Movie Review: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

Mister Roger’s Neighborhood was a hit television show for children from the late 60s to the 90s. The production was low, the acting bad, and the concept low-budget. But, as the movie says, “it worked.”

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is a behind the scenes look at the show and the life of Fred Rogers; but, it’s also a story of depth and misunderstanding of person.

Many people during that time thought Fred Rogers was a cooky man doing a corny television show with puppets for children. Beneath the surface of these mechanics, though, Fred’s methods and sayings were rooted in child psychology and development.

Rogers deeply cared about the children who watched his show. He wanted every child to feel like they are loved and they are special. A really interesting part of the movie is when they go into detail about critics saying Rogers played a role in the entitlement of the generation who watched him. Critics argued that by calling children special, Rogers was giving them an ego that was undeserved.

Rogers’ defense to the critics was a profound moment in the movie. He replied: (paraphrased) “By calling you special, I meant that you don’t need to do anything extraordinary for someone to love you.”

These words are so important. They are reiterated in different ways throughout the movie. For example, another quote: “the greatest thing we can do is help somebody know that they’re loved and capable of loving.”

Rogers understood the importance of connection and knowing there’s something inherent in everyone that makes them deserving of love. He understood that it takes effort and presence to make people feel that worth.

The movie is so powerful because in it we see a man misunderstood. His message is so needed, but people didn’t understand he was telling this message. People thought that because he was working with children, his words were basic and uninteresting. In reality, his words are strike the heart and concisely show understanding.

Another powerful moment in the movie is the explanation of Rogers’ beliefs that children need acceptance just as much and feel emotions just as strongly as adults. Often society brushes children to the side because children don’t know. They ask to many questions because they haven’t experienced yet. They wouldn’t understand, we think. Rogers demonstrates the importance of giving kids honest, but compassionate answers to their questions. In doing so, he provides a really revolutionary way to handle dealing with children.

Rogers was extremely intelligent. Rogers deeply understood children. He wasn’t a strange old man playing around.

He represents a person judged. A person misunderstood. He represents the need for openmindendness.

This movie is a breath of fresh air & peace in a world full of judgments.

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