Movie Reviews

Brats: 7 Reasons The Brat Pack Label Derailed Their Careers

Summary

  • Being labeled the Brat Pack stunted members’ Hollywood careers by contributing to typecasting and self-doubt.
  • The group felt they couldn’t work together post-label to avoid reinforcing the negative connotations.
  • The Brat Pack actors were seen as a group, making it difficult to secure individual roles after the article.



Andrew McCarthy’s Hulu documentary Brats recounts the experiences of the group of actors known as the “Brat Pack,” including how being labeled this way derailed their careers. Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Rob Lowe, Ally Sheedy, Demi Moore, Molly Ringwald, and McCarthy himself are the most widely recognized members of the Brat Pack in the 1980s. These actors, along with some other co-stars, were at the forefront of the increase in movies starring young actors and inherently about being young in the early and mid-1980s. Many of them had aspirations of long-term careers in Hollywood.


However, the lives of the Brat Pack members changed after the article that coined the term was published. On June 10, 1985, New York Magazine published an article by David Blum first referring to the group as the Brat Pack. The result was that many of them have struggled to escape this label throughout their careers, with the 1990s being an especially difficult time for the Brat Pack. Blum says in Brats he didn’t think the article would have the impact it did, but it entirely disrupted the Brat Pack’s careers, making it much more difficult for them to find future work.

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7 The Brat Pack Were Not Considered Serious Actors

Blum’s article was somewhat scathing of the Brat Pack as actors.


The term itself suggests an idea of the group of actors being “Brats,” undeserving of their fame. McCarthy and Estevez discuss in Brats how the label and other comments within the article burdened them with a stigma of being bad actors, associated with fun but not artistically noteworthy movies — some of the others have touched upon this effect in interviews over the years. McCarthy remarks: “Steven Spielberg’s not gonna call up somebody who’s in the Brat Pack.” They were relegated to “cheap” movies, not ones that would be nominated for Oscars.

Estevez also mentions some movies that fell through in the wake of the article (either because of the actors’ choice or the people who were initially interested in casting them). However, multiple interviews in Brats suggest that before all this, the Brat Pack was viewed as a collective of talented young actors who were starring in worthwhile movies. Blum may deny the negative impact of his article, but the Brat Pack are clearly of the opinion that it hurt their chances of starring in a different category of movies and working with some of the Hollywood greats.


6 The Brat Pack Article Caused Self-Doubt Among These Actors

McCarthy discusses the psychological effect of the Brat Pack article.

The emotional and psychological impact of the Brat Pack label was immediate and real. McCarthy talks about this at length, emphasizing that because the Brat Pack were all still young and relatively new to Hollywood, the backhanded insult hurt even more. They experienced feelings of self-doubt, wondering if the things implied in the article and that were becoming popular opinion were true: that they weren’t good actors, and they only embodied a culture of spoiled young celebrities that would soon pass.


This would have had a far-reaching negative effect on the young actors’ careers. Ally Sheedy talks about auditions becoming tense and uncomfortable after the article was published, while it is also discussed how they all lost their confidence. They once attended parties as the foremost stars of Hollywood at the time before becoming one of the most derided parts of pop culture. In such a competitive business where the ability to flash a smile and fabricate a persona is vital, losing confidence can be disastrous.

McCarthy also talks about some of the Brat Pack members still having PTSD from the incident decades later. Being labeled as the Brat Pack was a huge event for them professionally and personally, as it shifted how the entire world viewed them not just as actors but as individuals. Some of the Brat Pack do not appear in the documentary, with it being suggested that they just want to put it all behind them.


5 The Brat Pack Actors Were Typecast In Youth-Focused Movies

The Brat Pack members were cast in one coming-of-age movie after another.

The string of movies starring the Brat Pack throughout the 1980s were not just movies that had teenage characters in them — they were specifically movies about teenagers, coming-of-age movies. While some kinder parent characters do appear in this list, many of the adult characters were either absent or outright villains. The Brat Pack did not star as someone’s child in an adult movie but in movies with large casts of young actors. This typecasting served them well for a time, as it is what led them from one hit movie to another during this decade.

The Brat Pack was restricted to one genre of movies which was heavily made fun of by the late 1980s, while also facing the inevitability of eventually aging out of the genre.


However, when the Brat Pack label arose at a time when most of them had already starred in multiple movies like this, this became a more restrictive part of their careers. They were met with roadblocks if they wanted to work with some of their acting icons because they were the Brat Pack, and had to star in Brat Pack movies. The Brat Pack was restricted to one genre of movies which was heavily made fun of by the late 1980s, while also facing the inevitability of eventually aging out of the genre.

