Mr. Rogers vs. the Superheroes
September 24, 2018 1:04 AM   Subscribe

 
What a wonderful person. It's so heartening to have grown up watching his show, become an adult, and read how much care and thought he put into us children:
Early in the evolution of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Rogers offered this definitive observation to a meeting of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry: “It’s easy to convince people that children need to learn the alphabet and numbers. . . . How do we help people to realize that what matters even more than the superimposition of adult symbols is how a person’s inner life finally puts together the alphabet and numbers of his outer life? What really matters is whether he uses the alphabet for the declaration of war or the description of a sunrise — his numbers for the final count at Buchenwald or the specifics of a brand-new bridge.”
posted by fraula at 1:55 AM on September 24, 2018 [46 favorites]


That's a fascinating article.

It's worth noting that the article title -- "Mr. Rogers Vs The Superheroes"-- is misleading, and a crucial phrase in the subheading ("Superoes, he thought, were the worst culprits") doesn't seem to be supported by the article at all. As the article makes clear, Mr. Rogers was a friend of all kinds of make-believe. He just wanted kids to understand the difference between make-believe and reality -- and, in fact, he enlisted the help of Bill Bixby and "The Incredible Hulk" show to do so.

This isn't a knock on Svejk, who is just reporting how Longreads presented the article. But it seems like Longreads is being deliberately sensationalist to draw clicks. I don't think Mr. Rogers would have approved of this dishonesty.
posted by yankeefog at 2:35 AM on September 24, 2018 [76 favorites]


I like how writer Saladin Ahmed (who is currently working on several comics, including the new Miles Morales Spidey) combined the two: never forget that Captain America is also Mister Rogers
posted by zombieflanders at 4:28 AM on September 24, 2018 [12 favorites]


In the same vein he brought Margaret Hamilton on the show to discuss being and dress up as the Wicked Witch of the West.

Everything I've read about Hamilton describes her as having been very sweet irl.
posted by brujita at 5:48 AM on September 24, 2018 [13 favorites]


Sorta apropos: The Good Neighbor has an audiobook. The audiobook is narrated by LeVar Burton. That is all.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:20 AM on September 24, 2018 [16 favorites]


I'm trying not to be all grar-y about the way that Longreads framed this (you want subscribers? How about a sledgehammer and a big pile of sand, buddy?), but at the same time it's a reminder of how sweet and effective Fred Rogers was that, instead of trying to get superheroes banned, he enlisted their help to keep kids from getting hurt. I could see him doing the same with most of the current crop of superhero actors; Chris Hemsworth and Gal Gadot, in particular.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:25 AM on September 24, 2018 [15 favorites]


I never considered The Hulk to be a superhero, for some reason.
posted by thelonius at 6:31 AM on September 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


True story: when my older brother was much younger, he assumed all cars could jump in the air like in Dukes of Hazard. His investigation found they can't. The hand brake could however let the car go on a low speed roll into the neighbors garden wall.
posted by Damienmce at 7:04 AM on September 24, 2018 [14 favorites]


It feels like there's a trend in the critical response to both the new biography and the new documentary about Mister Rogers to focus on what made him angry - like there's a requirement for dirt. And hey, dude probably lost his temper at some point because he's human, but I'm just so completely not interested in that. Let the nice, thoughtful man be remembered as a nice, thoughtful man.

What really gets me about these stories is that oftentimes they end up being 'Mr. Rogers didn't like X, but he did Y anyway', or 'Mr. Rogers started rethinking his stance about whatever issue after someone wrote to him', and they get reframed as 'Mr. Rogers didn't like X; Mr. Rogers was wrong about [whatever issue]', and the ability to listen and change your mind or understand others seems to be a hell of a better response than expecting everyone to be perfect from the beginning.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:07 AM on September 24, 2018 [19 favorites]


Note: I didn't get that impression from either the biography or the documentary itself, just from reviews and discussions of the works.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:08 AM on September 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


I never considered The Hulk to be a superhero, for some reason.

