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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 45: A Neighborly Day in This Beauty Wood

mister rogers neighborhood!

Would you be mine? Could you be mine?

Last summer Anne and I had the pleasure of seeing the 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, in which filmmaker Morgan Neville extolled the virtues of Fred Rogers and the PBS childhood series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood that was an integral childhood touchstone, surrogate parent, and best friends for millions of American children (e.g. my lovely wife), many of whom are now adults remembering when civility, friendliness, and neighborly love were virtues rather than optional baggage. To be honest, I was more deeply moved by PBS’ own documentary Mister Rogers: It’s You I Like, aired a few months before Neville’s take hit theaters, but both are worthy in their own ways.

A few days ago I may have gotten a little testy in a way that would’ve disappointed Mister Rogers when I noted that the MCC entry about Won’t You Be My Neighbor? earned exactly zero Likes from other WordPress users. Either my writing about the experience was terrible, or, as I joked in partial self-deprecation, “apparently bloggers hate Mister Rogers. Duly noted.”

If my snark was too on-the-nose and you really do consider Mister Rogers to be an enemy of all humankind and kindness to be obsolete hogwash…then this entry isn’t for you either. You’re loved anyway.

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Yes, There’s a Scene During the “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” End Credits

Mr Rogers!

Our lovely spokesmodel Anne introducing today’s feature presentation.

Among the many deficiencies in my childhood, I regret Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was not required viewing in our house. In the days before VCRs, DVR, and the Internet, our family’s TV schedule was strictly divided between myself, my mom, and my grandma. I was allowed to pick stations each weekday morning before 9 a.m., after school, and on Saturday mornings. Sadly, the kindly Fred Rogers had the misfortune of airing opposite Grandma’s soap operas and/or game shows. By the time I discovered him while channel-flipping, I was somewhere in my preteen phase — too old to respond to his low-key gentility, not quite old enough to watch him ironically, and nowhere near the kind of adult who could appreciate what he did or how he connected to millions of other, better-off kids.

My wife Anne, on the other hand, used to watch him all the time. As a youngling she watched him, Sesame Street, and other PBS all-stars all the time. He spoke directly to kids, the Viewers at Home. He wasn’t there to bedazzle them with whimsy or lull them with escapist conflicts or sell them toys. He taught, he explained, he knew, he felt, he sympathized, he loved. For some kids he seemed like the only adult who every really got them, who even tried to get them. He fell just short of absolute godhood, but to many, calling him “father figure” doesn’t begin to describe his impact on their lives.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, then, is a rare instance of Anne taking me with her to the movies for once.

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