"Do You Consider Yourself A Hero?"
July 22, 2019 6:14 PM   Subscribe

Go get your kleenex and take your first look at Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, in the first full trailer for A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood.

It's not quite a biopic - rather, this is about the friendship that developed between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod following Junod's 1998 profile on Rogers for Esquire magazine (previously). Junod found that he was remarkably affected by the experience of getting to know Rogers, and the pair stayed connected until Rogers' death. The film has been in development since 2013.

If you're looking more for the real deal, check out the documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? (FanFare link previously), a film that was HORRIBLY robbed of an Oscar nomination this past year.
posted by EmpressCallipygos (78 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
I really think Hanks is miscast in this. I thought it when I heard he was cast and was convinced watching the trailer. He simply doesn't have the ease, comfort, charm, and grace of Rogers, though he does possess those things in Hankian proportions, which are substantial.
posted by dobbs at 6:20 PM on July 22, 2019 [25 favorites]


I thought this was lovely. It choked me up a little. I’m happy to give it a chance.

Tom Hanks has reached the level of fame at which it’s hard to suspend your disbelief that everyone in the movie universe isn’t saying, “hey, isn’t that Tom Hanks?” He’s clearly Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers. But then, Mr. Rogers’ face is nearly that famous anyway. And I think Hanks has captured Mr. Rogers’ smile and bearing very well.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:42 PM on July 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


Hanks' accent is off. Fred Rogers was from Latrobe, PA and lived nearly his entire adult life in Pittsburgh. Hanks seems to be trying to put some kind of folksky Forrest Gump Lite spin on it, and it does not sound like Fred Rogers at all.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:42 PM on July 22, 2019 [30 favorites]


Right! He sounds...vaguely Southern? But why though?
posted by catesbie at 6:48 PM on July 22, 2019 [3 favorites]


It’s impossible for anyone to capture Mr. Rogers’ voice, let alone someone with as distinctive a voice of his own as Tom Hanks. That’s what I remember most about Mr. Rogers—his gentle, slow voice and his gentle, slow hands.

I will definitely see this for Matthew Rhys, though!
posted by sallybrown at 6:49 PM on July 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


I once casually remarked that I thought Mr. Rogers was a bit twee at a family dinner and my older sister (a kindergarten teacher) stomped on me. 'He is absolutely wonderful she said. Guess I didn't have babies of the right age in my life at the time.
posted by Bee'sWing at 6:54 PM on July 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


I agree Hanks is not great. His movement is off and he’s squinting too much. The voice doesn’t bother me greatly.

But it’s all just a bit uncanny valley you know.



I’m not sure who’d be.... why didn’t they get Keanu. He’s a real life Helper.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:59 PM on July 22, 2019 [8 favorites]


I think Mark Rylance might have been able to pull it off.
posted by sallybrown at 7:00 PM on July 22, 2019 [12 favorites]


There are those of you who are dubious because the look doesn't seem right and the voice doesn't seem right...that's as may be, and if this is the kind of thing that pulls you out, then fair enough.

This does lead to an interesting intellectual exercise, though, in what it might mean to play a role in a biopic. What's important? For an actor to resemble and sound like their subject, or to embody their inner life? Consider the movie I'm Not There, for instance - that's theoretically a biography of Bob Dylan, but for that film, six completely different people play Dylan. Some make a stab at the "Dylan voice" and some don't even bother trying. And somehow they all are Dylan in this film.

Or consider Love and Mercy, in which two completely different people both play the part of Brian Wilson. I've heard people say that Paul Dano looks eerily like a young Brian Wilson - but John Cusack was cast because the director was convinced he looked like the older Brian Wilson. Neither one tries to nail Brian's accent (that I can tell). It's still an exemplary film.

I say all this, and yet I must confess that at times I also find fault with a given actors' look or sound at times, so I can understand how sometimes things like that can just pull you out. It's not for me this time, though, and that's just where I sit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:09 PM on July 22, 2019 [19 favorites]


We were improbably lucky to have had one Mister Rogers, asking for a second would seem greedy. Tom Hanks will have to do.
posted by Zonker at 7:12 PM on July 22, 2019 [46 favorites]


I love Hanks but for some reason I'm expecting him to go full Pennywise or Bilbo Baggins at any moment.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:16 PM on July 22, 2019 [4 favorites]


Hanks isn't perfect for this, but who would be? No one. Mr. Rogers can't be replicated. He just can't. And I still wept through the trailer because Mr. Rogers was the first positive male influence I had in my young life, the first man who made me believe that I was valuable.

