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Saw the Mr. Rogers documentary last night, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" and found myself deeply touched, often to the point of tears, by Fred Rogers' deep and profound commitment to the well-being of children. THREAD
He was a pastor, for those of you who don't know, and chose children as his ministry. Television as the "location," or virtual space, for that ministry. His critique of the medium also acknowledged its power and permanence, and he was outraged by the cynicism of commercial shows.
Commercial TV, he argued, viewed children not just as future consumers, but as citizens who would inhabit a profoundly violent and cruel society, and thus TV was violent and cruel -- full of punches, humiliation, degradation, and disgust.
Fred Rogers' central message was: you are perfect just the way you are (subtext: because that's the way God made you), and I love you (subtext: because God loves you too.) I find this a profoundly moving concept, particularly as I look out at our society today.
This movie also belongs in courses about gender and masculinity: many people assumed that Fred Rogers' was gay because what kind of a "normal man" would make children central to his life's mission?
That this is profoundly homophobic, and suggests that the only loving relationship between adult men and children is perverse, or a form of sublimated perversity, goes without saying.
Indeed, Fred Rogers himself wrestled with the homosexuality of a cast member, fearing that it put the show in jeopardy, and causing that person great pain. And yet, they worked it through -- at a time in which homophobia was still a default in media and religion.
But to return to Rogers himself: part of what the movie points up is that the United States claims to be a child-loving society, but how we treat children -- and how we stigmatize love for children by white men actually suggests a simmering contempt for children.
Fred Rogers' love for children extended to disability, race, and class: the capacity to treat all *children* equally, and as citizens worth loving -- despite the fact that they do not work, produce, or create value -- is the deepest evidence of our capacity to be human.
This movie is the perfect antidote to the animosity and hate that permeates our political moment: please see it. #143
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