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March 17, 2013 9:11 AM   Subscribe

To commemorate the anniversary of his birthday on March 20th,'s Brendan McGinley has put together a remarkably touching collection of facts about the influence and importance of Mister Fred Rogers. [previously] posted by quin (43 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
That a ridiculous jacket. I love Mister Rogers. I love Arsenio Hall. I'm glad someone decided to have those two sit down. I have many fond memories with Mister Rogers. And if I'm channel surfing and I stumble upon an episode, I stop and play out the rest. Such a wonderful man with such a simple message: be kind.
posted by Fizz at 9:22 AM on March 17, 2013

Only meta-related, but I've been shockingly impressed with Cracked recently; I used to think of it as a shitty SEO list repository and now I think of them as a genuinely thoughtful, nuanced list repository with some really interesting points about media and stuff.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:25 AM on March 17, 2013 [16 favorites]

My best memory is—and will likely remain—getting a tour from Fred Rogers at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum when I was five or six. He and the Neighborhood Trolley would have been all I had thought about anyway while I was there: it was a miracle to have him actually come along on ours. Afterward I told him that he talked or sounded like my grandma, and he said something to the effect of, "I consider myself a lucky man." (I hope still that he realized I meant it as the highest compliment. I think he did.)

For a couple years after he died, you would still see, dotted about a few roads in Allegheny County, local businesses commemorating him on their signs and bulletins, and I always felt the loss whenever I went past. No death of an artist or celebrity has ever hit so hard. Tove Jansson's came close, when I heard (a little late) that she'd gone, but Mr. Rogers always felt like he had given himself to me. I imagine millions of others felt the same way.
posted by mcoo at 9:26 AM on March 17, 2013 [10 favorites]

Well, I signed the We The People petition suggesting that March 20th be Fred Rogers Day.

Anyone else?
posted by Samizdata at 9:31 AM on March 17, 2013 [11 favorites]

Mister Rogers and I never met, but he loved me. And he loved you, too.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:36 AM on March 17, 2013 [14 favorites]

Faint of Butt: "Mister Rogers and I never met, but he loved me. And he loved you, too."

I suspect he loved anyone and everyone.
posted by Samizdata at 9:39 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Except for that one kid. You know the one I am talking about. No one liked that kid. Not even Mister Rogers.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:41 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also now I've actually read the whole article and I wasn't particularly expecting it to but it made me cry a whole bunch.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:41 AM on March 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

My DVR is slowly being overtaken by saved episodes of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, 17 hours and counting.

It's worth it, though, to hear my five year old say "Bye bye, Mr. Rogers" to the tv. If Fred Rogers can keep working his magic in this generation, that's a very good thing.
posted by ambrosia at 9:44 AM on March 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

Hm. We all love Mr. Rogers, but I didn't particularly care for the writing style, especially the terrible "Virtue Unlocked" section endings.
posted by JHarris at 9:46 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Metafilter loves Mr. Rogers

Which is one of the reasons I love Metafilter.
posted by dchrssyr at 9:52 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love Mr. Rogers, the memory of Mr. Rogers, the fact that the Internet so frequently bends over backwards to heap praise on Mr. Rogers, and the fact that he seemed to just be an excellent human and citizen 24 hours a day no matter what... but I would REALLY like to see footage of what it must have been like for him to answer zillions of letters personally. It seems like that should be in violation of some physical laws.
posted by SharkParty at 10:04 AM on March 17, 2013

He is an ongoing reminder of how good somebody can be, and I am always chagrined at how far I fall from a standard of compassion and decency that he set and I respect and I aspire to. But I am chagrined in a useful way -- every contact with Mr. Rogers and his legacy reminds me of what I aspire to, and causes me to renew that goal.

