Television Depictions of Boys Clothes: Television Themes--Brats/Spoiled Boys

Figure 1.--.

One common theme in American literature and media is that rich kids were spoiled and often dressed in fancy sissy clothes. Dressing spoiled kids in fancy clothes is a very strong theme in American films. This of course reflects America's democratic, egalitarian traditions where candidates brag about being born in log cabins and growing up in poverty. (Few actually did.) We are not sure this theme is as strong in foreign books and media productions.


There have also been many brats/spoiled kids depicted on television. Of course they are not the main family that the sitcom focuses on like Opie on the Anfy Griffith Show or Beaver in Leave It to Beaver. It was always a kid from another family that was the problem. We are most familiar with the American sitcoms here, but assume that there are also some examples from other countries. HBC has a discussion of several TV shows or films that depict brats. Who can forget Master Martin Markham's entry to the Triple R ranch in the debut of the series "Spin and Marty" on the original Mickey Mouse Club show? Riding up in his grandmother's Cadillac he confronts the boys from the ranch right away. The ranch is dirty, and the boys are uncouth, in Master Marty's view. A particularly memorable trio of brats was seen at a private school in the classic British documentary that looked at the lives of seveal individuals every 7 years beginning at age 7.

(The) Andy Griffith Show (US, 19??-??)

On the Andy Griffith Show Opie (Ronny Howard) probably plays the most ideally All American Boy of any TV sitcom. In Andy's home town all the boys wear keans and "t"-shirts, even the brats, although Opie ocassionally wears a suit. Oppie once had to deal with two rotten kids in the 1962-63 season of the series. In the episode "One Punch Opie" Opie has to stand up to an obnoxious bully, "Steve Quincy" (played by Scott Mc Cartor), who's just moved to town and taken over Opie's group. No punches need be thrown; the bully shows himself for what he is when little Opie puts up his dukes--Steve Quincy whines that the Opie and the other boys aren't any fun and walks away. Later, Opie learns a valuable lesson in "Opie and the Spoiled Kid". Ronnie Dapo, who become something of a regular on "Andy Griffith" as a friend of Opie, played an "enfant terrible". Opie picked up the boy's rotten ways, even uncharacteristically throwing a temper tantrum (though not a very believable one!) to try to manipulate Sheriff Andy. In this episode, Barney Fife confiscates the spoiled kid's bicycle after the boy defies Barney's warnings not to ride on the sidewalk. The spoiled kid's father appears at the courthouse with the intention of telling off Andy and retrievng the bike. Opie is there to watch the spoiled kid get his due: the rotten kid says it's fine with him if his dad, responsible for the child's actions, goes to jail. He screams that he just wants his bike back!! The father is taken aback, and Andy suggest that a woodshed out back may the right place to continue the discussion. The dad takes Andy up on that offer. A few seasons later, Opie ended up in the woodshed himself after he and a rotten boy (played by Michel Petit) play a practical joke on Goober.

(The) Beverely Hillbillies (US)

Mr. Drysdale, the banker, receives a visit from his nephew Milby who is also in love with money. He wears the short pants uniform of his exclusive private school. He is so spoiled that he even irritates his uncle.

Leave It to Beaver (US)

Beaver in one episode has to confront a new boy who takes his friends away. A fight ensues. The new boy in this case is a spoiled brat, but dresses like the other boys. As in most American TV sitcoms, the boys in Leave It to Beaver wear long pants--often jeans. Only once, when Aunt Martha visits, does Beaver wear short pants.

Little House on the Prarie (US)

In one episode of Michael Landon's Little House on the Pararie shows up from the Eeat dressed up in a Little Lord Fauntleroy. He is a spoiled kid who has been expelled from school. He is is given over Pa to learn how to behave.

(The) Ransom of Red Chief (US)

A wonderful short story provides a wonderful brat tale. O. Henry, whose immortal "The Ransom of Red Chief" is the tale of two kidnappers who get more than they bargained for when they abduct a child terror who insists on being called Red Chief. They eventually have to pay his parents to take him back. This was made into a TV episode, but I don't recall the series.

