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I was watching Sixteen Candles last night, and the phrase "brat pack" came into my head. I knew it was a group of actors, and that Molly Ringwald was supposedly one of them, but other than that I wasn't sure who was in the group or why it was called that or anything.

So I pulled up Wikipedia and started reading up on it, and it led me to several interesting things. First, there are 2 brat packs, one was a group of young actors from the 80's and the other was a group of novelists from the 80's. Apparently, they have nothing to do with each other (the only loose connection possibly being the movie Less Than Zero. Less Than Zero was a movie based on a book written by a Brat Pack author, which is not quite a Brat Pack movie, but it does involve bratpacker Andrew McCarthy along with several others like Robert Downey Jr. who were not quite official Brat Pack members but closely associated with them.

According to the Wikipedia entry on it, the (semi-)official requirement for being a Brat Pack member is that you starred in one or both of the two movies The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo's Fire (and you're name's not Mare Winningham, since she wasn't in any other movies with the rest of them). I've never seen St. Elmo's Fire and don't have any idea what it's about, but I liked The Breakfast Club a lot, so now I want to. I also really want to see The Outsiders--mostly because I'm impressed with the cast list, but it also is a cool sounding name.

Also according to the Wikipedia entry, the requirement for a movie to be considered a "Brat Pack movie" is that at least two Brat Pack members (based on the above requirement) starred in it. These requirements imply that there are exactly 8 Brat Pack members and 12 Brat Pack movies. So they have a nice 8x12 table displaying which actors were in which movies, and what other costars were with them. But they also discuss various movies and other actors that were closely associated with the brat pack, either because the actors were in a lot of movies with the brat pack members, or because the movies starred at least one official Brat Pack member plus closely affiliated actors.

Reading up on the Brat Pack led me to click on the Rat Pack entry, where the name originated from. But like the 2 Brat Packs (the group of novelists, and the group of actors), there were also 2 Rat Packs, one from the 50's and one from the 60's. Both of them were led by Frank Sinatra, though, so there is more overlap there as opposed to them being completely separate groups.

The first Rat Pack was a group of Frank Sinatra's friends, including Humphrey Bogart, who used to hang out a lot at Bogart's place in Hollywood. One time they came back from Las Vegas and Bogart's wife said "you guys look like a goddamn rat pack", and then somehow this got leaked to the media and they were all over the name. (Even though it sounds to me like something that any wife might say to her husband's group of friends getting back from Vegas.) But surely nobody could have predicted at that point that it would have given rise to so many spinoffs and cause so many decades of frenzied media arousal and verbal ejaculation!

The second Rat Pack was a group of Frank Sinatra's friends in the 60's (Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., etc.), having little overlap with the original group, but the media still loved the name so they reattached it to this group. Sinatra thought the name was idiotic, and criticized the media for continuing to use it so much (and it looks like it was never actually used by he and his 60's friends). But they loved it so much, they continued using it anyway.

After reading about the 2 Brat Packs, and the 2 Rat Packs, I moved on to reading about the Frat pack. I had never even heard of this one, but guess what? Just like there were 2 Rat Packs and 2 Brat Packs, there were also 2 Frat packs! Unbelievable!

The first Frat Pack was what one media source--Entertainment Weekly--called a group of young high grossing actors in the 90's (Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Ryan Phillipe, and Edward Norton). But before it could be established too well in the public's mind, another media source--USA Today--went ahead and used the term Frat Pack to refer to a more recent group of high grossing comedic actors (Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, and Steve Carrell). The first usage faded away while the second one took root, and is now considered canonical in the media.

It's interesting how the first Frat Pack was practically a name by name list of all of my top favorite young actors (Phillip Seymour Hoffman is the only main one I'd add), each having mindblowingly awesome natural talent, while the second one I feel like is just a bunch of comedians who are good at telling jokes, but don't have much serious acting ability. I guess I'm glad that the term was reappropriated though, because I feel strong negative associations toward the word "Frat" and I would hate for it to be applied to a group of people I admire so much.


By this point, you must be thinking "ok, how can the media love puns this much?" I mean really, can it go any further... why is it that journalists are so obsessed with coming up with new words that almost but not quite rhyme with "Pack" but rhyme with all the previous failed attempts at rhyming with pack? But wait, there's more... yeah, they had to take it one step further and coin the term "Splat Pack" to refer to a group of recent directors of Horror films:


*hand* *forehead* :p

So now the question is... since there were 2 rat packs, 2 brat packs, and 2 frat packs, will there be a second splat pack? Only time will tell!