Oddly, I didn't watch him that much as a child. He has had far more of an influence on me as an adult. I liked him when I was a child. As an adult, I love him.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:07 AM on March 17, 2013 [13 favorites]

I used to live across the street from Mr. Rodgers (yes, I lived in his neighborhood), in my dorm at Carnegie Mellon. Whenever we needed a drink in the afternoon, which was usually every day, we would play the Mr. Rodgers drinking game. We would raise our shot glasses to his big residential tower outside of the window. Note from experience: never pick a drinking phrase with the word "friend" in it.
posted by waytoomuchcoffee at 10:08 AM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

By the way, I had this book when I was a boy. One of the photos of in it is of my brother Gregory; I am not sure precisely why this happened.

But it shows the great range of his reach. In the Middle West of America, in the 1970s, a suburban family has one of their boys in one of his books. How many degrees of separation do we all supposedly have from each other? Six? I suspect, if you are an American child who grew up during Mr. Roger's lifetime, your degree of separation from him is more like two or three degrees.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:14 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Actually, I could imagine a new civilization rising out of an apocalyptic wasteland a la Canticle for Liebowitz, with the teachings of Mr. Rogers as the ethical foundation for a new world-historical religion.
posted by jonp72 at 10:19 AM on March 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

In 1997, he won a Daytime Emmy, because for some reason they didn't just divide those evenly between Mr. Rogers and Muppets.

That's about all that needs to be said on that subject there. Perfect.
posted by barnacles at 10:26 AM on March 17, 2013

Oh, man, the Koko video is so great, but it's the child who said he was already dead that really makes my heart hurt. I can't imagine raising a child today without Mr. Rogers.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:38 AM on March 17, 2013

Well, I signed the We The People petition suggesting that March 20th be Fred Rogers Day.

posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:43 AM on March 17, 2013

Well, I signed the We The People petition suggesting that March 20th be Fred Rogers Day.

Anyone else?

Reading the article, I was thinking that there needed to be a We The People petition to do that. Good to know there already is one. Signed.
posted by kafziel at 10:45 AM on March 17, 2013

. . . If Mr. Rogers were pushing a boulder up a hill, I guarantee it would end with the boulder tearfully admitting that it had been abandoned by its father.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:50 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, I signed the We The People petition suggesting that March 20th be Fred Rogers Day.

Uh-oh, Fox News isn't going to like that.
posted by homunculus at 10:58 AM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I used to use, "Did you like Mister Rogers when you were little?" as a dating compatibility question when I was out with a guy. It didn't really matter if he did, or did not, like my favorite neighbor, but if there was a comment along the lines of "child molester/creepy" thrown in there, I was done. I think being able to see genuine goodness in another person without cynicism says a lot about someone. And Mister Rogers was the most genuinely good person I ever "knew".

I grew up a few miles from Fred Rogers' boyhood home in Latrobe, PA, and knowing that he sort-of really was my neighbor was thrilling as a kid. There are few people in this world I love so much that I can't put it into words, and Mister Rogers is one of them. If I could be even a fraction as loving and kind and accepting as Fred, I would feel I had lived a very good life.
posted by peacrow at 11:05 AM on March 17, 2013 [7 favorites]

Well, I signed the We The People petition suggesting that March 20th be Fred Rogers Day.

As did I.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:06 AM on March 17, 2013

peacrow, that's a great dealbreaker question. My partner grew up in the 50's, and has fond memories of Miss Frances who was sort of a precursor to Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:11 AM on March 17, 2013

Uh-oh, Fox News isn't going to like that.

It always amazes me how much vitriol there is for the idea that you were born a good and worthwhile person, particularly from the religious right.

As a pastor friend of mine says: "God don't make junk."
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:26 AM on March 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

I truly believe that Fred Rogers is a bodhisattva. Don't worry, he'll be back.
posted by frodisaur at 11:39 AM on March 17, 2013 [26 favorites]

I truly believe that Fred Rogers is a bodhisattva. Don't worry, he'll be back.
posted by frodisaur at 11:39 AM on 3/17
[1 favorite −] Favorite added![!]

