Thursday, September 27, 2018
Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Inspired by The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers, I decided to track down the Mister Rogers documentary I had been hearing about. It was showing one-day only at my local theater so I texted some friends and we met up for a 1:00pm showing of Won't You Be My Neighbor? I loved it. To see and hear what he was trying to accomplish with his show, his dedication to creating programming that treated children with respect, kindness, and honesty was wonderful. As a child, I enjoyed the show and remembering feeling calm and safe while watching it. I remember the satisfaction I felt watching Mister Rogers change into his sweater and sneakers. I remember how transported I felt when the trolley traveled to the Land of Make Believe. I loved when Mister Rogers went on field trips. I loved the opening credits with the aerial view of the neighborhood. What the documentary drove home to me was how hard Mister Rogers worked to acknowledge the fears and anxieties of children, to address current events/tough topics in ways that could be helpful, and to send the message over and over again that each child is worthy of love just as he/she is. I was pretty much weeping by the end of it. There were not many (or any?) dry eyes in the theater. Even my friend who grew up in Mexico and did not have a childhood that included Mister Rogers enjoyed this documentary. It's available now to buy on Amazon or rent/stream as well so please do check it out.
One more thing that struck about Won't You Be My Neighbor? was Fred Rogers' concern about what the long-term effects of children's television programming would be, particularly the programs centered around violence, frenzied pacing, cheap gags and jokes, and the demeaning of others. That concern gave me pause as the bratty kids, bumbling parents, and abysmal writing on many of the shows on Disney, Nick, etc. now seem the least of our concerns with the new influences of social media, YouTube, XBox. I'm not saying there aren't good things our kids are absorbing these days (or good things they could be absorbing), but there's just so much out there and so much we don't know about the messages they are receiving. I need to take more ownership of what messages my kids hear most powerfully.
Going to see a documentary is one of those things that I would typically think about doing but never follow through on. I'm so glad I tracked down the movie time, sent the text, and enjoyed this experience with others. Bonus: We saw Won't You Be My Neighbor? at the York Theatre in Elmhurst, IL. If you attend an Art at York film (it's a once, sometimes twice a month series), you can show up thirty minutes early and enjoy live organ music played on an organ that rises up from the floor of the theater. So fun! How'd you like to have that in your neighborhood?