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Won’t you be my Neighbor?

In Uncategorized on June 26, 2018 at 23:24

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Mr. Rogers Converts this Cynic: A Review of ‘Won’t you be my Neighbor?’

As a kid, I never like Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. It was too cloying for me, even in my youth. I was more of a Bugs Bunny fan. I loved that smart-alecky wascally wabbit. The thing is, Mr. Rogers would have been totally okay with that. He would have sat with me for a real conversation and made it clear that he liked me just the way I was. He would have even learned why I liked the rabbit, just by listening. I liked Bugs because he stood up for himself and used his smarts. Mr. Rogers did that too in his own, quiet way.  

If the film industry wants a cure for what ails them, they don’t have to look further than documentaries. ‘Notorious RGB’ about the life of Ruth Bader Ginsberg has already grossed $10 million in theaters on a $6 million-dollar budget. By the time the film goes to streaming and online sales, that will be large profit margin indeed. Last year’s outstanding ‘I am not your Negro.’ It garnered $7.7 million dollars for a film about a far more controversial figure, James Baldwin, on a budget of $1 million dollars. ‘Won’t you be my Neighbor’ was release two weeks ago and has over $4 million in sales. Wait until those that grew up with Mr. Rogers Neighborhood get a chance to buy the DVD or the digital download. That will push it over the top. 

 

In all seriousness, fans of the Neighborhood will not be disappointed. The documentary uses the standard techniques of interviews with people who survived Fred Rogers and archival footage of his show, appearances in interviews, and during speeches. Like the show itself, the film deals with hard issues, but leaves us optimistic. 

On Roger’s show, he dealt the assassination of RFK. He did a whole week on death. He also addressed racism by making his Neighborhood diverse as a matter of course. When whites in certain communities were kicking out black kids from their white’s only pools, Rogers had his black friend, Officer Clemmons, share a foot bath with him in a child’s wading pool. Any white kids who liked Mr. Rogers had a chance to learn by example that it was okay to be in a pool with black people. 

Mr. Rogers sincerely recognized that everyone is special, and that enraged some conservative. They attack the idea of the innate value of all humans, believing that promoted the idea that “people should get something for nothing.” That wasn’t what he was saying. He was telling us to love thy neighbor, and conservatives who pretend to be Christians couldn’t be bothered to act like one or have compassion for others. By the way, Rogers was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. 

After seeing the film, this cynic is left wondering during these troubled times, WWFRD. 

Rating: Pay Full Price
Even if you weren’t a fan of his show or never heard of him, this film is a revelation. You might learn something and be less cynical. 

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