Wednesday, June 19, 2024

"Brats" Love


So my husband and I just finished watching "Brats," the Andrew McCarthy documentary on Hulu about the impact of being labeled as the "Brat Pack" had on all of the involuntary members. 

Some takeaways?

It almost seemed like the others were trying to "counsel" Andrew McCarthy on the negative impact this label had on his life and career, advising him to be grateful, rather than the reason they agreed to be a part of this documentary, which was to commiserate. 

(For the record, I don't think that Andrew is ungrateful for the good stuff, and in fact, mentions many good aspects -  I think that he's also just addressing some thorns in his side from those days.)

In particular, Rob Lowe behaved as if nothing bothered him, life was great back then and one big party, when we all know that Rob's personal life crashed and burned in a big way, especially after a video of himself with an underage girl went viral, even before the advent of social media.

Perhaps that was his point - there are worse things that can happen to your career that you can survive than a jealous journalist pigeonholing you?

Which is true - but he never actually said that - when perhaps he should have, because instead, he sort of came off like life was great,  he took nothing seriously, so then it was like "Well, why did you agree to be in this documentary about the downside of being labeled the Brat Pack, then?"

And behaving like life was a party, taking nothing seriously, is exactly what David Blum wrote about them and doesn't exactly help Andrew's case, now does it?

In fact, I got the sense that they DID actually all feel the same way Andrew did, even just agreeing to be a part of this (when some didn't), but they just didn't want to be honest about it on camera, either due to professional "press" training, to spin everything into a positive, or perhaps just out of fear that everyone would pronounce this a "white privilege," problem or a "Poor little rich and famous kid" problem, rather than realizing that for better or worse, that there were repercussions of being labeled a "brat pack" member that shaped the rest of their careers and lives in various ways. 

I mean, despite Rob Lowe and Demi Moore perhaps being arguably the most film-successful of the group, when people meet them, they still quote lines from their Brat Pack days, rather than anything else they've done, and that has to bother them.  

I mean, they realize it comes from a place of love, and yet those brat-pack days still somehow defined their career and did pigeonhole them somewhat.

Regardless, this is a story of Andrew McCarthy trying to make his peace with it - and I think what he was actually seeking was not feeling alone that this label kept him from being taken seriously for other roles and hindered his career.

Unfortunately instead, though others signed up to be interviewed - knowing the content was about how that label stuck and pigeonholed them -  they refused to really discuss the extent of it, on camera, at least.  

They just sort of politely nodded along, but spun it into a positive, which is what all actors (and athletes) are trained to do when the camera is on.  

However, Andrew's entire point was that there are real people behind these roles and articles - but if no one but Andrew is willing to let us see the real them, then the Brat Pack label will continue to live on.

I get it, the more personal you get, the more that gets written about you out of context, by people who imagine they know you - but it's also true that what people don't know, they make up -  at least you get to speak for yourself on this one?

Regardless, Andrew decided that perhaps it would help to go straight to the source - the journalist who labeled them "The Brat Pack" in a rather harsh New York Magazine article he wrote about them in 1985 - David Blum.

Unfortunately, at age 23, a young, naive Emilio Estevez mistook David's professional interest in him as friendship (which David admittedly let him think) and invited David to an ill-fated dinner with Rob Lowe and Judd Nelson, and the rest is history.

I have to tell you, Andrew showed remarkable restraint with this guy, who began the conversation very clearly still jealous of all of them, particularly in the looks department - his jealousy was obvious, particularly of Rob Lowe. 

Andrew kept trying to find the human part of the guy and yet there was none to be found - the guy was still immensely proud of himself, even after Andrew explained how impactful his article was on their careers, especially as early-20-somethings. 

I mean, the least the guy could've said was "I don't feel I did anything wrong, but I'm sorry it impacted you so negatively" or SOMETHING, but nope - still overly proud of himself, still an asshole.

Andrew even relented on a few points from David's perspective, but David offered nothing.

In fact, he essentially doubled down.

When Andrew explains that it felt like the moment he lost the narrative to his own life, and further, asks him if he thought it was a bit mean-spirited, David literally replies: "Eh, sticks and stones ..."

WTF, are we 12?

(In David's case, yes).

