Yesterday, as kind of a palate cleanser after “Breath,” we went to see the film “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.” A thoughtful documentary, the movie explores the biography of Fred Rogers, host of the long running American television show “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.” While his program aired after I was grown, he was on television when my daughter was little.
The program was aimed at very young children, and it is clear from the film and the length of time the show ran that many children loved Mr. Rogers. His messages were hopeful and constructive, reminding children that they were loved and valuable just as they were. The show was free of violence, name calling, slapstick humor and meanness.
But at the risk of revealing too much about myself, I confess that I could never stand Mr. Rogers. I spent the hour and a half of the film wondering why and continue to ask myself that question. I think that at a basic level, I don’t trust people who are so very, very nice. That suggests that I have a core place which is always waiting for peoples’ real natures to be revealed, and that I think niceness is a cover for ulterior motives.
This saddens me. I am clear from watching this film that Mr. Rogers was actually a very nice person and that he wanted to convey his trustworthiness to his viewers. But that wary child within me kept waiting for the REAL man to emerge. So no; I didn’t want to be his neighbor.