10 Lessons Kids Can Learn From Brutus

As a result of a bit of legal confusion, the main villain and rival for Olive Oyl’s affections in short Popeye animated films was the dual-monikered Bluto/Brutus. With his consistently bad behavior and oafish ways, generations of young viewers have learned many lessons in how not to act from watching Brutus in action. Here are ten things that kids can still learn from Brutus, three-quarters of a century after Popeye’s birth.

  1. A Subtle Approach is Often More Effective – When it comes to matters of the heart, it’s best to approach the situation with a gentle touch and and subtle treatment. Young viewers of Popeye shorts can pick up very easily that the Brutus’ method of kidnap might not be the best way to win a young lady’s affections.
  2. Brawn Over Brains Usually Ends in Failure – Young fans of Popeye cartoons know that, while it’s nice to have physical power, it’s best to have a solid plan and the ability to think on your feet. Watching Brutus react with only his strength is a great example of how it’s best to think first and then act.
  3. Nice Guys Don’t Always Finish Last – Seeing Brutus lose his contest with Popeye over Olive Oyl’s affection is proof that, despite the cliched popularity of the phrase, nice guys don’t always finish last.
  4. Some People Just Never Learn – Brutus often kidnaps and holds Olive Oyl for ransom; viewers know that her chances of avoiding such mishaps would be greatly reduced if she stopped giving the clearly violent Brutus chance after chance.
  5. Persistence Doesn’t Always Pay Off – While it’s certainly an admirable characteristic when someone’s aims are noble, kids watching Brutus’s attempts to woo Olive Oyl fail time and time again know that being persistent isn’t always smart; sometimes, you just can’t win.
  6. Beware the Fair-weather Friend – In some shorts, Brutus is depicted as pretending to be Popeye’s friend before eventually double-crossing him. For kids, the lesson about being cautious in the company of fair-weather friends comes across loud and clear.
  7. A Little Research Goes a Long Way – Young Popeye fans can definitely learn the power and necessity of thorough research from the Brutus/Bluto naming debacle. Just a brief bit of checking would have shown studio heads that changing the well-known villain’s name was unnecessary; because they chose not to do so, the confusion continues.
  8. Villainy is Unoriginal – The message about the banality and unoriginal nature of villainy is rarely more explicitly stated than in the Popeye episodes in which Bluto encounters many identical villains by the name of Brutus in a send-up of the name change and triteness of bad behavior.
  9. There’s a Little Brutus in Everyone – Even the best of us have our nasty sides; this is expressed in a way that even young viewers can understand by Popeye animators. In shorts without Brutus, any other enemies share many of his characteristics and mannerisms.
  10. Littering is Wrong – Forced into participation by Popeye, Brutus and his filthy habits help kids understand that pollution and littering are wrong in a series of popular public service announcements.

The Brutus character is a good reminder that kids do learn positive lessons from both the villains and heros in these wonderful old classics where the good guy always wins.