So to end the story of last night, I spent a while with Sixteen Candles on pause, mostly reading up on the Brat Pack and the Rat Pack (I don't think I discovered the other two until after the movie was over). And lo and behold, once I unpaused it, only a few scenes later two of the main actors are cleaning up after a big house party, and a voice comes on the radio while they are talking... it's Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York ("start spreading the word..."). The synchronicity of watching a Brat Pack movie and having just paused it to read up on Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack, and hearing Sinatra's voice in the background of Brat Pack actor Anthony Michael Hall speaking gave me goose bumps! It seemed eriely out of place... I mean, most of the songs on the soundtrack up to that point had been stuff like Billy Idol or David Bowie. Why Sinatra all of a sudden? It seemed just stuck in there, as if a purposeful joke. So I don't know what the story is behind that, but I see 3 possible explanations, 1.) It's purely a coincidence, 2.) The movie came out after the "Brat Pack" had been named after the Rat Pack and this was the producer's idea of humor, or 3.) The journalist who coind the term "Brat Pack" was watching 16 candles when he or she came up with the term, and hearing Sinatra singing in the background helped prime him/her to make that particular pun. Certainly 3 is the most interesting! But I guess it is more likely 1 or 2. What do you think?

[Update: possibility 2 is off the table. The movie came out in 1984, but the term "Brat Pack" was coined in 1985. So it was not some producer's joke... it may very well be the missing link between the terms Brat Pack and Rat Pack (prompting the journalist's pun); either that or it is just an erie coincidence]


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 25th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)
I hadn't realized the duplication of "brat pack" or "rat pack"! I believe The Breakfast Club is the only "brat pack" movie I've seen. (I just added Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink to my Netflix queue though.) Also, wasn't St. Elmo's Fire a tv show rather than a movie? I may well be wrong though. I might be confusing it with St. Elsewhere or something else.

I don't know what names I would have put in the "rat pack" other than Sinatra and possibly Sammy Davis, Jr - I might have guessed Bogart, but that makes sense it's a separate "rat pack"?

The "frat pack" terms don't seem to make as much sense, since I don't think either group of actors is especially closely connected. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are associated with Kevin Smith and his crew, not Leonardo DiCaprio! The second group seems a bit more unified by their comic style, but again I don't really think of them as working together very often.
Sep. 25th, 2009 04:07 am (UTC)
All I know about St. Elmo's Fire is what I've recently read on Wikipedia (and I avoided reading plot details)... but it was a Joel Schumacher film starring Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, and Mare Winningham. According to the same page, just recently (Aug 2009) ABC won a bidding war to adapt the film into a TV miniseries, although it doesn't say when it's expected to come out.

The second group seems a bit more unified by their comic style, but again I don't really think of them as working together very often.

On the contrary, they do often work together (at least in pairs). In fact, Wikipedia has a table, like the brat pack table, showing the films they've collaborated on... and they list 25 films that at least 2 of the 7 of them have been in together. (For the Brat Pack, it's only 12 films that at least 2 of the 8 worked together on!). The one where the most of them were in together was Anchorman, which involved Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, and Steve Carrell (all of them except Owen Wilson). The Brat Pack never had a film where all but one worked together.
Sep. 25th, 2009 04:45 am (UTC)
Oh, and one more neat fact I ran across while reading up on this that I forgot to mention...

Apparently, the 60's rat pack had some influence on the civil rights movement. As a group, they refused to play at or spend time at any establishment in Vegas where blacks were not offered the same service as whites. The Wikipedia article seems to imply that this had a direct influence on segregation in Las Vegas... because they were so popular, none of the Vegas hotels could afford not to serve blacks after that, so they all eventually gave up and desegregated. Perhaps the image of a group of famous friends, some white and some black, also helped project a positive message to the public.

Another interesting thing... JFK was really suspicious of Sinatra being affiliated with the Mafia so he excluded him from his inner circle. This caused the whole group to break with the Democratic party and vote for Nixon and become friends with him (apparently, Sammy Davis Jr. was the first black man to spend the night in the whitehouse, after giving Richard Nixon a surprise hug and having Nixon invite him to stay over!) Afterwards, Sammy went back to voting Democrat while the rest continued voting Republican.

By the way... it looks like I'll be hanging out with a friend tomorrow during the day. You free during the evening?
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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