In a recent Parenting column in the Washington Post, writer Mary Petersen wrote, “ There’s a lot of talk about Mister Rogers these days — and intertwined with all of the current chatter is the implied message that the original “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” series, while loved and appreciated by adults, is part of a bygone era and would never fly with today’s iPad-loving, Fortnite-obsessed youth. “
The story went on to tell about how her younger kids watched some recorded episodes she was reviewing and they couldn’t stop watching. When she asked them why they replied “Kids know when a grown-up likes them. When we watch him, there’s no noise. You don’t have to worry about anything.”
That explained everything. In a world of with so much noise, kids value calm sincerity. We often forget how much we all enjoy the same things regardless of differences between culture or opinion. Everyone loves a quiet day or the feeling of warmth from the sun.
Last year the documentary, ‘ Won’t You Be My Neighbour ‘ played at Sundance and here in Nelson.
It conveyed the history and impact of Fred Rogers career. After pioneering his show while working in Toronto with the CBC in 1961 he returned to Pittsburgh and the show ran nationally from 1968 to 2001. The footage of his talk to US Congress about feelings gave it extra weight for today’s political climate.
Mister Rogers listened to kids and encouraged them to ask questions, and even though it was geared to two to five-year-olds, it was marketed as ‘appropriate for all ages ‘. Anyone can appreciate the message of calm and kindness, sometimes it is the adults that need it most because life can move fast and if you don’t take a minute to breathe you’ll be overwhelmed.
The movie gives us a timely story of kindness triumphing over cynicism. It follows the story of a real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and a jaded magazine writer, Tom Junod. The journalist is assigned a profile of Fred Rogers, and over time he learns about himself, about empathy, kindness, and decency.
His article ‘ Can You Say… Hero’ ran in Esquire in 1998.
In a Vogue magazine article the actor suggested that “ when Fred Rogers first saw children’s programming, he saw something that was cynical. That you are not cool because you don’t have this toy, that it’s funny to see somebody being bopped on the head, that hey, kids be the first in line in order to get blah, blah, blah.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood offers lessons for adults in today’s world. The idea of action, action, action has become so ingrained in our minds that when we are met with as simple a message as hey, you know what, it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, [it’s a reminder] that we are allowed . . . to start off feeling good.”