Did Mr. Rogers Ruin Our Values? A TVLine IM Debate
Louisiana State University professor Don Chance has a fascinating idea: Mr. Rogers ruined this generation with messages like "You're Special," because they make kids value personal "specialness" over achievement or merit. That's right, Fred Rogers rendered us all narcissists, people who enjoy closeups of fishbowls only because we can see ourselves in them. Right. Movieline's Louis Virtel and Julie Miller grew up watching PBS's Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and speculated about Don Chance's own world of make-believe.
Louis: So Julie, what was your experience with Mister Rogers' Neighborhood like growing up?
Julie: Not only did I grow up watching Mr. Rogers, but I am from his hometown. So he was practically spoon-fed to me as a child.
Louis: WHAT THE HELL.
Julie: I have relatives that worked on his show, etc. etc. etc. He is a legend. So I hate to tell you, but you kind of have an expert on your hands here. Did I just blow your mind?
Louis: You are fuchsias from the same crayon factory!
Louis: You lived in a neighborhood that could be called "The Neighborhood." You could've watched every episode and muttered, "He's sort of only talking to me," and have been right!
Louis: So: Do you have any self-esteem left, you child victim?
Julie: I actually have a coat closet full of zip-up cardigans and fish tanks full of self-esteem.
Louis: I figured as much. When I think of Mr. Rogers and how I was excited to watch as a kid, I was mostly into the really repetitive things -- watching him tie his shoes, watching the trolley roll out, and leaving the room when all the puppets started with their noises. It was mostly calming rather than lazy-making, as this allegation implies.
Julie: See, I loved the trips to the factories. I still have dreams about the crayon factory episode. The repetition wasn't as soothing for me as Mr. Rogers' melodic voice. So patient. So kind.
Louis: So Mr. Rogers is a little like Rebecca for you: "Last night I dreamt I went to the crayon factory again..." And good point: Everything about Mr. Rogers was soothing.
Julie: Do you know what wasn't soothing for me? And potentially emotionally scarring?
Louis: Oooh, what?
Julie: Those f*cking puppets. They were scary! King Friday XIII.
Louis: King Friday, first of all, looked exactly like the horrifying Burger King mascot.
Julie: RIGHT! You are the first person to make that connection, congratulations.
I knew he seemed familiar. I just don't think puppets should have pointy features. But that is a whole different conversation.
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