arteejee

A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Sunday Morning Post (V.1, #44): A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood


The term “hero” has become an overused cliché in American history.  Most times it is applied to the memory of those who “acted beyond and above” the call of duty in defense of our country, it’s values, its ideals, the whole nine yards. Usually the above and beyond act involves making someone else die in the defense of their values, ideals, etc., but we don’t dwell on that for very long.

In recent years there was a hero in our midst who did not make anyone die or save the entire world with one mighty act of truth, justice and the American way, etc.  He didn’t cloak himself in a cape, he couldn’t fly without the assistance of a jet plane engine, but God help us, he saved a good portion of us from the badness in the world and ourselves.   His name was Rogers, Fred Rogers.

The 2018 biopic Won’t You Be My Neighbor filled in who he was, how he came to be the host of a long-running children’s television show which somehow thrived on non-commercialism, and the reality of the man inside the zip-up cardigan sweater.  Many of us knew that he was an ordained minister who didn’t shove the gospel of Jesus down his audience’s throats even as he taught us - quietly, calmly - how to cope in the world.  The documentary showed that his world view was largely conservative and he wasn’t quite as progressive as some liberals would have liked him to be, but that’s okay.   Learn the basic values first, then work on any inequities in how they are applied later.

This year, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was released as another slice of the Fred Rogers' story.  It’s not a biopic, but it does show the life, times and mythology of Fred Rogers' persona through the story of investigative reporter Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys).  Vogel is assigned to interview Rogers for a magazine story at a time when his life is in great dishevel.  Yes, he does have a loving wife and beautiful baby son, but he is dealing with old issues involving a father who abandoned him and his mother while she suffered terminal cancer. 
 
Somehow Mr. Rogers picks up on Lloyd’s angst and sets a course to probe deeper.  He helps Lloyd see the self-destruction in his anger and how he himself has the tools to overcome the old feelings.  It won’t be a spoiler to reveal that there is a happy ending to the story.   Father and son, and indeed the whole family, are reunited in time to aid Dad during his final illness.  Even Mr. Rogers shows up with a fresh baked cherry pie.

Granted, Lloyd Vogel is a fictionalized version of Atlantic monthly reporter Tom Junod and the larger story of his familial conflicts may all be make-believe, but the end results of Mr. Rogers helping people is not a myth.  Rogers geared his episodes to small children, but the lessons reached the adults behind the children sitting in the nation’s living rooms.  The film itself is presented as a typical episode of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, starting with and returning to the scale model (HO? N gauge?) of the neighborhood (Pittsburgh) where the show was produced and New York City where Vogel resides and works.  It kept the film grounded in Mr. Rogers' make-believe roots, even as the values the show taught are very real.

Tom Hanks was born to play Fred Rogers.  Only he could recreate the calming persona which Mr. Rogers brought to our lives.  In this regard Mr. Rogers was routinely seen — and ridiculed - as being too good to be true.  Hanks’ performance acknowledges this and manages to show that Fred Rogers was a real human after all.

Real human, real hero.

The Vogel story is, obviously, not the only Fred Rogers success story.  He reached millions of children every day with each episode.  And how many of those children were able to use the lessons he taught later in life?  Much like George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life, we may never know how many lives Mr. Rogers touched or, more to the point, how many lives each of us touch.

Some years ago, a woman was recovering from surgery which, for all intents and purposes, saved her life.  Her husband at the time dealt with her illness and subsequent recovery by plunging back into his career.  The woman felt like she had to face her recovery alone.

As she recovered, the woman watched a lot of television and this involved watching episodes of Mister Rogers Neighborhood.   The episodes made her feel loved, wanted, and special.  She wrote to Mr. Rogers to thank him and was pleasantly surprised to receive a response.
 
Warrior Queen has told me that she still has this letter from Mr. Rogers.  I hope that she will scan it and post it on her blog someday.

(Thank you for reading.  Yes, we really need Mister Rogers now.)

5 Comments:

Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

I haven't seen this movie yet but it is definitely on my "to see" list. And what a wonderful story about Warrior Queen and Mr Rogers!

December 15, 2019 at 12:19 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

I, too,want to see this film, and I, too, got a little teary at the AM story!

December 15, 2019 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger Dave R said...

That's rather touching. Thanks.

December 15, 2019 at 3:12 PM  
Blogger Ur-spo said...

I too thought this quite tender. Thank you for posting it.

December 15, 2019 at 8:10 PM  
Blogger todd gunther said...

Thank you, Debra. The film is worth a look.

Thank you Bob and Dave R. I thought it would be good to include another Mr. Rogers success story.

You're welcome, Spo. And prayers for you and your mother.

December 16, 2019 at 11:53 AM  

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