Austrian Ego: A Review of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Biography

For the most part, Arnold Schwarzenegger is best known as the campy, action-hero star of such classic 1980’s cinema as: Predator, The Terminator, and Conan the Barbarian.  However, in Schwarzenegger’s recently released biography, Total Recall: My Unbelievable True Life Story (written with Peter Petre) we’re privy to a full account of his famous life, his outrageous personality, and his gigantic ego.

Born in 1947, a young Schwarzenegger was convinced he was destined for bigger and better things than a post-war Austria had to offer. While his adolescence was a strict routine of weightlifting and bodybuilding, his young adulthood would be the reward from the many hours spent training. By his mid- twenties, Schwarzenegger had gained global recognition from winning several World Bodybuilding championships, and in turn, helped bring the sport of Bodybuilding to North America’s attention by starring in such movies as: Pumping Iron and Staying Hungry. From there, Schwarzenegger moved on to a successful acting career, a peculiar marriage to a Kennedy, and a turbulent political appointment as Governor of the state of California. Not bad for the Austrian immigrant who could barely speak English when he arrived in the United States in the 1970’s.

And while it’s hard to disagree that Schwarzenegger has lived a life of legend, unfortunately, he’s the first to admit it. Throughout the book, Schwarzenegger makes sure to remind the reader of his accomplishments, constantly.  He’s quick to boast about the millions he’s generated at the box office over the years, as well as the wealth he’s amassed from his business investments. In addition, the authorized biography reads like a self-congratulatory diary chalked full of honest, but dubious entries.  For example:  after being introduced to Maria Shriver, his future wife, for the first time, he turned to Maria’s mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and remarked, “your daughter has a great ass”. Clearly, Schwarzenegger is proud of this particular moment, enough to share it in his biography, with a certain arrogance that the public has come to expect from the aging celebrity.

Questionable entries aside, a good portion of the book is devoted to reflecting on his political career as Governor of the state of California. Schwarzenegger gushes like a proud parent about the initiatives his administration put in place over the two terms he served. Furthermore, he reveals the challenges that arose from transitioning from a Hollywood actor to an elected political figure; as well trying to balance his Republican ideals with his own family’s principles; after all, he did marry into the most celebrated American Democratic family: the Kennedy clan.

So, is Arnold’s 646 page biography insightful? Well, somewhat. As a medium used to exorcize his demons, Schwarzenegger does express genuine regret over his past sins. A whole chapter entitled, “The Secret” is devoted to his highly publicized scandal of 2011, as well as the aftermath of the scandal on his marriage and family. If you don’t remember, Schwarzenegger confessed to sleeping with the family housekeeper, and in turn, impregnating her. The result of the affair cost Schwarzenegger his marriage to Shriver, and brought unwanted media attention to his family. Additionally, he regrets not being a proper father to the child he conceived with the housekeeper, over 15 years ago.  Of course, it never hurts to come off as remorseful to the general public, especially when you’re new movie is slated for release in early 2013. Nevertheless, is Total Recall entertaining?  Absolutely, like the scandal rags that stock a supermarket’s check-out line, this biography is a guilty pleasure. However, in the end, Schwarzenegger doesn’t leave the reader with an impression of being that momentous anymore; much like the antiquated, macho blockbusters of the 1980’s and 1990’s he starred in.