Seven Up (UK, 1963)

"We've brought these children together because we wanted a glimpse of England in the year 2000." This was the introduction to Granada's (British TV network) aclaimed documentary series World In Action, filmed in 1963 and titled "Seven Up". The series took the premise of the Jesuit saying "Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man". The producer looked at the lives of 14 children in 1963. The children were all 7 year olds. Initially the program was to be a single show with the 7 year olds. Only later did the idea develop of following the lives of the children every 7 years into adulthood. Boys and girls from a broad spectrum of backgrounds were selected and included children from a range of class, gender and ethnic backgrounds. We first meet them at age 7. And then Granada looked them up every 7 years. They then asked the children a series of thoughtful questions about who they were, what they liked, what they thought of the world around them and most significantly, what there future would be like. The children's responses at age 7 were fascinating and in many cases painfully honest. At that age there was no artiface or effort to hide just what was own their minds. There was no effort to ge humerous respnses from the children as with Art Linkletter. The interviewers, who we never see, and the children are very serious. A particularly memorable trio was interviewed at a private schoolThree of the children are interviewed at their prep (or pre-prep school) in their school uniforms. John, Andrew and Charles, could not appear more posh and snobbish. "I read the Observer and the Times" 7-year old John informs us in a posh accent and then carefully describes his precise path through England's elite private education system. The boys also explain how it is important to keep all the poor children out of their school. I'm not sure where those ideas came from, the school or their parents. Those and other comments proved so embarassing in later years that most of this lot were even embarassed as 14-year olds and didn't want to appear on the series as adults. In many ways their attitudes as they got older were more telling than as 7-years old. At that age they were just parroting ideas that they had picked up from the school or their parents. As they got older they became defensive and evasive. I think that the public would accepted a honest explanation simply saying, yes that was how we thought then, but we and the rest of Britain have moved on. But we never got that from those three.

The Simpsons (US)

One other animated stands out as a bratty kid, but not spoiled. The winner is none other than Bart Simpson of The Simpsons. Precocious and brazen, Bart in many ways epitomizes the modern brat! And Bart, always drawn in T shirt and black shorts, shows how the media's ideas of shorts have evolved over time.

Spin and Marty (US, 1955?)

Who can forget Master Martin Markham's entry to the Triple R ranch in the debut of the series "Spin and Marty" on the original Mickey Mouse Club show? Riding up in his grandmother's Cadillac. He even brought his butler who is of course English. Dressed in a short pants suit, he confronts the boys from the ranch right away. The ranch is dirty, and the boys are uncouth, in Master Martin's view. Fortunately, Marty makes friends with the easygoing and likeable "Ambitious" (quite an ironic nickname!), who helps Marty adjust to life at the Triple R. Not to be disputatious with a fellow contributor, but Marty doesn't wear a shorts suit in the introductory episode of the series. Disney Channel re-runs "Spin & Marty", and in the first episode, Marty shows up in a long trousers suit, light colored and possibly a tweed. He wears a bow tie and a short-brimmed hat that make him appear a bit like a racing track tout. [HBC note: I have not seen "Spin and Marty" since viewing it as a boy on the Mickey Mouse Club when it originally aired. My recollection is that he appeared in dark short pants suit with kneesocks. Apparently I was wrong about this.]


Georgie in the The Magnificent AmbersonsTom Sawyer (the Sid character), and Newly Rich (1931). Another film about a spoiled rich kid is Captain's Courageous (1937) staring Freddy Bartholomew. There are certainly some familiar spoiled brats on recent telelvision sitcoms, It seems that the spoiled brats appearing in films are not on the endangered species list. The spoiled brat theme presents some interesting challenges. While some characters are clearly spoiled rotten, others, shall we say, are variably rancid. Some boys in films are more brash than brat; others are so rotten they're psychotic. A small but growing list of the celluloid spoiled includes the animated, the TV brats, and the film variety. HBC notes that beginning in the 1930's the spoiled rotten kid became a familiar character to America's legions of filmgoers. And what an opportune time this was to introduce these little villains! Americans flocked to the movie palaces to escape the hard times of the 1930's Depression. The eccentricities and la-dee-dah airs of the wealthy were splendid targets for film makers of this age; call it vicarious payback time if you will. No exceptions were made for young snobs, either. They were lampooned just as their elders to the audience's delight.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: March 13, 2002
Last updated: 8:44 PM 7/13/2009