In the Bill Bixby TV series, I'd say the superhero was David Banner, and the Hulk was a difficulty he had to overcome. Ferigno's Hulk was played as barely sentient, in a way that made him frightening rather than heroic. The show really leaned into the Jekyll and Hide aspects of the character, where Banner is "good" and the Hulk is "bad".
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:20 AM on September 24, 2018 [9 favorites]


Mr Rogers Vs Sesame Street...or, using manufactured drama to explain philosophical differences...which is exactly a behavior what Mr Rogers was trying to teach people to get beyond, first with his own action...

he shared with some staff members his concern that the hip pacing of the show could make it harder, rather than easier, for young children to learn. And Rogers, who had always believed it was more important to help young children deal with social and emotional development than it was to just cram facts into their heads, worried that Sesame’s unrelenting emphasis on cognitive learning left it too thin on the social and emotional.
posted by eustatic at 7:24 AM on September 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


I like how writer Saladin Ahmed (who is currently working on several comics, including the new Miles Morales Spidey) combined the two: never forget that Captain America is also Mister Rogers

On that note: both Captain America and Mr. Rogers (although Mr Rogers is better because he's real) demonstrate a way of being male that is not built on hatred for and desire to dominate the feminine, morbid fear of weakness, morbid fear of gay men and the possibility of being gay, pathological competitiveness with other men and the feeling that having friends is dangerous because it indicates weakness or homosexuality.

Both Captain America and Mr Rogers are able to turn their attention outward toward the world and toward acting in the world because they are not consumed by torment over whether they're doing masculinity right. Both of them are able to form strong emotional bonds with others because they're not tormented by the fear that this makes them weak.

I think that because of the toxic ways that we learn masculinity, even the best of us struggle to be as self-actualized as they are. What's different about both is that they basically appear in the public eye already having done the work that most of us struggle to do. They're both genuinely next level - they can be who they are and act in the world rather than struggle just to be themselves.
posted by Frowner at 7:54 AM on September 24, 2018 [39 favorites]


One thing Mr. Rogers explicitly modeled was that kindness is not just some character trait you're born with. He spent time deliberately thinking about how to be kind to people, what was the most effective way to be kind to people. Kindness was a choice that he made.

I imagine some of the other things we admire about him were similar, that he made a deliberate choice to respect women, to listen to children, to include people who are marginalized.
posted by straight at 9:00 AM on September 24, 2018 [29 favorites]


For extra edge they could have called it Mr. Rogers vs Santa, since he also worked to demystify Santa for his young viewers just like he did with the Hulk, making sure they realized they are characters people play...

For how much people love Mr Rogers work with imagination, it's surprising how many forget about his insistence on distinguishing between reality and play.
posted by Easy problem of consciousness at 9:13 AM on September 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


In the Bill Bixby TV series, I'd say the superhero was David Banner, and the Hulk was a difficulty he had to overcome. Ferigno's Hulk was played as barely sentient, in a way that made him frightening rather than heroic. The show really leaned into the Jekyll and Hide aspects of the character, where Banner is "good" and the Hulk is "bad".

Watching it now, as I have been, it strikes me that it was in the vanguard of exploring what we've now come to call toxic masculinity.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:33 AM on September 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


Mr. Rogers is interesting to think of both in the context of masculinity and in the context of how we chose to react to things we object to in the world around us. He overwhelmingly chose to reach out and communicate over judging from a distance, and I wish I had half his grace in doing so.

I would like to see the movements I’m in be more like Mr. Rogers in how we react to each other, but I’m not sure how to foster that in a world where those disadvantaged rightly hear that wish as “please add to your emotional labor” instead of “I want to listen to and support you”.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:52 PM on September 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


I distinctly remember seeing the Margaret Hamilton episode as a kid.

It totally worked.

I'm blown away that Rogers put that much thought into every episode he did. God bless him and his entire crew.
posted by JoeZydeco at 3:38 PM on September 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


I never considered The Hulk to be a superhero, for some reason.

