MOVIE REVIEW: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

A new documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, deals with one of children’s televisions most important figures.

In the late 1960s and throughout his career and life, Fred Rogers, a kids’ television host on PBS, affectionately known as “Mr. Rogers,” faced many challenges, including getting funding from Congress and tackling big issues with kids like death and divorce.

Mr. Rogers’s show was special to kids because all it was was a neighborhood full of puppets and nice people, rather than a cartoon action show. Surprisingly, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was very successful.

Part of the appeal was that Mr. Rogers focused on the kid now, and not what he/she would become. He also expressed problems that children face through music. Those are some of the elements what made the show so popular.

Mr. Rogers broke barriers through episodes such as the one where he shared a pool with a black man, seeking to combat racism in the next generation. Later, he told kids that they were safe after they witnessed the Challenger space shuttle blow up in the sky. He would end every show by telling the kids that he thinks they are special and loved.

Outside of his phenomenal show, Mr. Rogers was a loving father and husband. One of his kids even called him the “Second Jesus.” He was always slow to get angry and when he would have something angry to say, he would say it in a puppet voice to try to ease the blow and separate himself from the conflict.

Towards the end of his life, Mr. Rogers talked kids through the 9/11 terrorist attacks and spent time with his family in retirement. After his death in 2003, he is still remembered as a television pioneer that touched so many children’s lives.

I thought this movie was one of the best documentaries I have seen, but it did not go into a lot of detail of Mr. Rogers’ life outside of his show. I did not watch Mr. Rogers as a kid, so this movie would mean more to the older generation. It was still a great and meaningful movie.