‘Brats’: A Reminder That The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword

Brats has been getting a lot of press in the lead-up to its premiere on Hulu, and rightfully so. There have been many looks and examinations of the “Brat Pack” – both of the pack’s members themselves and their films. This time around, though, is significantly different.Andrew McCarthy directs this documentary, which has him sitting down and talking with his acting peers who also got labeled with the now-infamous term coined by David Blum in a 1985 profile for New York Magazine. The profile initially began as a piece just about Emilio Estevez, but it evolved and also featured Rob Lowe and Judd Nelson as a glimpse at the young actors of Hollywood at the time.Upon its release, and even revisiting the profile now, most readers would admit that Estevez, Lowe, and especially Nelson weren’t depicted in the fondest of lights. In fact, when running down the members of the “Brat Pack,” Blum refers to Nelson as “The Overrated One.” There have been far worse hit-jobs in media, but few had as catchy of a title that really stuck.Over the course of the 90+ minute documentary, McCarthy sits down with Estevez, Lowe, Ally Sheedy and Demi Moore and talks to them about how the term “Brat Pack” impacted them personally and professionally. McCarthy also sits down with other actors who were in the Brat Pack’s orbit but weren’t necessarily “members” of this unique club. One of those actors was Jon Cryer, who famously starred alongside McCarthy and Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink. Cryer, perhaps, has one of the most profound soundbites in the entire documentary.“When that article came out, I recall being really taken aback by it,” Cryer began. “Because there had been so much excitement about all of the young actors that were showing up.”He continued, “Because there was this startling group of really talented young people, and that was the first time that it felt like that had curdled, that people were going, ‘You know what? They need to be knocked down a peg.’ And I also felt a little weird because there was some sort of effort because Pretty in Pink came out to – it was like you have to decide. Are you part of that or not?”Cryer concluded by saying, “Writers are addicted to narrative. ‘Brat Pack’ allowed a new narrative to take shape.”A new narrative certainly took shape following the article’s release, and in the documentary, Estevez, Lowe, Sheedy, Moore and McCarthy peel back those layers of how the article impacted them, and nearly all of them wished they had the foresight to spin the article a different way and shake it off. Then again, age has a way of making you realize things with a clearer perspective.The “new narrative” Cryer spoke of isn’t exactly new. Society seems to really enjoy and celebrate successful youth with the same intensity with which it enjoys tearing that youth down. When watching Brats, Britney Spears and her treatment in the press immediately came to mind. The same can also be applied to Justin Bieber. Build them up…and then tear them down.One of the most interesting parts of Brats comes towards the end when McCarthy sits down with Blum and talks about his article. Blum says of the article and its general tone, “It honestly didn’t cross my mind, really, that it was all that big a deal … Well, one or two people were like, ‘Wow, that’s like really mean.’”Blum and McCarthy’s entire exchange is a fascinating watch, and I certainly won’t spoil the whole thing for you. But Blum says at one point, “ … There were a couple of things in the article that were just plain-old not nice, and I’m sure I should have been scolded by somebody, and I was. I was just trying to be funny. And I actually think I may – I hope I won’t sound too arrogant by thinking that I might have succeeded.”It’s a sentiment that dovetails poetically with one of Moore’s final comments in the film: “We all made it mean something and in varying degrees. And it actually wasn’t even about really any of us. It was about the person who wrote it trying to be clever and get their next job.”Not to sound too arrogant, but I’d be lying if I didn’t think about my past work and think twice about whether I was actually cruel when I was trying to be clever. Maybe the target audience of Brats wasn't supposed to be writers and journalists, but it’s a documentary everyone in that profession should watch, if only to get some perspective now instead of waiting to age and see things clearer.

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