As a kid, he was a scary monster. Human until he got mad, and then turned into some rampaging freak. Used to give me hulkmares.

Not as scary as the Kool-Aid Jug Man who used to crash through walls so there was no hiding from that trippy freak.

Mr. Rogers would have put both of them in their place...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 3:44 PM on September 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


For extra edge they could have called it Mr. Rogers vs Santa, since he also worked to demystify Santa for his young viewers just like he did with the Hulk, making sure they realized they are characters people play...

This is what stuck out to me too, there are few examples of "willfully misleading children" more prevalent than Santa Claus, innocuous as it may be. To his credit, he held Santa to the same standard as the likes of Superman and The Hulk.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:29 PM on September 24, 2018


One of the things that was true about the Hulk when I first started reading and collecting the comics, and also true for the TV show as I recall, is that, as terrifying and destructive as he could be, what he really wanted, and what he strove to achieve repeatedly, was to be left alone. If General "Thunderbolt" Ross wasn't chasing after him with every troop and weapon that he could muster, Hulk would jump out to someplace remote where he could sit and chill out. There's a lesson in that, too.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:23 PM on September 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


Yeah, TV Hulk often rescued innocent bystanders.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:14 PM on September 24, 2018




The Elder Fred Rogers as the life coach of the Avengers. Yes, yes I can see that so very easily. (To the point where I accidentally started writing fanfic here at my desk.)
posted by endotoxin at 10:59 AM on September 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Fred Rogers was a brilliant and sacrificially kind man. I think his anger toward super heroes is misguided. By his logic, he's "wilfully misleading" children into thinking that tigers live in clocks and can talk. With regard to the child that jumped off a high ledge wearing a cape, it was the child's parent that failed him in either not supervising him, or by failing to differentiate between reality and fantasy.

James Randi once said, "Enjoy the fantasy, the thought, the story... but make sure that there's a clear sharp line drawn on the floor. To do otherwise is to embrace madness." Somebody failed to draw the line.

I grew up playing cowboys and indians, cops and robbers, and also SHAZAM, then known as Captain Marvel (he was on every Saturday morning, and I loved the fact that his secret identity was Billy Batson, a kid. Not Clark Kent, or Bruce Wayne). Not once did I think that I could actually summon lightning from the heavens.
posted by prepmonkey at 11:17 AM on September 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


TheophileEscargot, I love that list. I especially love #51; even as great as Chris Hemsworth has been as movie Thor, I have a lingering affection for the TV special/pilot Thor.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:21 PM on September 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Hmm. I think the difference is that Mr. Rogers was always careful to say, "This content is make-believe" instead of relying on his audience having developed the media savvy to know the difference.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:31 PM on September 26, 2018



Fred Rogers was a brilliant and sacrificially kind man. I think his anger toward super heroes is misguided. By his logic, he's "wilfully misleading" children into thinking that tigers live in clocks and can talk. With regard to the child that jumped off a high ledge wearing a cape, it was the child's parent that failed him in either not supervising him, or by failing to differentiate between reality and fantasy.


You address the impression of his "anger" from the title-and-blurb, which seems unsupported by the body of the article. It actually describes him noticing that children not distinguishing reality from fantasy could be bad and creating a series of shows to help address the issue.

It look like the Rarg! Mr. Rogers Smash! title-and-blurb is clickbait from Longreads. There is a bare claim in the article stating his opinion about superheroes, which leads me to assume there was no direct quote addressing said opinion.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 9:33 AM on September 29, 2018


Oh yeah, I forgot to mention how much I enjoyed the "hulkout list." I only watched the show a few times back in the day because it seemed formulaic (and because it was nothing like the comic book--yeah, I'm that guy), so I easily got more enjoyment from the list than the show!
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 9:37 AM on September 29, 2018


« Older “...Now we have a glue gun”   |   Man, machine or beast Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments