breaks the literary fourth wall to speak directly from herself to us, the reader. But we’re not naive and she’s not a professional writer. We’re convinced someone else collaborated with her on this and convinced that somebody else said, of a blackout shortly before her eventual intervention, “I welcomed oblivion.” Could it be Kevin Carr O’Leary, who she thanks in the acknowledgments with the phrase “you are the Shakespeare to my thoughts?” Given that his website proclaims him “#1 New York Times Bestselling Writer and Book Collaborator/Coach”…probably.