Quick Hit: A wonderful antidote to our secret heavy society.
Fred “Mr.” Rogers was a man, like any other, that dreamed that maybe the world could be a better place, and he could have something to do with it. He was a trained Presbyterian minister, who grew frustrated with the hustle and bustle of children’s television that glorified slap-stick violence. He saw a void, one that needed to be filled by someone that allowed silence, and time, and treat children with love and, perhaps more importantly, respect. He stepped into that void, filled it to bursting, and created our collective conscience of him as Mr. Rogers, a sweater wearing, slow speaking, man who loved us.
That’s the viewpoint that many have of Rogers. That’s the viewpoint that this documentary puts forth. For those going into the movie looking to hear about Mr. Rogers tattoos and Marine past (both myths that seemed to grow somewhere around the time I was in fifth grade), you’ll leave disappointed. This movie presents Rogers, through the voices of friends, family, and coworkers, pretty much as we saw him on television. That’s because Fred was… different. He was unafraid to be quietly radical, but he also was set straight on a course. WYBMN does this by presenting us with a story told chronologically, that doesn’t dive too far into Rogers’ personal life, but mainly exists around his public persona. There’s nothing wrong with that, and the resulting film is one that may bring you to tears, even if you’ve seen the clips before.
I think the best thing that the film does is that it shows, towards the end of the documentary, that Rogers was a human that has doubts about what he was doing. That void that I talked about in the beginning must have felt so expansive to Rogers as he watched things like 9/11 happened. In a small clip that he is shooting for PBS in order to help give some kids some awareness of the event, he seems defeated and disheartened. And, for those that remember the event, that was the prevailing mood of just about everyone. It was depressing, and so I don’t think it should be that surprising to see even a man we hold on a pedestal struggling with whether he is successful at his goals. But it puts him in a new light, and shadows his pedestal a bit, and shows that he wasn’t just a television persona, but he was a person as well. It’s a powerful moment in a powerful film.
Other highlights are his consistently radical television shows, mentioning, and no kidding here, a WALL around King Friday’s castle, assassination, divorce, and loving yourself. And who doesn’t want to feel loved? It’s something that there just doesn’t seem to be enough on television nowadays – even on public television programming. Let’s start a quiet revolution of love guys. WYBMN gets an “A” from me.
“It's such a good feeling
To know you're alive.
It's such a happy feeling:
You're growing inside.
And when you wake up ready to say,
"I think I'll make a snappy new day."
It's such a good feeling,
A very good feeling,
The feeling you know
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"