If I were a religious person, I'd be inclined to think that Mister Rogers was a Devine being sent to us to teach us how to be nice to one another. As it is, as someone who doesn't believe in Higher Powers, I'm pretty skeptical that he wasn't.
posted by gc at 12:01 PM on March 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

There's an actor I worked with once, who's one of my facebook friends now - and far and away the most "liked" photo he's ever posted of himself is a picture of him at age four (I hope that link works), with Mr. Rogers pointing something out to him. He said that he was in the same preschool class as Mr. McFeely's daughter in Pittsburgh, and once when they were on a class trip to the Carnegie Museum of Art, they unexpectedly ran into Mr. Rogers, there on his own day off. He joined them for the rest of their trip, pointing things out to them and asking them what they liked and just hanging out and talking about art with them.

His father later went on to work for PBS in Pittsburgh, and he remembers visiting Mr. Rogers' Studio now and then - he remembers doing 9th Grade algebra homework once while sitting under X the owl's tree, and also reports that Mr. Rogers had two smaller-scale copies of his own office chair in his office, so if kids came to visit they could have an equally important-looking chair to sit in.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:12 PM on March 17, 2013 [17 favorites]

Making Fred Rogers into a divine figure creates the same kind of problem that making Jesus into one does: it encourages people to think of him as superhuman, as opposed to just human, and thus the acts he filled his life with are something to aspire to, rather than just do.
posted by JHarris at 2:14 PM on March 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

Fred Rogers spent hours in prayer every day. He prayed -- daily -- for people that he'd met as he walked through his life. He lived one of the kindest lives I've ever heard of, and one of the most honest, and one of the most decent. He's the best advertisement for prayer, one for another, that I have seen in my lifetime.
posted by dancestoblue at 3:20 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think what awes us adults who know of him (besides the fact that as kids, for many of us he was the only person to give us reliable assurances of our worth as human beings), is that it's only now, as adults, we can see exactly what he was trying to gently teach us. Of course he knew what it was like to be angry, to have things not go his way, to experience setbacks, to want to be selfish. We know that he knew because his songs and stories would show the characters he created living and working through these things. He was showing us that we had choices in how to process our emotions; that we had choices on how to temper and re-direct our baser instincts. Sounds like church or temple or mosque. But how high-falutin' and impersonal for most of us were services as kids? We'd've rather watched TV, right? Well, then, he was going to bring his message to where we were. No dogma necessary, because what he was teaching wasn't about religion, but about being human.

I have to say, I was one of those people who grew up needing and loving his work as a small child, only to become cynical of him as a teen, because life was hard and people were nasty, so who cares? My fave SNL sketch as a teen? Mister Robinson's Neighborhood. I'd joke that my fave Mister Roger's character was Lady Elaine Fairchilde, 'cause she was in your face about how awesome she was.

As a young adult, I watched his shows again for my TV classes at university, and his method was laid bare. I was amazed at how well he did his job. And don't fool yourself, he ran that set, OK? I learned that Mr. Rogers did all the voices in the Land of Make-Believe, including that of Lady Elaine Fairchilde. If any of you recall her character, as awesome as she was, how many times did she have to learn not to be self-centered?

Mr. Rogers wrote her as being that way, and gave her her voice. Where would that have come from, unless he recognized that some part of him was also that way? There wasn't a false note to that character or to her journey of keeping her pride in herself without having to be a swotty egocentric.

I gained more respect for him in his public response to Eddie Murphy's parody of his show on SNL. I'm sure he knew it wasn't personal, and I also feel he recognized the place of pain and anger at the continuing broken promise of the American Dream from which Murphy wrote it (especially that first parody).

If I recall correctly, bodhisattva-hood, sainthood aren't bits of divine happenstance, but are the result of choices one makes to be the change they want to see in the world, and persevering in the face of temptation to behave otherwise. It's a hard choice and a hard way to live at times - that's why such people are revered.

