Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Has anyone had more of a positive impact on children in the U.S. than Mister Rogers?

I wanted to become a better man after watching “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”.

I love this guy.

Enjoy!

The Trailer for the Mister Rogers Documentary

Watch the Mr. Rogers Doc

Release Date: January 19, 2018 (Sundance Film Festival); then it was in theaters on June 8, 2018

I watched the Mr. Rogers doc when it premiered on PBS on February 9, 2019.

You can now stream it on Netflix at https://www.netflix.com/title/80231412

It’s not a Netflix original, so there are other places to watch. I found it’s usually $3.99 to watch on:

  • Amazon
  • Apple TV
  • YouTube
  • Vudu Fandango
  • Microsoft.com
  • Goole Play

I don’t see anywhere to watch it for free, but there are reports of PBS (U.S. and Canada) showing the Mr. Rogers doc for free on the public airwaves from time to time.

Check here for the latest streaming options: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/wont-you-be-my-neighbor

And you can buy the DVD from PBS here: https://shop.pbs.org/XC4652.html ($19.99 last I checked).

Ratings:

  • My Rating: 95/100
  • IMDB Rating: 8.3/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Ratings: 94/100 (Users); 97/100 (Critics)

Review of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

Morgan Neville’s 2018 documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” opens with black-and-white footage of Fred Rogers playing the piano. The 94-minute doc explores Rogers’ life and philosophy.

Rogers’ show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” debuted in 1968. It ran for an impressive 31 seasons. The film highlights Rogers’ groundbreaking approach to children’s television.

He critiqued typical programming. Rogers created content that respected children’s intelligence and emotions. His show helped kids process difficult topics like divorce, death, and 9/11.

Interviews with family and colleagues reveal Rogers’ genuine kindness. His wife Joanne shares details about their 50-year marriage. Rogers’ childhood in Latrobe, Pennsylvania shaped his empathy for children’s struggles.

“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” tackled tough issues like racism. In 1969, Rogers invited African American actor François Clemmons to share a kiddie pool.

This subtle act condemned racial segregation (it was perhaps the first moment when a Black man shared a pool with a white person).

Archival footage captures Rogers’ warmth and authenticity. He connects with disabled boy Jeff Erlanger, showing natural empathy. The doc dispels myths, like Rogers having tattoos, by showing him swimming.

Rogers advocated for children’s television. In 1969, he testified before Congress to defend $20 million in federal funding proposed for the newly formed non-profit Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which was at risk of being reduced to $10 million.

It’s an awesome scene. Rogers turns grumpy Senator John Pastore (D-RI) around in a few moments:

His plea secured crucial support.

Behind-the-scenes insights reveal the show’s production. We see the creation of beloved characters like King Friday XIII and Daniel Striped Tiger. Segments highlight the profound impact on viewers of all ages.

The doc’s gentle pacing reflects Rogers’ demeanor. It allows time to absorb his wisdom and reflect. For many, watching feels like a warm hug from an old friend.

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is more than nostalgic. It’s a call to carry on Rogers’ legacy of kindness and respect. This message is increasingly important in our divided world.

Other Cool Stuff That Other Reviews Missed in the Mister Rogers Doc

I feel like many of the big-time movie reviewers overlooked some key parts of the doc. They included

  • Fred Rogers’ Childhood Illnesses and Isolation: I found it fascinating to learn more about Rogers’ challenging childhood in the documentary. We often focus on how his experiences directly influenced his TV career, but understanding how his early struggles with illness and isolation shaped his empathy is crucial. It really drives home why he was so passionate about connecting with and supporting children emotionally.
  • The Role of Silence in the Show: You know how most children’s shows are super fast-paced? Well, the documentary shows how Rogers went against the grain by using silence effectively. He gave kids time to think and reflect, which is such a powerful educational tool. I wish more people talked about this subtle yet impactful aspect of his show.
  • Rogers’ Response to François Clemmons’ Sexuality: The documentary doesn’t shy away from complex moments, like when Rogers initially asked Clemmons to hide his sexuality to stay on the show. It’s a nuanced look at Rogers’ character and the societal challenges of the time. I appreciate how they showed his conservative response and his eventual evolution and deepening friendship with Clemmons.
  • Was Mister Rogers gay?: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” doesn’t shy away from rumors about Fred Rogers’ sexuality. It tackles the topic head-on, including a segment with François Clemmons, who played Officer Clemmons on the show. Clemmons, who is openly gay, shares a story about Rogers telling him to stop going to gay bars. Rogers feared the show could be canceled if Clemmons was spotted there, reflecting the era’s attitudes. Despite this, Clemmons emphasizes that Rogers never had an issue with his sexuality on a personal level. Their close relationship gives weight to Clemmons’ assertion that Rogers was not gay. The doc includes a clip of talk show host Tom Snyder asking Rogers if he was straight. While it doesn’t show Rogers’ response, it lets Clemmons’ perspective on the matter speak for itself.
  • Fred Rogers’ Prank with Nick Tallo: You might not expect it, but the documentary shows Rogers’ playful side too! There’s this funny prank involving a photo of Tallo’s backside. It’s a lighthearted moment that reveals a different side of Rogers, one that we don’t often see in contrast to his calm on-screen persona.
  • The Impact of the Challenger Explosion: I was struck by how the documentary covered Rogers’ response to the Challenger space shuttle disaster. He used it as a teaching moment about tragedy and loss, showing how he addressed real-world issues in a way that kids could understand.

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac, Daily Doc