Returning to the imaginary world of Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood

Heidi Larson and Heidi Larson

I want to retreat to the neighborhood. Not my neighborhood exactly, but a place from my childhood: Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. With all the tragic news recently, I need a break. Sexual harassment abounds. Russian spies were poisoned with a nerve agent. If it wasn’t for the self-driving car death, I would think we were going back in time! And then there are the repeated school shootings. What is happening to America? I wonder what Mr. Rogers would say. There’s a new trailer out for a documentary about him, called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” The documentary is by Morgan Neville. According to Deadline.com, on the eve of his latest Sundance Film Festival debut for “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”  he said, “I’ll tell you, when I started, documentaries were the spinach of filmmaking, and now they’re the cool kids… The kind of freedom we have as filmmakers now, whether in terms of getting funding or just distribution, has just made it night and day from where it was even 10 years ago.”

If you want to find the exact trailer it’s “WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? – Official Trailer [HD] – In Select Theaters June 8” posted by Focus Features on YouTube March 20, 2018. As I write this, the trailer is on the trending page. The consensus on the internet is that you have to try not to cry while you watch it. I embraced the nostalgia and watched the trailer showing vintage clips of Mr. Rogers sometimes with dark hair and other times with silver hair, but always wearing his standard combination of slacks, button down, tie and sweater. His warm, familiar voice speaks slowly and carefully, as he patiently interacts with kids.

Fred Rogers encouraged kindness and love, and we sure need to hear that message today. Neville explains, “Fred was a Republican pastor. To him these weren’t liberal values, they were Christian values, and I think that’s what interests me. What I liked about Fred is we all watched Fred before we were Republicans or Democrats, before we had any labels attached to us. In a way a character like Fred Rogers takes us back to who we were at our inception to kind of speak the first principles about how we should treat each other. You know, everything was informed by his faith, and I think we’re in a time now where I think it’s an interesting discussion to be had about what is the Christian thing to do.” If you’d like to see “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” it’s coming out this summer. Let’s all remember to be neighborly.