We need reminders that we can make the same choices that he did. He told us and showed us that we could and how we could. I'm glad that I was his neighbor.
posted by droplet at 3:45 PM on March 17, 2013 [25 favorites]

I am usually pleasantly surprised by the Cracked links on here, but that one was particularly good. My favorite quote:

A lot of people of a lot of faiths are waiting for the Messiah, but even if one arrives, how are you going to tell the difference between him and Fred Rogers?

A bodhisattva for our times, indeed.

Can someone let know that it is not cool to append their URL to every snippet you copy from their site. If I want to link to the article I will.
posted by TedW at 4:12 PM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Pastabagel's famous discourse on how Mr. Rogers isn't cool.
posted by neuron at 4:28 PM on March 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

TedW: A lot of places do that now, I've noticed. Instead of not letting you copy at all, they'll put a 'read the rest of this story at' in the copy. To be honest, I find that much less onerous than a no-copy Javascript, or using CSS to put a transparent gif on top of everything that you can't copy through. You can always edit the URL out.

I think Mr. Rogers would have liked that, in a way. You can share the words, and (in a situation like this one, where we know the attribution) remove it, but it's there to attribute and show people where you got it from if you want to.
posted by mephron at 4:29 PM on March 17, 2013

only to become cynical of him as a teen, because life was hard and people were nasty, so who cares?

I had that early teenage cynicism too, and several times I remember Mr. Rogers showing up in my mind as a counterpoint against pessimism when considering ideas about organized religion and human nature. His presence on the other side of the scale really made me examine and explore deeper into the complex nature of those concepts, rather than just cynically dismissing those things. He was sort of a go-to example of 'the better angels of our nature', I guess.

Whatever it is that sets him apart is beyond the traditional set of rules, rituals, and stories of religion. He simply committed to what he felt was important and right - just simply caring about people, and doing what he could to help. That's it. Nothing fancy or dressed up in dogma and righteousness to determine who is worthy to receive his care, even to those whose beliefs or lifestyle were in opposition to his own.

Though his religious studies did play a role as a strong supporting structure for what he believed was important in life, his strength of character is what allowed him to 'walk the walk' and apply those ideals he learned about in his life. His actions, words, and message were so universal, straightforward and clear, the fact that he was an ordained minister seems just a small, incidental thing. If he were of any other religion, would his message or example be weaker? Not at all. That caring he so strongly believed in transcends language, culture, and species.

And somehow, as remarkable though he is, and beloved and admired by many mefites, Mr. Rogers and his legacy have somehow avoided the trap of becoming some kind of unobtainable ideal or a pedestalized saint, and have been able to just be simply a fine example of a good, caring, human being that knows that it's not often easy, and there are so many people, creatures, and ideas out there worth caring about, and showed us a few ways to do it.
posted by chambers at 5:05 PM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was one of those kids for whom Mr. Rogers was the only daily affirmation of my basic worth as a person. I'm a parent now, who sends her son to school with the phrase "I love you just the way you are" every day.

This has been a tough week, full of messages telling me all sorts of things that are wrong with me, bad about me, a mess really.

Against my better judgement, I watched the message of hope video linked in the post. I had expected it to be the oft-quoted piece he did about how to talk to children about tragedy. Instead, it was unexpected.

Here was Mr. Rogers, talking to me as an adult, as a parent, as one of the kids who grew up with him. And to have him look out of the computer, and tell me he was proud of me.... ? Oh man. And I know, I just somehow know in a way I can't express, that although he's left this world and it's really talking to me, he is. He is proud of me, and he does like me just the way I am, here and now, and that his message to me would be no different if he were sitting next to me on the sofa.

I needed to hear that today. Thank you.
posted by anastasiav at 5:24 PM on March 17, 2013 [7 favorites]

I think Mr. Rogers would have liked that, in a way. You can share the words, and (in a situation like this one, where we know the attribution) remove it, but it's there to attribute and show people where you got it from if you want to.

