Unrelated: Sibling Success in Disparate Fields

Having grown up with a kid sister, I have often been fascinated with our similarities and differences. There are many examples of both, but our ways in the world and the way we see them are very different. When siblings emerge from the same nature and nurture to much different ends, the multifinality of their paths begs investigation. When they go on to excel in completely different fields, questions abound. The Baldwins, Cusacks, Gyllenhaals, and Arquettes are interesting, but less so.

Richard Patrick was the guitarist in Trent Reznor’s first incarnation of Nine Inch Nails. After differences of one stripe or another, he went on to form the band Filter, who had a handful of mid-1990s hits themselves. His brother Robert Patrick was the T-1000 in 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day and ten years later, he went on to replace David Duchovny on The X-Files. These two were brothers whose successes in very different fields were not dependent upon one another.

Here are a few more examples:

  • During the mid-1990s female singer-songwriter boom, Poe had a hit with “Angry Johnny.” Her follow-up five years later, Haunted (2000), was a soundtrack of sorts to her brother Mark Z. Danielewski’s debut novel, House of Leaves, which pushed the limits of the modern novel and changed the way books were not only written but read and thought about as well.
“This would look nice on your wall.”
  • Frances Bay plays the creepy grandmother, Mrs. Tremond, in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks series (1990) and prequel movie, Fire Walk with Me (1992). She’s also had minor but memorable roles on Seinfeld, and in such movies as Blue VelvetWild at Heart, and Happy Gilmore. Her younger brother was sociologist Erving Goffman, author of The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959), In 2007, he was the sixth most-cited scholar in the social sciences.
  • Henry James wrote acclaimed novels, including The Portrait of a Lady (1881) and The Turn of the Screw (1890), which challenged the conventions of literature up to that point. His brother, William James, co-founded both the field of psychology and the American pragmatism philosophical movement.
  • Ari Emanuel is a Hollywood talent agent who has inspired on-screen parodies by Jeremy Piven (Ari Gold on Entourage) and Bob Odenkirk (Stevie Grant on The Larry Sander’s Show). His brother, Rahm Emanuel, is the fifty-fifth mayor of Chicago.
  • Brad Carvey is an engineer responsible for the Video Toaster, as well as the inspiration for his brother, Dana Carvey’s character Garth Algar from the Wayne’s World movie (1992) and Saturday Night Live skits of the same name.
  • Also, and an odd one too, is Tony Shalhoub, best known for his role in the TV series Monk, and his brother Dan, the inventor of the “shapoopi” — a pooper scooper.
  • David and Amy Sedaris, author and comedian.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin and Karl Kroeber, author and literary scholar…

While there are many factors that could contribute to these dual, unrelated successes, I wonder if there aren’t a set of initial conditions that contributed to the achievements of these siblings. I haven’t done all of the research here, but it’d be fun to investigate further.

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