The one thing that makes me mad is one person demeaning another. That’s a near direct quote from the recently released documentary, “Mister Rogers & Me.” That statement came from the lips of the legendary Mister Rogers himself before his death, as noted in this documentary. As simple as that statement is, it speaks volumes about a man who lived a simple life both on camera and off. It also explained what makes Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood one of the most highly revered children’s programs to ever be created.
“Mister Rogers & Me” isn’t so much about Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood so much as it is about the man after whom it was named, Fred Rogers. In watching this new documentary, audiences get a glimpse at the impact that Mr. Rogers had (and still has to this day) on audiences young and old alike. Mister Rogers was welcomed into countless households every day. From authors to television personalities to regular every day families, Mister Rogers had a profound impact on people at every level. The Wagner Brothers–David, Benjamin, and Christofer–interviewed personalities such as Arthur creator Marc Brown, NPR correspondent Susan Stamberg, and the late Tim Russert about the impact that Mr. Rogers had on their lives. The sentiments shared by each one are enough to make audiences of any age tear up. Their stories are that touching and powerful. The stories shared by average every day audiences and their families are just as moving.
The stories shared by the Wagner Brothers’ intervewees make for an amazing story. In an age when it’s next to impossible to know which adults can be trusted to be around our children, Mr. Rogers is still one of the rare individuals that parents have always been able to trust. The Wagner Brothers explain what it was that that made Mister Rogers the beloved, trusted personality that he was, and even is today, even though he’s no longer with us. Each segment of the documentary shares the values by which Mister Rogers lived, and in turn, shared with parents and children alike. Each segment of the documentary is separated by a quote that explains Mister Rogers’ different values. The separation helps to keep audiences’ attention from Benjamin Wagner’s first meeting with Mister Rogers to the final sentiments shared by the television icon with his audiences in his final broadcast.
Fred Rogers was everything that personalities on television today aren’t. He was a simple person. He lived a simple life. He was genuine. This documentary proves to audiences that the man they saw in front of the camera was the same one they saw behind the camera. He wasn’t just some personality. He didn’t try to push products. He just wanted audiences of all ages to know that no matter who they were (and are) he liked them just the way they are. And as the interviews shared in this documentary prove, one simple statement is all the world needs. Call him a dreamer. But if the entire world shared one kind word with one another each day, odds are, this world would be a much better place in whcih to live. It would certainly be a fitting tribute to a man who lived this belief every day of his life. Thankfully, with this new documentary, The Wagner Brothers and PBS have reminded everyone that all the world needs is a little kindness. With any luck, this reminder will get more people to try to share that kindness and pay tribute in their own way, too. And maybe one day, we’ll all be able to say to one another, “I like you just the way you are”, too.
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