Movies: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Oh, man. It's difficult to make me cry (unless there are animals involved), but I bawled through a lot of this documentary about Fred Rogers' efforts to reach children with his message of how they all have value. Like many kids growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, I spent my fair share of time in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. I'm very sorry my kids were born just a wee bit too late to learn from him, too. Mr. Rogers was soothing, comforting, understanding. I believe his methods inform the way I speak to my children even today. Why, just yesterday I spoke to my youngest about how it's okay to be angry—normal, in fact—but the important thing is what we do with that anger. Mr. Rogers taught us that it's okay to make mistakes, something I think our society forgets far too easily.

WYBMN? focuses specifically on Rogers' mission, his television work. It's very well done and interviews a number of family members, cast and crew, and friends. It also makes extensive use of archival footage so that Rogers speaks for himself via old interviews as well.

That said, I'm not sure I learned anything about Rogers that I didn't already know or suspect. That he was more or less exactly how he came across on television, a good and caring person—that's nice to know, I think, because it allows me to maintain my faith in him and every lesson he instilled in me as a child. Still, I might've liked to hear about his childhood or family life, but that was beyond the purvey of this documentary.

The world could use a few more Fred Rogers, but alas, he was sui generis. He knew we had it in us to be better, but I fear we've let him down.

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