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.


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!

Julie: Yes!

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!

Julie: Yes!

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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  • soldiermom says:

    My kids loved Mr. Rogers because he had a quieting effect on them after they had watched the high-energy Sesame Street. Neither one of them have a sense of entitlement. That trait comes from the parents who give their children everything they want for fear of disappointing them. Parents want their kids to like them so they indulge their every whim. It also comes from parents who feel they should get their children's approval for everything. How many times do we hear parents giving their children a directive and immediately following that directive they ask, "Okay?" (i.e. "Put your toys away,okay?") This conversational pattern tells the kids THEY are in control of everything. Stop blaming Mr. Rogers, folks! The buck stops in your home!

  • CMG says:

    I watched Mr. Rogers as a kid like it was my first chore. I remember the awesome puppets, the trolley, and that he would always put on a cardigan sweater in the opening like it was yesterday. I never found him indulging. He actually pushed tolerance and self-confidence. He never fronted anything commercial besides PBS as far as I knew. He never promoted stuff that was harmful. To me this is the 180 degree angle of parents blaming cartoons and video games for erratic behavior of children. Blaming Mr. Rogers for anything is exactly what is threatening a values system. Sorry, the man was a saint.

  • happygolucky says:

    I love Mr. Rogers . . . and MovieLine.

  • Meadowlark1984 says:

    The type of "Specialness" Mister Rogers promoted in his show, is that we were all special because there is only one of each and every one of us. Even now at 27 years old this is something I marvel at.... that I am the only one on the planet that is exactly like me, the only one there ever has been or ever will be. And if you believe in the Biblical account of Creation as explained in the book of Genesis, that makes it all the more mind blowing.... not only am I and everyone else one-of-a-kind, but created beings to boot!
    Thank you, Mister Rogers :).