So Hanks isn't perfect. But if more and more and more people can feel Mr. Rogers' influence again today because of this movie, I don't care.
posted by cooker girl at 7:26 PM on July 22, 2019 [14 favorites]


No, it's a good try by Hanks but how could anyone actually "perform" Mr Rogers. His essence was his realness, which can't be reproduced as an act.
posted by anadem at 7:39 PM on July 22, 2019 [17 favorites]


I mean, obviously I will see this because Pittsburgh (I watched the trailer because the Mayor tweeted it) and Mr. Rogers.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:48 PM on July 22, 2019 [3 favorites]


John Cusack as Brian Wilson is a cross between "oh come on" & "what the fuck are you thinking?" Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs is "a tall blonde Teutonic guy is helping decide the lighting set up for the Apple presentation before the boss shows up."
posted by ovvl at 7:55 PM on July 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


John Cusack didn't look like Crazy Old Brian Wilson but he had the mannerisms down perfectly. I applied the same sympathy I would to a stage play, rather than a Hollywood movie.

I don't know who could play Mister Rogers. He was one of a kind. So I say, why not let Scarlett Johansson have a crack at it?
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 8:21 PM on July 22, 2019 [11 favorites]


Gary Oldman. That fucker disappears into a role.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:48 PM on July 22, 2019 [11 favorites]


I too feel Iike Hanks is both the best choice and yet not quite right as Mr. Rogers. He’s an excellent actor, but so recognizable that I can’t unsee him. But, it’s one incredibly nice guy playing another incredibly nice guy, so I don’t mind.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:56 PM on July 22, 2019 [4 favorites]


I didn't mind Hanks - I thought he captured Rogers' gentle demeanor but then again, I did not grow up watching Mr Rogers.

In regards to biopics, I always offer up the example of The Aviator. I read an interview where Lauren Bacall was asked to weigh in, as she knew all the main characters in real life. She dissed a couple actors, was kind to a couple others. And then they asked the main question: what did you think of Cate Blanchett as Hepburn. And remember, Blanchett does not look like Hepburn at all. Ms. Bacall said, "was Cate Blanchett even in this movie? I just looked up at the screen and all I saw was my friend Kate. She didn't play her, she WAS her." So there's your gold standard.

Come to think of it, I didn't think Cate Blanchett fit my notion of what Galadriel would look like but she damn sure hit that one out of the park as well.
posted by Ber at 8:57 PM on July 22, 2019 [8 favorites]


I am also hearing the subdued southern accent notes in Hank's portrayal. As someone with a not-at-all-subdued southern accent that grew up with Mr. Rogers and his very not southern to my ears eloqution, well, it's going to throw me off a bit.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:23 PM on July 22, 2019


Cate Blanchett was also the best Dylan in I'm Not There. I wonder how her Fred Rogers would be.
posted by St. Oops at 9:32 PM on July 22, 2019 [24 favorites]


My main beef with biopics is that the creators usually try to smush nearly an entire lifetime into two hours and ten minutes, and it doesn't matter how much the lead actor disappears into the role, it feels like thumbing through a book and reading the titles of the chapters. The best biopics simply focus on a particular aspect or period of the character's life, and it appears that this movie does just that.
posted by vverse23 at 9:38 PM on July 22, 2019 [3 favorites]


I think I must be the only person in the country who has definite reservations about Mr. Rogers. He is sincere, it's undeniable. And he does understand the problem. I read a quote from him: (paraphrased) You have to read to your children yourself. If I'm reading or talking, and your child falls off the couch, I won't stop. And that's the problem. He's NOT your neighbor. When he talks about things in general, or does the fairy tales, fine. But I can't believe it's really healthy for small children to watch him on television, and hear him say they're wonderful and he cares, one to one. And believe it. People say he was so important to them, but he didn't know them from Adam's off-ox.

The good feelings they get are not real. And I can't believe that that's good for children.
posted by kestralwing at 9:42 PM on July 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


An instantly recognizable, beloved PBS television figure played by the one person who could succeed in portraying the person without falling into a caricature?

That would be Meryl Streep as Julia Child.
posted by gimonca at 9:44 PM on July 22, 2019 [20 favorites]


But I can't believe it's really healthy for small children to watch him on television, and hear him say they're wonderful and he cares, one to one. And believe it. People say he was so important to them, but he didn't know them from Adam's off-ox.


But the point of those parts of his show aren't about those early toddler children whose parents might be putting them in front of the television to see. Those parts of the show... he's modeling for the parents. He's spent this time with them and their child and he's blending across the show the things he's doing for the kids and the things he's modeling for the parents.

Ever see him do sort of a set piece that involves visiting someplace for a tour? The entire thing is occilates between him enticing the children to be interested and him helping parents navigate this unfamiliar situation.

It's okay for children to hear Mister Rogers tell him he cares about them. What's more important is that parents hear Fred use those words and feel encouraged to use (and feel) those words themselves.
posted by hippybear at 9:48 PM on July 22, 2019 [26 favorites]



The good feelings they get are not real.

