Be Somebody… or Be Somebody’s Fool! (1984)

Be Somebody... or Be Somebody's Fool!Director: Jeff Margolis

Stars: Mr. T, Bobby Brown, Fergie


This is an educational video, where Mr. T attempts to instill good values (honour thy mother, don’t give in to peer pressure, etc..) to kids through rapping and breakdancing, among other things.

Maybe you want to read that synopsis again, yeah, this actually exists. Not only does it exist, but it’s a hell of a lot more entertaining than you could ever imagine. Seen who stars in it? Yeah, it is that Bobby Brown and yeah, it is that Fergie. No not the former Manchester United manager, the other Fergie. No not the Duchess of York, the other Fergie. Yeah, THAT one. They’re basically a part of the cast of children that help T get his many messages across to his young viewers, that will help them on their journey through pubity, and eventually turn them into respectable adults who are forever stuck in the 80’s. Now, have you ever watched a film or show that parodies this epic decade and thought “Nah, they’ve gone too far there, that’s a little too 80’s”. Well think again because this is like another world. This is like the cast of “Full House” listening to the sax guy from “The Lost Boys” playing the hits of Bananarama on a massive ghetto blaster in a Reebok Pump factory while playing Hungry Hippos and sucking on push pops. That’s the level of 80’s we’re talking about. You can tell by the threatening title that this regime needs to be taken seriously, so just bare that in mind as we delve in.

I'd love to be able to tell you why Mr. T is dressed as a genie, but it's never made clear.

I’d love to be able to tell you why Mr. T is dressed as a genie in this scene, but it’s never made clear.

So we kick off with pictures of a young T as the titles are playing and… Oh God, Clubber Lang is rapping at me all of a sudden. It does seem that this song has a positive message but he’s just so damn aggressive. It’s like the time he basically threatened me into eating a Snickers bar even though I have a nut allergy and I had to go to hospital. Anyway, we’re shown many clips of what’s to come and I’m already on 80’s overload. Honestly, some of the clothes on show are so bright that it’s like looking directly into the sun. The song is actually quite catchy as the chorus is sung by children, but then T joins in like an angry hype man, shouting “Reach out!” every now and then and it has the same impact as the scene in “Alien” when the Xenomorph appears in the tunnel thing and scares the pants off Tom Skerritt. We’re onto the next verse, “If you don’t wanna be a crazy fool then you better study hard and stay in school”. The man is a lyrical force!

So we finally get to the introduction, let’s see what he’s got to say. “Hey you! You with the teeth! Come over here!” (the camera zooms in on T) “That’s better, now I can see ya!” Okay well, I’ve got teeth, I suppose he must be talking to me then? He goes on to tell us that we know him because he’s famous, but even if he wasn’t famous, he’d still be somebody that garners respect. After saying he’s here to help us, we begin the regime with the first topic to be dealt with being shyness. We join a young girl in the middle of doing a commercial, and as she’s mumbling into the camera, the director is generally being a twat and shouting at her to speak up. Someone needs to tell him that he’s not Lars Von bloody Trier. Anyway, as she continues to fail, he yells for her to just forget it. At this, the girl snaps and shouts back at him, basically telling him to piss off because she’s doing the commercial anyway. The director backs down and tells her to do it whatever way she wants. So what have we learned from this? Well that being generally aggressive gets you what you want. I will be making a list.

Another Mr. T fashion mishap

Another Mr. T fashion mishap

The next issue tackled is roots. We join a group of children sitting around a tree as T tells them how big, tall and beautiful it is (the tree). He then shows them his boots which would be falling apart if it wasn’t for the vast amount of tape covering them and says they used to be his father’s and he wears them because they remind him of home. He also says he wears loads of jewellery because it represents the fact that his ancestors were slaves. Fair enough, I’m not gonna argue with him. Anyway, after the shy girl from before, who seems to have turned into a right brat all of a sudden, tells everybody about where her family are from, all the kids start singing a song about loving each other. What I learned from this segment is to wear loads of bling, crap trainers, and ball ache everyone about where my granny’s from.

Next we tackle frustraion. This is dealt with in a bunch of short segments which span the whole video. In this particular one, T tries to play a cello like a violin and falls off his chair, so I won’t do that then I guess? Anyway, with frustration comes anger, and this is the subject for our next lesson. T and his gang of kids are having a picnic and he’s telling them about how it’s wrong to get angry and stuff until disastrously, a fly appears on the scene and T basically loses it. After destroying most of the picnic in his attempts to catch the fly, he eventually succeeds and he leaves us with the motto “Anger. Use it, don’t lose it”. Next time I’m angry, I’ll be sure to kill a living creature.

Stay cool, Jeff!

Stay cool, Jeff!

Now we come to one of my favourite segments of the video, “Styling”, where Mr. T gives us some fashion tips. This starts out with T saying “Everybody gotta wear clothes. If you don’t, you’ll get arrested”. So that’s where I’ve been going wrong. Thanks T. We then get a fashion show which I really can’t even begin to explain. I may as well just pour brightly coloured paint directly into my eyes at this point. T is commenting as each kid dances in their violently colouful threads saying stuff like “With her mustard socks and her ketchup sash, she’s a real hotdog” My favourite is Jeff, mainly because of his dancing. T comments, “He’s the hippest cat in town, he’s the 80’s nod to 50’s splendour. Stay cool, Jeff!” Honestly, I’m not making any of this up. I’m finding it hard to believe it myself. After a few more dancers, including a girl wearing a Japanese kimono and an English bowler hat, we get another “lesson” on frustration.

So T sits down to play his cello, properly this time, but as he starts to play, the bow immediately slips out of his hand and breaks something off camera. Okay then, onto the thorny issue of peer pressure. A group of kids are on a pier (top visual pun by the way), and one of them finds a can of Bud and a pack of smokes in a bin. Right. So as one young chap looks on in disgust the rest share their findings amongst each other until eventually, they try and pressure the kid into joining in. This is all happening as Mr. T stands a few yards to the left, giving hand signals to the boy meaning not to join in, and Bobby Brown’s New Edition do a song and dance routine a few yards to the right. Eventually the boy decides he’s having none of it and storms off past New Edition leaving the rest to see the error of their ways. Never go hunting through bins.

World class peer pressure.

World class peer pressure.

“Recouping”. Mr. T has now taken the role of a doctor. Dr. T. He shows us a clip of some lad skipping down the street and tripping over as a man walking the other way laughs directly at him. The boy looks embarrassed, but Dr. T seems to have an answer of how “that little brother can recoup”. He shows us what seems to be the same clip, but this time, in a moment of inspirational genius, when the boy trips over he immediately starts breakdancing. As he returns to his feet, the guy this time salutes him as a crowd applaud. The guy then trips over for no other reason than he’s an absolute twat. Dr. T then tells us as he walks around his desk, that we need to recoup like the boy did, but wait, it seems T has somehow forgotten to wear pants today. Oh dear, nevermind, Dr. T has the perfect solution to get out of this pickle, he rips off his doctor’s shirt and starts doing squats. Am I asleep, am I actually dreaming this? So I learnt a lot here. Don’t skip anywhere like a girl, breakdance whenever possible and always wear pants (offensively bright of course).

“Frustration” again and T is playing the cello and it sounds crap. That’s it, that’s all that happens. So it’s on to a segment called greeting and… Oh my God what is Mr. T wearing? No, that’s more worrying than anything. He’s got on a black Adidas tracksuit that stops mid thigh and one of his sleeves is full length while the other is, well, just not there. He’s also wearing boots that go most of the way up his shins, white knee pads, and a weightlifting belt as well as his trademark bling. I’m scared. So he comes across a group of breakdancers and watches them spin around until two girls start teaching him some “poppin'”moves. He’s basically crap and looks genuinely disinterested and confused before just kind of walking off. One of the proper breakdancers grips him however and asks him if he wants a try on the mat, but he just says no and watches them for a couple of minutes before sneaking off. I just can’t fathom what I could even begin to learn from this. What does this have to do with greeting someone?

Hi, is that the fashion police? Yeah, the guy your looking for is in the street now, body poppin'.

Hi, is that the fashion police? Yeah, the guy you’re looking for is in the street now, body poppin’.

So now we come to arguably the highlight of this quite sensational, if not a little bizarre video. That’s right, it’s Mr. T’s “mother” song. The segment is called “Treat Your Mother Right” and starts out with a boy and a girl arguing. This basically entails them taking it in turns as they hit each other with disparaging one liners, “Your so fat they need to jack you up to take off your shoes” for example. it’s when the fat jack girl responds with “Well your mother’s so…” That T quickly intervenes before she can finish. He’s having bloody none of it and tells them that mother’s are brilliant and by putting one down, you’re putting all the mothers in the world down. Just as I begin to try and make sense of that point, the music starts and T is soon rocking a mic he happened to have in his back pocket. He has three female backing singers that are obviously dressed to look like average 80’s American “moms”, and as he sings about such things as pain in child birth and being broke. We see clips of kids generally treating their mothers right, with one chap giving his a massage (his mother). Treat your mother right, check.

