Mr T Wants You To Be Somebody

The star of The A-Team gets his own exhaustingly upbeat VHS video in 1984 aimed at turning kids into conformist narcissists.

Back in 1984, when The A-Team was new and hugely popular, Mr T was the idol of kids everywhere – although he’d previously been a villainous character in films like Rocky III, his tough but loveable character in that show instantly made him a huge star and he soon had his own cartoon series running alongside the A-Team. He was therefore the ideal choice to front a home video that is… well, what is it? A self-esteem booster? A preachy film aimed at keeping kids on the straight and narrow? A general entertainment video? A quick cash-in on T’s fame? Well, yes. It’s all those things and more.

The VHS video release Mr T’s Be Somebody… Or Be Somebody’s Fool opens with Mr T rapping his way through Be Somebody, and it’s quite something to see and hear – you’ll be immediately hooked by this awkward performance that exalts kids to be the sort of entitled, narcissistic brats that we are all so familiar with today. If you want it, the song seems to say, you can have it – and talent or ability be damned. There’s a fine line between encouragement and entitlement, and this seems to cheerfully trample across that with its collection of child actors and models – none of whom exactly seem to be exactly lacking in self-belief – preening their way through the song. We then get Mr T talking directly to us the viewer – or, as he puts it, “you with the teeth”, before carrying on “you know me? Of course you do. That’s because I’m famous” before going on to tell us that we deserve respect (which of course, no one actually deserves without earning it, but that’s by the by) and that if we’re not somebody, we’ll be somebody’s fool. It’s a bit of a garbled message but I guess its heart is in the right place as it encourages kids to avoid peer pressure and instead be themselves – as long as that self is conformist and bland – and to obey their parents. Basically, it’s designed to churn out unquestioning, empty-headed kids who think they are jolly important and it’s relentlessly, tiresomely upbeat.

Popping up to perform are Valerie Landsberg of TV show Fame and pop group New Edition, all of who would quickly learn what it was like to be nobodies of course. The supporting cast of ambitious stage school kids includes future pop stars Fergie, Martika and Shanice, all of who clearly took the message of ruthless ambition to heart. Director Jeff Margolis spent his career making awful TV specials like The Captain and Tenille Songbook and The Beatrice Arthur Special. This is probably his best-known work.

Cynical, world-weary and bitter Reprobate readers will find this both amusing and exhausting – in truth, the novelty wears off after about ten minutes. But it’s definitely worth checking out just for the opening song. I pity the fool who doesn’t at least enjoy that.

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One comment

  1. This is bland but pleasant and inoffensive fare, with the children featured displaying at least a decent modicum of talent, but lo…it actually appears to be a precursor of things to come on the box, reality TV most of all perhaps, where a very lack of talent of any kind, is required to be famous decades later, not an abundance of it.

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