All feelings are real.

If you want to make the argument that because Fred Rogers hadn't individually meant every child who would watch his show, he didn't mean what he was saying when he said he cared, I suppose that's a position that can be taken by a person.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:56 PM on July 22, 2019 [41 favorites]


This is weirdly similar to "The End of the Tour," but with Fred Rogers instead of David Foster Wallace. I'm not entirely sold on Tom Hanks but I'm sure it'll make me cry no matter what.

I still say the best option to play Mr. Rogers would have been David Byrne.
posted by HunterFelt at 9:59 PM on July 22, 2019 [4 favorites]


I still say the best option to play Mr. Rogers would have been David Byrne.

I would have gone with Chris O'Dowd not based on looks but based on his spirit. I think people could get beyond looks if the core of the soul is appropriate.
posted by hippybear at 10:05 PM on July 22, 2019 [4 favorites]


The music in that trailer was unbearable. Why don’t they just portray Fred Rogers as single-handedly ending the Cold War and gunning down goons with friendship while cars explode with charity for all mankind in the background?

Nothing wrong with Fred Rogers, but maybe I’m saying it’s a little overwrought for Oscars season.
posted by BYiro at 12:02 AM on July 23, 2019 [8 favorites]


But I can't believe it's really healthy for small children to watch him on television, and hear him say they're wonderful and he cares, one to one. And believe it. People say he was so important to them, but he didn't know them from Adam's off-ox.

I can't find the exact quote, but I think Rogers would agree with you. IIRC he emphasized that not all kids have healthy adults around, and his show was possibly the only expression of care and positive adult behavior some kids would get.

He was not a dumb guy - he knew he was producing a poor substitute for a real parent relationship, but it was better than nothing for many kids.
posted by benzenedream at 12:15 AM on July 23, 2019 [39 favorites]


Gary Oldman. That fucker disappears into a role.

No thank you. While I love Gary Oldman, I don’t particularly want a Mr. Rodgers who I worry might snap and kill everyone in the room (or have underlings do it for him).
posted by Ghidorah at 1:28 AM on July 23, 2019 [5 favorites]


Gary Oldman. That fucker disappears into a role.

This actually is an interesting example of my musing on biopics above. The one biopic I've seen with Oldman that comes to mind is Darkest Hour, with him as Churchill. He looked like Churchill, yeah, and had some of the mannerisms - but it felt to me like that's kind of all that was going on, like he'd slipped on this costume and was doing an impression rather than becoming Churchill.

But I also think part of that was that the story they were telling about Churchill just wasn't a very good story. Or, more specifically, the story they were telling wasn't told all that well to my mind. It was a little too hero-worshippy, a little too pat. There wasn't as much there there with his character as there could have been; so he had to double down a little more on speech mannerisms and making sure the makeup worked, and that's part of why I felt it was a little costumey.

This film could have the same problem; I don't know yet. Then again, this isn't so much "about" Mr. Rogers as it is "about" "how Tom Junod got sent to do an article about Fred Rogers and ended up friends with the guy" (the film's original title was "You Are My Friend"). And - we'll ostensibly be seeing bits of the private Fred Rogers; we're basing a lot of our impressions on having seen Fred Rogers in his show, which is only one facet of Fred Rogers. ....Granted, with Fred Rogers that kindness and sincerity really was bone-deep, but no doubt there are some nuances that Rogers' friends and family got to see that we didn't, so we'll see what the script has for Tom Hanks to have worked with.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:40 AM on July 23, 2019 [5 favorites]


People say he was so important to them, but he didn't know them from Adam's off-ox.

No, he didn’t, but he loved them all anyway. You can say that it’s impossible to love people you haven’t met, but Fred Rogers did it.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:49 AM on July 23, 2019 [34 favorites]


I still say the best option to play Mr. Rogers would have been David Byrne.
I love this.

I would have gone with David Strathairn. He looks just enough like Fred Rogers for the role to work, and he’s not well-known enough to be a distraction. Oh well.
posted by pxe2000 at 2:51 AM on July 23, 2019 [7 favorites]


Pittsburgher here too, and I've known many people who knew Mr. Rogers. Every one of them says he was exactly who he appeared to be, and the kindest person around. (Mostly they mean this as praise. I did have a professor who said that Fred was a great guy but if you saw him in the grocery store you'd duck down a different aisle or risk spending five minutes trapped as Fred rhapsodized about how BEAUTIFUL and NOURISHING the BROCCOLI was, and that you learned quickly not to make that mistake if you had somewhere to be.)

I'll likely end up seeing this for the city more than anything. A bunch of it was filmed at my workplace and it's fun to see that in the trailer.
posted by Stacey at 4:52 AM on July 23, 2019 [25 favorites]


This movie is a hard no for me. Fred Rogers got me through some pretty difficult childhood years. To have him hollywoodized--even in a sympathetic manner--feels too much like a betrayal for me to participate, especially since it's Forrest Gump (that singularily American idiot saint this country seems to love and identify with so firmly) portraying him.
posted by Chrischris at 5:23 AM on July 23, 2019 [13 favorites]


There are biopics in which the personality is the larger story and there are those in which the events in the life of the person are the larger story. IMO the former requires an actor to be a true reflection of the subject a la Streep and Malek, whereas in the latter, not so much. This particular film appears to be in the former category, God knows Fred Rogers' personality is distinct enough, and therefore it requires an actor be true to Fred Rogers. My first impression is Tom Hanks is horribly miscast in this role. Hanks comes with plenty of his own personality which shadow his portrayal of Rogers and for the life of me, I cannot figure why him other than everyone loves themselves a Hanks movie.
posted by MorgansAmoebas at 5:39 AM on July 23, 2019 [7 favorites]


I did have a professor who said that Fred was a great guy but if you saw him in the grocery store you'd duck down a different aisle or risk spending five minutes trapped as Fred rhapsodized about how BEAUTIFUL and NOURISHING the BROCCOLI was, and that you learned quickly not to make that mistake if you had somewhere to be.

This is so beautiful because it reinforces the fact that Mr. Rogers wasn't turning it on and off. He was who he was. And I would gladly be bored by him in the produce aisle, at least once.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:13 AM on July 23, 2019 [24 favorites]


Honestly it would have been an honor to have Fred Rogers talk to me for five minutes about broccoli, but I suppose once it's happened to you several times, the thrill might wear off. MAYBE.
posted by Stacey at 6:15 AM on July 23, 2019 [18 favorites]


Are Fred Rogers' thoughts on theodicy recorded anywhere? I know he was much more interested in the good than the bad, in general, but I still wonder what he thought about the thornier sides of theology.
posted by Fraxas at 6:34 AM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


And that's the problem.

kestralwing, I really appreciate your willingness to voice some ambivalence about one of metafilter's perennial favorites, and I think your comment includes some valid points as well as some misunderstandings about why Rogers did what he did, so I hope you won't mind if I try to disentangle them a bit.

He's NOT your neighbor.
It's worth remembering the Rogers was a minister, and for a person with that calling the word "neighbor" is supposed to mean something a little bigger than the word suggests in ordinary usage, as Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg digs into in a wonderful twitter thread.

But I can't believe it's really healthy for small children to watch him on television
Rogers was very deliberately doing his work in a context where that horse had left the barn, so to speak; children were already watching television, often unsupervised, and often far more than experts knew to be good for them. There was an element of triage to the children's programming on PBS in the era when Rogers created his show.

and hear him say they're wonderful and he cares, one to one.
The sort of instinctive mistrust one might feel about being addressed via a mass medium with a message of personal love and concern makes perfect sense based on overwhelming evidence, to wit, virtually everything else on television, but as Pater Aletheias has said, Fred Rogers meant what he was saying. The man's default position with regard to those he had not yet met was to extend them love.

And believe it.
And there's no harm in believing a true thing.

People say he was so important to them, but he didn't know them from Adam's off-ox.
People are perfectly well able to recognize that they never met Fred Rogers, and still feel that he's important to them.

The good feelings they get are not real.
This is a deeply, deeply troubling statement. Nobody, not you nor anyone else, gets to label a person's feelings false. It's a category error. People feel what they feel. Those feelings are real and true. They are real and true if if they are predicated on misunderstands or falsehoods. Feelings are not facts and cannot be false. Asserting that they are "not real" is...just woefully misguided. Particularly in this context, where we're discussing a man whose number one priority in attempting to relate to children was to affirm over and over and over again that their feelings were legitimate and fine.

And I can't believe that that's good for children.
I'm 51 one years old. There are quite literally millions of people like me, who grew up watching the show, and who will testify now to how good it was for them. If there was a problem, certainly it would have come to light by now, yes?
posted by Ipsifendus at 6:53 AM on July 23, 2019 [39 favorites]


There are plenty of kids out there from all social strata who don't get told they are loved, and don't believe they are loved, by anyone actually in their lives. Some good feelings, distant or no, are better than none.
posted by wellred at 7:01 AM on July 23, 2019 [9 favorites]


Lynda Barry, genius cartoonist, beloved professor, and funk queen of the universe, has written before about how much she enjoyed Family Circus when she was a little girl. She had an unloving mother and an absent father, and no one else in the house cared to read or buy books. But they did get the newspaper. And one of the things Barry could rely on in the newspaper was Family Circus: a kind family where kids were listened to, kissed, and tucked into bed, and no one yelled. And years later, she got to join them.

This is what Mr. Rogers has done for many people -- served as a model of stability, caring, and nontoxic masculinity. In a just world, everyone would have such a model close to home, but the world is not just, so we must give what we can.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:08 AM on July 23, 2019 [24 favorites]


Another note for those who are dubious of Hanks' portrayal - there's the documentary from last year for you as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:26 AM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


Despite being a Pittsburgher (and like Stacey I'm one degree of separation from him on multiple axes--one of my former bosses showed up in a live action segment of a Daniel Tiger episode I was watching with my then-toddler and I nearly fell out of my chair) I didn't actually grow up with a ton of Mr. Rogers in my life. That's because I a) didn't watch that much TV as a child and b) grew up in a loving, nurturing, child-focused household that was basically the ideal of what Fred Rogers wanted for all children, so neither I nor my parents didn't really need him. I don't think that's an indictment of what he was doing, but an illustration of how necessary it was. (Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood today also supplies the kind of parent-modeling that was present in the original Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and believe me as a parent I appreciated the hell out of it. I still use those jingles and catch-phrases with my 7-year-old, and they work.)

He feels so inextricable from Pittsburgh, though, that as I've grown up I've kind of backed into a fondness for him that I didn't have as a child. Pittsburgh is a city with a tiny square-mileage (58 square miles--for comparison Tampa has a similar population but is 175 square miles) but 90 neighborhoods and that's something we're super proud of (I know we're not unique among cities with this, but we do talk about it endlessly). Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood has always felt like it's the 91st Pittsburgh neighborhood.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:43 AM on July 23, 2019 [8 favorites]


I once casually remarked that I thought Mr. Rogers was a bit twee at a family dinner

I personally preferred Captain Kangaroo
posted by thelonius at 7:48 AM on July 23, 2019


The good feelings they get are not real. And I can't believe that that's good for children

So...I grew up in a home where my mother undeniably loved me, as long as you define love as "stated that she loved me, showered me with love and affection when I was pleasing to her, made life choices like staying at home supposedly for my good, and rained terror upon me and withdrew her love whenever I did not perform or deliver on being a Smart, Good Girl." She would probably agree with you that any good feelings I had for Mr. Rogers were not real, because real feelings of love should inevitably flow to and from her and her view of how I should be.*

What Mr. Rogers did for me, I think, among other influences, is have a show where he talked about angry feelings, where Lady Elaine Fairchild was equally deserving of love, and where yes, I did actually believe that there might be out there in world beyond my absent father, narcissistic mother, and abusive relative, people like Mr. Rogers. And those very real feelings helped me to get the help and partner and friends in my life that I needed. So...yeah, I mean, it's overwrought to say that Mr. Rogers' love saved my life any more than to say it was Cookie Monster or my camp director or my piano teacher or the approximately 23423423412560 books I read in the library including biographies and histories, but...it was not insignificant.

I bought some DVDs of Mr. Rogers for my kids and they never really got into them, but I still watch "What Do You Do with The Mad You Feel" from time to time.

I don't know how to explain to people whose Real Life People are less dysfunctional what it means to have a Functional Person on TV. But gotta tell ya, those feelings are still pretty real for me.

*A family social worker gave me a book on narcissistic mothers after my mother quit family therapy. I will say that I truly believe one tragedy of my mother's life is that she really does want to actually love me, but her NPD gets in the way much of the time.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:58 AM on July 23, 2019 [29 favorites]


Y'all keep talking about casting Tom Hanks but it's Matthew Rhys that really jars me. What, is Philip there planning to infiltrate the Childrens Television Workshop? Is he going to assassinate King Friday the 13th?
posted by Nelson at 8:19 AM on July 23, 2019 [9 favorites]


He was not a dumb guy - he knew he was producing a poor substitute for a real parent relationship, but it was better than nothing for many kids.

And for many adults. To be a child with parents that ignore -or worse still the dog is treated much better than- is to be an adult with those same parents. I for one respond deeply to this, and especially in a time when all the adults in the room are absolutely abhorrent. I need to be reminded of the nourishment of simpler yet stronger values: love.
posted by erattacorrige at 8:20 AM on July 23, 2019 [3 favorites]


Y'all keep talking about casting Tom Hanks but it's Matthew Rhys that really jars me.

How much it must suck to have to act with an accent all the time?
posted by MorgansAmoebas at 8:25 AM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


and keeping with the Pittsburgh-theme here, that statement would be more appropriately phrased, "Yinz keep talking about Tom Hanks...."
posted by MorgansAmoebas at 8:26 AM on July 23, 2019 [4 favorites]




Well, he was an officer.
posted by thelonius at 9:26 AM on July 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


One thing that I always find jarring about the comment threads that follow in the wake of anything Fred-Rogers-related is this inevitable cynicism, a knee-jerk backlash against the kind of innocence he seemed to embody. I'm not saying he was an innocent (although despite decades in the public eye, his records of exemplary selflessness and a relentless work ethic are effectively unblemished), merely that so many people feel compelled to simultaneously imply that the innocent, child-like (not childish) tone he adopted was somehow disingenuous, or if genuine, was somehow naive or unbefitting his public stature.

Millions of children felt like he, an adult, spoke to them without judgment or impatience, and made them feel like their feelings mattered and were worth reflecting on. In our polarized times, we may have good reason to speak impatiently, or with evident judgment, to other adults we have disagreements with, but I can imagine no reason to treat young children that way. At an absolute minimum, his approach to speaking to children should be cause for reflection, and can make us all better parents and parent-adjacent adults. More broadly, his reflexive perspective-taking and willingness to dwell in and resolve negative emotions is something we can all learn from.

Is Tom Hanks perfect? No. But so long as the film doesn't stray from the facts, any project that continues to draw attention to Rogers and his legacy has value, in my book.
posted by belarius at 9:42 AM on July 23, 2019 [4 favorites]


Hollywood really needs to branch out. Not every role needs to go to Tom.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:00 AM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


Pittsburgher here too, and I've known many people who knew Mr. Rogers. Every one of them says he was exactly who he appeared to be, and the kindest person around. (Mostly they mean this as praise. I did have a professor who said that Fred was a great guy but if you saw him in the grocery store you'd duck down a different aisle or risk spending five minutes trapped as Fred rhapsodized about how BEAUTIFUL and NOURISHING the BROCCOLI was, and that you learned quickly not to make that mistake if you had somewhere to be.)

Have told this story before, will tell it again:

An actor I know grew up in Pittsburgh and has had a couple of Mr. Rogers encounters. His father worked at the same Pittsburgh TV studio, and sometimes he'd go hang out at Dad's Office after school; he has a distinct memory of sitting under X The Owl's tree to do his 8th grade math homework or something once. He also was in Fred Rogers' office once or twice, and reports that if you went there you'd see a loose collection of Emmy trophies sort of unceremoniously shoved into a corner; but sitting in front of Fred's desk were two child-sized office chairs that exactly mirrored his own chair, but scaled down, so that if any children visited his office they would have an equally important-looking chair to sit in.

But far and away the best story he has is one that accompanies a picture someone took of him when he was four. He went to preschool with the daughter of the actor who was Mr. McFeely, and one day the preschool took a field trip to the Carnegie Museum of Art. And as they were all walking around, they walked into a gallery and there was Fred Rogers, there at the same museum on a day off. He recognized my friend's classmate, and spent the rest of the trip with the rest of my friend's class, exploring and talking about the art with them. And at some point someone got a picture of my friend and Fred.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:43 AM on July 23, 2019 [18 favorites]


If there was a problem, certainly it would have come to light by now, yes?

I mean, [gestures broadly at America]...?
posted by The Tensor at 10:54 AM on July 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


He was not a dumb guy - he knew he was producing a poor substitute for a real parent relationship, but it was better than nothing for many kids.

This feels like a massive understatement to me - for me he was anything but a poor substitute for a real parent relationship.

As a kid who didn't grow up in a safe environment with real parent relationships, I can't imagine even hoping for something nearly as good as Mr. Rogers was to me. To me, and countless other kids, Fred Rogers was the ONLY person who was safe and loving to us.

I grew up in a bigoted, homophobic, racist, hateful home where physical, psychological, and in some cases sexual abuse were the norm. I causally tell my therapists stories of how I still hoard food today as an adult because I had to learn to hide it as a kid in an environment where I never knew when I would next be punished by withholding of meals. Crazy shit that no one should ever be allowed to do to a kid, and here all my life I thought it was "normal." My folks had CPS called on them on at least one occasion when I was a kid - I remember being coached for their impending visit. I still can't wear a brown belt with a round buckle in my 40's because of how familiar I was with one when I was 4.

Fred Rogers was a steady, reliable, stable and safe 30 minutes in an ocean of fear and mistreatment that was my childhood. Like no other person in the world, he was there for me, telling me GOOD THINGS about myself, when no one else was, for so many years on end. If it wasn't for who he was as a person, and the legacy he's left behind, I don't know that I'd be here right now typing this.

I wrote letters to Fred and he wrote back to me. He always answered my specific questions in neatly typed letters that HE wrote himself and signed. I always had assumed someone on staff at WQED wrote for him, until someone here on the blue told me otherwise some time ago. Last year I got my first tattoo as an enduring thank you to him.

Fred Rogers loved me and he couldn't save me, he never even met me. But he loved me, and he still does, and he's HELPING me be a good dad to my kid and he's LOVING my kid from beyond the grave.

He likes me, and you, just the way you are. And he always will.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:55 AM on July 23, 2019 [71 favorites]


I mean, [gestures broadly at America]...?

I get that this is just an easy drive-by joke, but I'm pretty sure the problems America is having right now are not rooted in people having just too darn much love for other people they've never met.

I will say, while I appreciate Mr. Rogers now as an adult, for some reason he creeped me out as a kid. Something about his being so preternaturally calm all the time just registered as "unnatural" in my brain; not that I doubted (then or now) that he really meant it, it just seemed...weird...for a person to be like that. Which may just say something about my own, lovely but very emotionally expressive and animated, parents. But it may also explain why Tom Hanks seemed fine to me as Mr. Rogers - I never watched him as often as other kids (I greatly preferred Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock, and my mom did try to limit my TV time) but when I did watch him he already sort of lived in a kind of uncanny valley for me.

Despite my ambivalence about him I am pretty comfortable saying America at present could do with more Mr. Rogers, not less. I also think Tom Hanks is good casting precisely because of how closely his off-screen persona as a universally nice guy helps the movie deliver that needed dose of Mr. Rogers to the world, even if the actual portrayal itself isn't quite note-perfect.
posted by mstokes650 at 11:13 AM on July 23, 2019 [5 favorites]


mstokes650, I think we all agree that America - and ourselves personally - could do with more Mr. Rogers today. Everything I've seen or read says he was a genuine person, kind and gentle and open to the reality of and possibility of Love.

But he looked straight into the camera and said "You are wonderful; I love you" to children he could not see, did not know. And they were often children in need, and they believed him, and it gave them hope. A blessing. But I wonder how it has affected their reaction, as adults, when someone they don't know says "You're great! I know you and know that you will want ... (whatever they're selling)."

My sense of America is that as a culture we could use more rational scepticism; more "Says who?" and less "Sounds good to me!" Movies, television, and computers embody great not-obvious dangers, and we would do well to be more aware of how we interact.

I am truly glad Mr. Rogers made children, now adults, feel better. He was, I think, a wonderful human being. I cried when I watched the documentary. But I still think that speaking directly to a camera and talking as if he were actually talking to a child was a tremendously dangerous thing to do.
posted by kestralwing at 12:08 PM on July 23, 2019


I remember in 1996 Mr Rogers was the commencement speaker for NCSU. There was a fair amount of debate about whether he was prestigious enough, and some affiliated with the University thought they should have held out for someone else.

I can't remember who my commencement speaker was. I think it was the Deputy Secretary of the Interior or something. A suit that was an alumni, but no one that resonated with me on any level. I would have rather had Mr. Rogers.
posted by wrnealis at 12:16 PM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


But I still think that speaking directly to a camera and talking as if he were actually talking to a child was a tremendously dangerous thing to do.

He was FAR from the only person doing this at this time. He was also far from the first one.

Mr. Rogers did what he did to provide an alternative to the people who already were looking directly into a camera and saying "Hi Kids! this is your buddy Clarence The Clown asking you to buy Ovaltine!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:17 PM on July 23, 2019 [8 favorites]


for some reason he creeped me out as a kid

Read this.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:17 PM on July 23, 2019 [7 favorites]




Mr. Rogers did what he did to provide an alternative to the people who already were looking directly into a camera and saying "Hi Kids! this is your buddy Clarence The Clown asking you to buy Ovaltine!

Exactly; as I said, triage.
posted by Ipsifendus at 1:32 PM on July 23, 2019


About 1 min in, look for my little red head friend front and center with Tom. Very proud of her!
posted by blaneyphoto at 2:21 PM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


They should have cast Eddie Murphy.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:46 PM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


lmao at everybody above gatekeeping Fred Rogers. The whole point isn't that Tom Hanks or whoever isn't the "perfect" person to act as Fred Rogers, it's that everybody should act like Fred Rogers.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:35 PM on July 23, 2019 [3 favorites]


Read this.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure 1960s notions of "cool" were not influencing my take on Mr. Rogers when I was five or six. (Lord knows, I have never been remotely "cool", not even in first grade.) I've read that comment before and I appreciate what Pastabagel was communicating there about the underappreciated value of earnestness, but I really wish he hadn't framed it in a way that implicitly invalidated the feelings of people who didn't like Mr. Rogers, either now or as children. The comment's really not applicable to my child's-eye, child's-understanding-of-the-world dislike of Mr. Rogers.

Again: I like him just fine now as an adult; I just had an indefinable dislike for the guy when I was very young (and his target audience) that I was also too young to articulate or even fully understand at the time. In hindsight, I suspect that Mr. Rogers' imperturbable calmness and even, steady emotional state just flagged as unnatural to a kid who grew up with parents who wore their hearts on their sleeves and were plenty obvious about their emotional states. But I couldn't tell you for certain that's what it was; I just know 5- or 6-year-old me would rather watch almost anything else. That was, to quote the man himself, "just the way I am".
posted by mstokes650 at 7:31 PM on July 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


As an alternative to “creepy” - I think Mr Rogers was so sincere, and so willing to go there emotionally that it can make people uncomfortable with his vulnerability and realness. My 4 yo kind of likes and kind of doesn’t like Mr Rogers, I think for this reason. If you’re not ready to acknowledge within yourself the depth of emotion he was representing, it can get uncomfortable.

I’m not exaggerating. Watch an episode. He’s Present. He Feels. He knew what it meant to be alive, in all aspects, which is why he was so good with children. ♥️
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:24 PM on July 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


This is weirdly similar to "The End of the Tour," but with Fred Rogers instead of David Foster Wallace.

This is exactly what came to mind for me. I get the sense that both movies were made, not because they had a plot that was compelling enough to justify a film, but because people are desperate to spend more time with their lost heroes, and will settle for ninety minutes of studied imitation. These aren't historical dramas like Darkest Hour, or arguably even biopics. They're not so much telling a story as attempting to (briefly) resurrect the dead, which is made somewhat more unsettling by the fact that the subjects were alive in recent memory. I find it to be kind of a weird exercise, to be honest, for both the filmmakers and the audience, and I say that as someone with great respect for both DFW and Rogers.
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:22 PM on July 23, 2019


I think maybe Tom Hanks should retire and give someone else a chance to star in a movie for once.
posted by Daddy-O at 10:46 PM on July 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


It might also be a funding issue -- often films can't get made unless a big star is attached that will guarantee the payback on the investment plus more.
posted by hippybear at 10:53 PM on July 23, 2019 [4 favorites]


I'm 48. For me, Rogers was mesmerizing, in the best possible way. I have nothing but positive feelings about his show. I even watched it sometimes when I was "too old" for it, at the cynical age of 12+
posted by SoberHighland at 4:26 AM on July 24, 2019


I even watched it sometimes when I was "too old" for it, at the cynical age of 12+

Me too. Some episodes had the Discovery channel "How It's Made" vibe a decade before it came out. Crayons y'all, I got to watch how crayons were made. It was/is amazing.
posted by RolandOfEld at 4:36 AM on July 24, 2019


I didn't watch Mr. Roger's as a young kid. I was 11 when the show first aired and I remember I first saw it at 14 as a babysitter for the neighbor's kid. I hated babysitting so didn't do it often but I liked watching Mr. Rogers on the few occasions that I babysat in the afternoons. Ten years later I had my own children. I was a stay at home mom for 5 years and I started watching Mr. Rogers every weekday, even before my kids were old enough to really take in what they were watching. Mr. Rogers taught me how to parent. I fell deeply in love with him and used to joke about what it meant about the state of my life that I was beginning to find Mr. Rogers insanely attractive. He was the first man that ever modeled calm, loving acceptance and told me that all my feelings were OK. I sang his songs to my kids at bedtime every night until they went to college.

I only allowed my children to watch Public Television and I always watched with them so we watched a lot of Mr. Rogers (and Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow.) You'd think as adults they would love Mr. Rogers the way I do...but no. As adults, they can take him or leave him. They certainly don't/didn't think he's creepy but they have no special deep feelings for him. It's me that loves him.

My theory is that people who lacked the love and understanding and validation for feelings from their own parents (I had a narcissistic mother an impatient often absent father) developed the hero worshippy, deep love for Mr. Rogers and the kids who had decent loving adults (some, who like me, learned from Mr. Rogers) didn't develop the same affinity because they didn't feel like Mr. Rogers gave them anything so incredibly rare or special.

I'll see this movie because anything Mr. Rogers related is irresistible to me but I don't love Tom Hanks in the part. It's too hard to forget he's Tom Hanks and I, too, was annoyed by the weirdly Southern twang that sounds nothing like Mr. Rogers.
posted by Plafield at 8:04 AM on July 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


My ears are not sensitive enough to hear the twang; it’s Tom’s nose that bugs me. Mr Rogers was a slim and fine-featured fellow and Tom Hanks is overall just too big imo. I’m not calling him fat fwiw, he’s just not got that dainty presence, so it looks like he’s working at it too much and so I can’t suspend disbelief. Same way Remi Malek’s blue eyes in the Freddie Mercury biopic drove me nuts. Makeup can’t always create the gestalt of a person yknow?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:27 PM on July 24, 2019




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