“Workout”. T is on the prowl again (in the most illuminous footwear I’ve ever seen) and soon finds some kids sitting on a bench that he can harass. As they’re complaining about having eaten too much junk food, T’s in there like a shot, telling them that they’re destroying their bodies. It’s at this point that I clock his socks and notice that they’re slighly odd, as one is red and stops just above the ankle, and the other is white and pulled right up to his knee. Nothing about this is actually surprising me anymore to be honest. He makes the kids do some weightlifting using their boombox, and squats with a bag of popcorn on their heads. One of the kids is crap though and can’t even lift the stereo and then falls over when trying popcorn squats. T is disappointed and makes them follow him to the park. I guess there isn’t a “don’t go off with strangers” segment in this video then? He gets them doing various excircises as crap kid keeps messing up. He’s also had time to change at some point into like a camouflage P.E teacher outfit. His socks are still all kinds of random though. After forcing the viewers into also exercising, T and the kids run into the sea. The children are still missing to this day.

Listen kids, beware the crazy man who goes around with popcorn on his head. You'll see his footwear a mile off.

Listen kids, beware the crazy man who goes around with popcorn on his head. You’ll see his footwear a mile off.

All the segments so far have had the title appear on the screen at the start with T shouting it as it does so. This next one however has the text “I Am Somebody” as T shouts “Rappin’!”, so I’m not totally sure what this one’s called. Anyway, let’s see what’s going down. Some kids are telling us the importance of rapping as if, well, it was really important. Mr. T’s obviously not too far away and he’s soon over giving it “Rappin’s a way of sayin’ knock knock!”, so the kids respond with “Who’s there?” and T’s all “ME! Now open the door and listen to what I gots to say!”. The man’s a legend. So after T mimes over a basic pre-recorded rap song, I immediately cancel my classical piano lessons and start penning some lyrics. We’re then onto “Friendship” and Ice… I mean Mr. T seems to have bagged himself a teaching gig. He’s telling his pupils about friendship and defines a true friend as someone who’d suck poison out of your big toe if you were bitten there by a snake. At this, someone off camera claims that they’ve just been bitten on the big toe by a snake. What are the chances? So off T goes to help his mate out before we watch some woman on a beach singing a ballad about friendship.

We’re into the final stretch now and “Mr. T’s Tale”. T and a gang of kids are sitting around and one asks him if he was ever in a gang. T says no and starts telling a somewhat familiar tale about a guy called Ricky and a girl called Jackie that lived in seperate parts of town. He soon messes the story up though as little Fergie looks all confused, and the kids demand an explanation, so he comes clean and tells them he copied it from Romeo and Juliet. With this comes one of the world’s greatest ever conversations as he says “The real story is called Romeo and Juliet, and it was written by this English guy named William Shakespear”. A random kid pipes up, “That English dude? I thought he only wrote old time stories”, to which T replies, “No little brother, he wrote a lot of good stuff” before telling everyone that they need to head down to the library and start reading. The video ends with a “Daydreaming” segment that involves little Fergie playing baseball as she dreams she’s in the world series and hits the ball before getting to first base. Well done Fergie, you have a bright future. Mr. T then tells us that he’ll be waiting for us anytime we press that rewind button and we’re done.

Mother. There is no other. Like mother. So treat her right. (actual lyrics)

Mother. There is no other. Like mother. So treat her right. (actual lyrics)

With the running time of this video around the 50 minute mark, I was expecting this to be a pretty short review, but as you can tell, there’s a hell of a lot packed in to it. There was even more segments about frustration, but I found it too confusing and just gave up on them. The lessons are obviously aimed at a certain demographic, because if I went around rapping and breakdancing in school, I probably would have been bullied a lot more, but hey, it seemed to have worked for Fergie. Yeah, it all seems to be teaching children to be loud and noticed rather than, you know, safe or anything, but I’m obviously thinking about how it would be perceived at the time. Now of course, it just looks hilarious and the clothes are bloody mental. If you’re a fan of Mr. T, or a fan of 80’s nostalgia, then this is the video for you. So basically, this is for everyone. It’s on youtube, so when you’ve got an hour spare, give it a whirl, but I would recommend wearing shades. Cheers.

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7 Responses to Be Somebody… or Be Somebody’s Fool! (1984)

  1. emmakwall says:

    This sounds hilarious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Bill Meeker says:

    Absolutely brilliant, Damian! When Yazoo sang “Goodbye Seventies,” they really didn’t know what was coming, did they?

  3. Tom says:

    Jesus Christ. This is just. . .epic. Epic in its hilarity. Epic in its 80s’-ness.

    Favorite line: “So T sits down to play his cello, properly this time, but as he starts to play, the bow immediately slips out of his hand and breaks something off camera. Okay then, onto the thorny issue of peer pressure.” I don’t know why, but that just cracks me up so.

  4. vinnieh says:

    This looks too funny yet cringy.

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