I love Mr. Rogers. As a kid, his show was always my favorite, even over Sesame Street.
I am not sure why. Maybe because I liked the Neighborhood of Make-Believe (as an only child, I have to make-believe a lot). Maybe because I liked the music. But probably biggest reason is that Fred Rogers came off as genuine and kind.
That is why I was so excited to the see the new documentary about Mr. Rogers, ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor’.
And it did not disappoint.
It showed some behind-the-scenes stuff, his family (yes, he was married with 2 boys), and interviews with former cast members. There was a lot of things I didn’t know about the him or the show which is to be expected. But nothing was surprising about it. Why? Because apparently Fred Rogers was real. He was not a facade, he did not put on an act. He was a legitimately kind man who cared about people.
It really is amazing how honest and vulnerable he was. He had shows about the Vietnam War, about divorce, and above death. DEATH!!! Yes, death. On a kid’s show. Talk about honest. He talked about fear, anger, and feeling sad in the most open and vulnerable way I’ve ever seen. He looked foolish in many episodes; dancing, swimming, trying new things he knew he wasn’t good at, yet never felt bad or ashamed about looking ridiculous. God, I wish I had that trait.
However there was one thing that surprised me in the movie; that when Mr. Rogers died in 2004, there were people protesting his life and saying he corrupted the youth of America. Signs at his funeral that said ‘Glad you are dead’ and ‘Mr Rogers loves fags’ were present. Really? Mr. Rogers inspired that much hate in them? I mean you don’t have to agree with his ‘everyone deserves to be loved, even they haven’t accomplished great things’ doctrine. Not sure why, but whatever. Anyway, you don’t need to agree with it, but to build an entire platform about NOT liking this tenet and to then be so passionate about not loving kids for just being a person to go out on TV (aka: Fox News….yes Fox News had these commentaries in 2005. So much for Jesus, huh) and pubically rant about it? There are better battles to fight people. Yes, even Mr. Rogers can’t avoid the hate.
Watch this movie. It is good. It makes you feel good. It makes you want to become a better person. And it restores faith in our world.