I wouldn't presume to know what Mr. Rogers would do in this situation, but I do know that I hate those attribution texts, because I attribute anyway, but in my own style. It's one more thing I have to do to use the damn words.
posted by JHarris at 6:04 PM on March 17, 2013

I grew up at the end of the prime Mr. Rogers years, but it's a show I absolutely remember watching each and every day of my childhood.

I've been having a really, really hard time with the loss of a very beloved grandmother, who always let me know how smart I was and how valuable I was and how LOVED I was, among other things. She was always one of the people who really held me up and told me that I could absolutely be something. She passed away in December after a hard life, the adult end of which basically consisting of being a good mom/grandmother, and fighting poverty and cancer.

I always knew her birthday, and I always knew how awesome Mr. Rogers was. It wasn't until this upcoming week, though, my first week in which her birthday will come without her being here for me to call or visit, that I realized that she and Fred Rogers were born the same day.

I wouldn't be who I am today without both of them, and I miss them both terribly.
posted by rollbiz at 9:08 PM on March 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister. Also, from this article:
Originally after college, he had planned to go directly to seminary. But upon seeing a television program for the first time “that had something horrible on it with people throwing pies at one another”, he decided to switch gears to try to work in the entertainment industry in order to try to help develop quality programs. As Rogers stated, “I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there was some way of using this fabulous instrument to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen.”
The world awaits the Mr. Rogers of the Internet, someone who "hates it so" and is determined to use it to nurture another generation.
posted by mark7570 at 7:14 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Uh-oh, Fox News isn't going to like that.

I just spent a week demoing and teaching hand tool woodworking. I'd like somebody at Fox to introduce me to this lost generation that will try anything and believe they're just doing great no matter how half-asses a job they do one whatever they put their hand at. They'd be a refreshing change from all the people who look at the tool you just handed them and say, "Oh, I could never be as good as you are!" and then set it down on the bench.

Interestingly enough, the demographic that's most likely to try out any tool you stick in their hands and be perfectly happy not to have masterful work instantly come shooting out the other side is women in the 35 to 65 range. Next year I can report back on which group has done all the improving that Fox News is so worried about (if any one has any doubts).
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:25 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Then the car stopped on Thirty-fourth Street, in front of the escalators leading down to the station, and when the doors opened—

"Holy shit! It's Mister Fucking Rogers!"

—he turned into Mister Fucking Rogers. This was not a bad thing, however, because he was in New York, and in New York it's not an insult to be called Mister Fucking Anything. In fact, it's an honorific. An honorific is what people call you when they respect you, and the moment Mister Rogers got out of the car, people wouldn't stay the fuck away from him, they respected him so much...

ONCE UPON A TIME, Mister Rogers went to New York City and got caught in the rain. He didn't have an umbrella, and he couldn't find a taxi, either, so he ducked with a friend into the subway and got on one of the trains. It was late in the day, and the train was crowded with children who were going home from school. Though of all races, the schoolchildren were mostly black and Latino, and they didn't even approach Mister Rogers and ask him for his autograph. They just sang. They sang, all at once, all together, the song he sings at the start of his program, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" and turned the clattering train into a single soft, runaway choir.

posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:45 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I just had a thought - the reason why the actor who met Mr. Rogers became one of my Facebook friends is because he's also a genuinely nice guy. Not every actor I've worked with, have I become facebook friends with; but this guy is funny, bright, my favorite kind of snarky, nice to everyone, always patient with the grindingly long and boring rehearsals, willing to try everything (the show he was in requried him to fold himself up and wedge himself under a desk to make an entrance, and he never complained), has gone on to educate kids himself, and he and his wife take in rescue dogs.

So, look, proof that Mr. Rogers does have an influence on people!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:01 AM on March 18, 2013

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