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4 The Brat Pack Actors Were Typecast As Specific Character Archetypes

Several of the Brat Pack members became associated with one specific character.


Within the Brat Pack, certain actors became associated with particular character archetypes of the peer group depicted on screen. The Breakfast Club certainly relies on stock high school characters (the jock, the nerd, the outcast, etc.), with other Brat Pack movies showcasing similar casts. The Brat Pack members who probably dealt with character typecasting the most are Ringwald and Hall, who starred alongside each other in Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, as similar respective characters in both.

With Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink, Ringwald was cemented as the beautiful love triangle heroine of the Brat Pack, who usually wore pink. These two movies are hers, but she still plays the same archetype as a member of the Breakfast Club ensemble, in which Claire is characterized as the “pretty and popular” girl. After the 1980s, Ringwald moved to France to star in French language movies to escape typecasting as a member of the Brat Pack.


Meanwhile, Hall was the nerd of the group, playing “Geek” (who has a crush on Ringwald) in Sixteen Candles and the “brainiac” of The Breakfast Club. Ringwald and Hall demonstrate how, even within the Brat Pack, there was typecasting. This would only have been reinforced once they were grouped together by the Brat Pack label, with each member having a certain role to play in the plucky group of teenage stars.

3 The Brat Pack Actors Were Unlikely To Be Cast Individually

Directors and audiences liked seeing the Brat Pack all together.


Brats mentions early on how the label was a “disservice to their individuality,” within the first, older interview included. Indeed, many of the most famous images from these movies show multiple members of the Brat Pack together. Ideally, an addition to the Brat Pack repertoire could get three of the most famous ones at the least to star together, or alongside a not-quite-a-Brat-Pack actor like Jon Cryer. Meanwhile, this would have made it harder for these actors to win individual roles.

Some of the “Brat Pack-adjacent” actors did not have this same problem because they starred in movies where they were the single, undisputed star. Typically this would be in movies that aren’t universally considered Brat Pack movies. Tom Cruise starred alongside some of the bigger Brat Pack members but also had Risky Business and Top Gun to himself. Leah Thompson was the leading lady of Back to the Future, which also isn’t really a Brat Pack movie.

2 The Brat Pack Felt Like They Couldn’t Work Together After The Article

The Brat Pack thought appearing together more would be bad for their careers.


In Estevez’s Brats interview, the first one McCarthy conducts, Estevez talks about how they all felt they had to avoid the label after the article came out. In one regard, this meant some hesitance among the Brat Pack to star in more movies together. It is easy to understand his train of thought, as continuing to star alongside each other would have further confirmed the idea of them being a “pack,” and a pack of stars who were characterized as bratty. However, this may have been to the detriment of their careers and self-esteem going forward.

The Brat Pack might have been able to support each other but felt that starring in any more movies together would only reinforce the label.


McCarthy’s thesis in Brats is that they never talked about what they were going through that much while it was happening, and he is reuniting with some of his old co-stars to do this properly. Sheedy’s interview is also interesting, where she expresses how much she loved being a part of the group. The Brat Pack did feel a sense of camaraderie, but even that became something that conflicted with their careers. The Brat Pack might have been able to support each other but felt that starring in any more movies together would only reinforce the label.

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1 The Brat Pack Article May Have Ended This Era Of Movies

That Brat Pack era wrapped up a few years after the article was published.


The Brat Pack era did not end the moment the article came out, and the term was released into the world. The 1980s was only halfway over, and several more defining Brat Pack movies had yet to be released. However, Estevez does suggest that the group’s enthusiasm dissipated after this event. The Brat Pack era ended in part because of the actors growing older and in part just because of the cultural landscape shifting into the 1990s. Yet the article and labeling may have also played a role.

Assuming that some movies were already planned with actors contracted before the article was published, it is not clear which movies the Brat Pack agreed to make after it. Their careers may have progressed differently, with a more gradual transition from teen- to adult-focused movies, if they had been open to making movies about young adults for a few more years. Brats showcases the profound effect the label Brat Pack had on their lives, which was inevitably a part of the sequence of events that led to their time in the spotlight ending.


Brats 2024 Documentary Poster

Brats (2024)

Brats offers an in-depth look at the lives of military children, capturing the complexities of growing up on the move. Through heartfelt interviews and vivid storytelling, the documentary highlights the resilience and adaptability required to navigate frequent relocations.

Director
Andrew McCarthy

Release Date
June 13, 2024

Writers
Andrew McCarthy

Cast
Lea Thompson , Molly Ringwald , Andrew McCarthy , Demi Moore , Ally Sheedy , Rob Lowe , Emilio Estevez , Jon Cryer

Runtime
92 Minutes

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