Thursday, 9 June 2016

Nerdversity Reviews: Be Somebody or Be Somebody's Fool

It's no surprise that Mr.T is a pop culture phenomenon. From his days as a bouncer and bodyguard to the stars. To his famous role as Clubber Lang in Rocky III, to his role as BA Baracus in A-Team, as well as WWF appearances, he's widely known by many generations of pop culture fans. At the peak of his career in the mid 80s, MCA released a motivational VHS tape, LP and book called Be Somebody or Be Somebody's Fool

The VHS tape was made as a motivational video aimed at children to help them lead a better life. Mr.T hoped to help them with everyday problems they encountered, from helping them with confidence issues, to avoiding peer pressure, to even treating their mothers right and even teaching kids that reading can be fun. It runs for about 50 minutes, so lets take a look at the segments and what they entail:

Our first segment is called Shyness. In this segment a young girl who is shy is filming a commercial and is constantly being berated by the director. This continues for a little longer until she finally snaps, yells at the director in a Cowardly Lion style rant about not being shy. She leaves the set, leaving the director stunned and speechless.

This is followed up by a segment called Roots. In this Mr. T tells the kids about his origins, includig showing his duct taped boots that were given to him by his father. He also mentions that his gold chains and hair style are modeled after Mandika warriors from Africa that were bought over as slaves. The segment goes into a song by Kids Incorporated about celebrating your roots. 

The next segment is Frustration (Part 1), In this short segment, we see Mr. T wearing a tux with a cello. He sits down in the chair and then tries to play it like a violin, resulting in him falling off his chair. 

The next segment, Anger, teaches kids to channel their anger into something productive. It uses comedy as a way of getting the message across, as Mr.T is enjoying a picnic and teaching kids how to control his anger, as he's being harassed and annoyed by a buzzing fly. His first swat lands his fist in the potato salad. He tries again to swat the fly, only to get potato salad all over his face. He gets increasingly angrier, swatting at the fly wildly with a newspaper, until he calms down and breathes. He then catches the fly ala Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid. He imparts this wisdom: "Anger - Use it, but don't lose it"

The Styling Segment really shows it's datedness and pure comedy. In it, Mr.T teaches kids NOT to wear brand name clothing, as Bill Blass wouldn't wear a t-shirt with your name on it, so instead of wearing brand name clothing to follow trends, make your own styles.

Another short segment in Frustration (Part 2). Mr.T has finally recovered from falling off of his chair and is now ready to play his cello properly, when instead of playing it normally, the strings launching the bow across the room.

Peer Pressure is one of the more interesting aspects of the VHS. In this segment, which features a group of children who find beer and a packet of cigarettes. They begin smoking and drinking, much to the annoyance of T. The rest of the segment features Bobby Brown and New Edition performing a song about peer pressure, as well as not smoking or drinking. 

The next segment is one that features Dr.T. The segment is called Recouping, which is T's way of saying, how do you recover from an embarrassing failure? in the segment, a kid in a jumpsuit trips in the middle of the street. Instead of admitting he fell over, he turns it into a breakdancing move. It's in the same vein as when Pee-Wee Herman fell off his bike and said "I meant to do that". The segment ends when a stage hand reminds T that he's not wearing pants, so he "recoups" by throwing off his jacket and and doing squats in his underwear.

In Frustration (Part 3), T has recovered his bow and sits down to play his cello, but realises he can't play as he just makes a horrible screeching noise.

The Creating segment couldn't be anymore 80s if it tried. Mr.T meets with some breakdancers on a street corner and watches them. They bring T into the dancing and they try and teach him some basic moves like The Robot and the Moonwalk, We see more of the breakdancers pulling off more complex moves as Mr.T walks off

Treat Your Mother Right first made it's way onto the internet in 2005. In this segment, we are greeted with 2 kids arguing and insulting each other. After we get to one of the kids insulting the mother, T steps in to teach us that treating our mothers right is the best way to go with a song, that was written by rapper Ice-T. The lyrics to the song are:

Treat her right
Treat your mother right
Treat her right
Treat her right
There is no other
Like Mother
So treat Her right
I always Love Her
My Mother
So treat Her right, treat Her right
M is for the moan, and the miserable groan
from the pain that She felt when I was born
O is for the oven with it’s burnin’ heat
where She stood makin’ sure I had something to eat
T is for the time that She stayed up at night
and took my temperature when I wasn’t feelin’ right
H is for the hard earned money She spent
to keep clothes on my back and try to pay da’ rent
E is every wrinkle I put on Her face
and every worry that I caused when I stayed out late
The last letter R is that She taught me Respect
and for the room up in Heaven that I know She’ll get
She’s a Queen
Second to none
Take care of Mother
You only get one

The next segment on the video is Workout. This segment really revolves around humiliating fat people. It opens with kids sitting on a bench stuffing their faces with junk food. T is understandably upset about this teaches the kids that the world is a gym. To prove it, he lifts a boombox, which the fat kid can't. Mr.T then proceeds to do squats with a bag of popcorn on his head. The fat kid tries and falls over. T takes the kids to train at the park and we see the fat kid fails at going down slides, sliding down a pole and even using a swing set. The scene jumps to a beach, where T ups the humiliation factor by poking the kid in the belly all Pilsbury Dough Boy style and then we see the kid fail at basic calisthenics. It's T's attempt to get kids out working out and trying to make it fun.

In Frustration (Part 4), T sits down to play his cello. This time, an angry neighbour bangs on the floor at the noise, which causes part of the ceiling to fall on his head, covering T in plaster and dust,

In this segment called I am Somebody (or Rapping), T and the kids teach us that everyone has a rap inside of them, but we don't all work on it. Rapping is our signature. T raps about his life in the ghetto, along with the other problems the world faced in 1984. At the end, he tells kids to go and make their own raps.

The next segment, Friendship, T explains what friends should be. In his words, a true friend is someone who'd be there to suck the poison out of your big toe if you ever got bitten by a snake. The next part of the segment is a song by Valerie Landsberg from Fame, singing a song about friendship.

The final part of the Frustration series, Part 5, deals with Mr. T finally sitting down with an umbrella on his cello. He starts to play and we find out his a maestro at it. At the end, he tells us to never give up.

The next segment is called Mr. T's Tale. In this one, one of the kids asks T if he's ever been in a gang. After answering, he tells a story of Ricky and Jackie, star crossed lovers from rival gangs. As if one couldn't tell, it's West Side Story/Romeo and Juliet. The segment ends with T telling us that Shakespeare wrote some good stories and we should read more.

In the final segment, Daydreaming, we join a bunch of kids playing a baseball game. A young girl is at bat and fluffs the first pitch. She begins to daydream that it's the bottom of the 9th and the game changing pitch that could win the world series. Even though she swings high at a ball and only gets a single off of it, T tells us "daydreaming - if you can imagine it, you can be it".

The video ends with Mr.T telling us that that he'll see us again, real soon and that we should rewind the tape and watch it again. Overall, this is an interesting piece of pop culture history. A unique PSA and motivational tape aimed at children. Though it really is a product of it's era and hasn't aged well. Watching it back now, there's no getting round that it's very dated and none of the messages really apply in today's modern society. However, it hasn't been officially released on DVD since. If you are interested in watching it, the full video can be found here.