An exploration of the life, lessons, and legacy of iconic children’s television host, Fred Rogers.
Not everyone was so fortunate to have seen Mr. Fred Rogers on television. If you described Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood to a kid today, I fear she or he might scoff at you. Maybe it’s because the show’s values were a little too clean or nice. Maybe it’s the eccentricity; the puppets, the off-kilter sets. Maybe it’s because being a part of a neighborhood – a community, to use the frequented buzz-word – is a tad too idealistic.
The documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? brings the conversation right back around. We simply must talk about subjects like the neighborly, the compassionate, and above all, the empathy of humanity. Fred Rogers embodied much of that in his program, and what makes the film so much more selfless is that it really isn’t about the man, Mr. Rogers, at all. It is about time spent with the show and what the show was meant to convey to the world in an inherently evangelical way.
Even when the film conveys a modest amount of information in a running time that feels ever-so-slightly long, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is captivating. When it comes to Mr. Rogers, what you see turns out to really be what you get. A puppet master and a man of imagination, he isn’t just donning masks to entertain children. They are deeply part of his person, and he takes these gifts with him as he encourages deep empathy. The show, and Rogers’ legacy, is to show kindness in everyday life. With so much socio-political turmoil to be concerned with today, a neighbor demonstrates how the curtain can easily drop and show absolute kindness to those around us, whether it be welcoming others into our homes and lives or sharing silences and experiencing deep, unadulterated solitude.
The Dove Take
Fred Rogers embodies so much of the best of humanity, even when he could not see it himself. His empathy for any person in any situation – not just children, but adults too – is so Christlike that the film was absolutely meant to be seen and appreciated by Dove viewers. With only some minor language to be mildly concerned about, Dove awards Won’t You Be My Neighbor? approval for Ages 12+.