At this point, my husband said "Okay, Andrew, time to turn off the cameras and just punch this MF in the mouth"  😂

Ya know, if we've learned nothing else from Trump's presidency, we should've learned that words CAN hurt you, they can ruin careers, reputations and lives, even if not a word is true. 

However, in the end - and I'm not sure Andrew realizes this - it was glaringly apparent that Andrew isn't the one stuck back in 1985, spinning his wheels - David Blum is.

Still stuck in immaturity and jealousy of better-looking, more famous men, still stuck in his one shining moment article, where he repackaged someone else's phrase, landing him his own 15 minutes of fame, based on theirs. 

Thus, I pronounce Andrew the winner of that exchange - having the bravery to gain insight into his life, career, and himself (or at least trying to) - which is something David Blum can never do.

In fact, if Andrew looks at this just right, it's because of David Blum that he has become the better person he is now, than he was then.

Although the stuff David blanketed-generalized them all with what wasn't true about Andrew specifically  - who actually did have a brain and acting training, he went to NYU and acting school - Andrew wasn't the person he is now, much of it having to do with his alcoholism since age 12, but after treatment, he's apparently a changed man. 

It's funny how the worst people in our lives can result in making us into better people, isn't it?

We can let them make us bitter or or better - our choice.

Now - those who know me well know that I had my own little brush with fame at age 12 - nowhere near "Brat Pack" level, and yet it was enough for me to never want anything close to fame again. 

It changed all of the relationships in my life irrevocably.  I never knew who was really my friend, even family members changed towards me. 

Suddenly, people who had no interest in me before wanted to be seen with me, my new best friend, my favorite cousin; or conversely, they liked me before, but the moment I hit any sort of fame, they suddenly have all of these reasons why I'm not so great and they're better, feeling they need to openly feel free to share this publicly with me (but really, to make themselves feel superior).

And all the cruel things that are said and done, which at the time, never once occurred to me might have been said and done out of jealousy,

I thought, "Who would ever be jealous of ME?"  And yet looking back, in a few cases, it was likely the case. 

And the thing is, although I was smart/sane enough to realize none of the new "love" I suddenly was receiving from people wasn't real, at the same time, what I did NOT realize was that any of the negative things presumed about me may not be true.

 I thought "This is the way I must come across, maybe this is true and no one has ever had the guts to tell me?"

You know, the bad stuff is easier to believe about yourself than the good, right? 

But looking back, if it was done in a loving way, then no  - but most of the time, it wasn't -  it was hurled at my head publicly or said or written behind my back in "slam" or "burn" book, being passed around, or written on bathroom walls (which was all we had before social media).

Now, that should have let me know it was a result of their own issues, but it didn't -  I took it to heart and began to believe them.

Regardless, point is, I begin to let these things define me. 

I let other people define me, instead of realizing the cruelest things said and done weren't done because I'd hurt them in some way, nor even as constructive criticism to help me better myself - they were said and done either by people who either didn't know me but presumed to or they couldn't see me clearly out of their own issues. 

I think the same could be said of David Blum - his article is clearly written by a person that walked into that dinner with a preconceived notion of who they were and thus didn't disappoint himself, tearing them down out of obvious jealousy, making them all sound like untalented, fame-hungry, stupid, shallow people.

And unfortunately, some of us sensitive types let it hurt us more than others, and I also think that not having a stable, nonvolatile base home environment to help you combat that also plays a role. 

But you know what the ugly truth is?

Some of us ALLOWED other people to define us, pigeonhole us, limit us - so in the end, we limited ourselves by believing what was said about us.

In fact, I developed the crippling social anxiety afterwards that has plagued me most of my life that has only gotten better in recent years.

Of course, we were just kids - I was only 12, they were in their 20s - and there was no guidebook, and in my case, no guidance. 

My parents didn't even take me to the audition, my friend's parents did.

But a few years ago, I finally decided that I would no longer allow anyone else to define me, especially people that don't really know me or can't really see me clearly out of their own issues - I get to define me.

And I hope that Andrew is at least beginning to do the same.  He's off to a good start with this documentary.

Bravo, Andrew - thank you for being brave enough to confront your bully from years ago (and showing such restraint, despite him still clearly being an unempathetic, narcissistic douche), as well as for being brave enough to get a little vulnerable with us :)

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