Sunday, July 8, 2018

Won't You Be My Neighbor

My two older sisters hated it when Trolley started making its way back to Mr. Rogers's house from Make Believe Land.

Every episode had the same simple format. Mr. Rogers would come through the front door of his tiny and simple home, singing about it being "a beautiful day in the neighborhood," asking viewers to be his neighbor, and changing into a sweater and more comfortable shoes. He would introduce the simple concept of the day. Music, or creativity, or sadness, or inclusivity, or whatever. Various cast regulars and special guests would come by to help demonstrate the lesson of the day. Then Trolley would go off to Make Believe Land.

It was a cheap-looking set where hand puppets you could find at the bottom of a bin in a second-hand store interacted with not-particularly-remarkable actors.

Then Trolley would go back to Mr. Rogers's house so Mr. Rogers could sum up the lesson again and sing a simple song about it.

Then he'd undo the intro, changing back into his dress shoes and jacket while singing about how tomorrow "there'll be things you'll want to talk about" and promising to come back and talk again.

It really was, from start to finish, a sad-looking spectacle for those to whom it didn't speak.

By the time I was old enough to be aware of Mr. Rogers, my sisters had probably aged out of the demographic.

They were bored with Mr. Rogers, and maybe only mildly entertained by Make Believe Land. Exceptionally entertained by Make Believe Land when compared to how they felt about Mr. Rogers's house.

They used to try to persuade Trolley to turn around by screaming at the TV.

I don't know whether they actually thought this might work. Mr. Rogers typically encouraged interaction with his TV viewers so maybe somewhere deep down they thought Trolley could hear them.

In any event, Trolley never did seem to consider their pleas, which is probably why they finally took to physical intervention.

Lying on their backs in front of the TV one day, sometime around 1985, they quickly put their feet on the left of the screen in an attempt to block Trolley's path back to Mr. Rogers's house, screaming "turn around! It's not too late!"

When Trolley seemed unaffected by their feet, they pushed a little harder. Hard enough to knock the TV off of the table that held it.

Mr. Rogers was banned for some time at the McCann house after this. The show was too violent.

Fortunately the ban didn't last long, because I was a kid who understood and responded to Mr. Rogers.

As an exceptionally anxious child who hoarded candy with Mandy Williams in anticipation of a world hunger famine; who was scared that other kids wouldn't want to play with me because I had freckles and they might rub off on them; who stayed awake with stomach aches at age 6 because I thought my family might move away and forget to take me with them, Mr. Rogers was a Godsend.

The slow pacing of the show was calming to me. As the camera would pan over Mr. Rogers's neighborhood, I felt like I was in a comfortable and safe place. He spoke about being kind and that message resonated with me. He regularly preached that every child was worth loving, and looking back, I can see that that lesson profoundly carried me through a lot of childhood experiences.

I can only imagine how much more important he must have been to children who weren't fortunate enough to grow up surrounded by reliable adults who were trying to teach similar messages as well.

All of this is to say that I made Skylar go see Won't You Be My Neighbor with me yesterday because it felt like a good way to pay homage to someone who had no idea how much he helped a strange little boy in Salt Lake City.

Skylar wasn't a Mr. Rogers watcher growing up so I don't know how interested he was to see it. And I doubt he had the ugly cries as much as I did for two hours.

But he must have enjoyed it because, although he tends to be a little cynical about these kinds of things, he said to me as we walked out of the theater, "so, I think that man might have been perfect."

I think so, too.

When something nice comes along we tend to make jokes that it's a message we need, but don't deserve. I think this film is something America needs, especially because we might not deserve it right now. Please go see Won't You Be My Neighbor.

Also, please enjoy this week's Strangerville.

This time in Strangerville, some general bickering, plus a few cringe-worthy memories of taking a joke too far. Please also enjoy a recording of a childhood story told live on the Strangerville Live stage.
Rabbit Poem, by Whitney Call
Produced by Eli McCann & Meg Walter

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. I love Mr Rogers. Seeing his show always take me back to a time when the world was kinder and simpler. Have you ever watched Mr. Rogers drunk history? It’s great! Tom Hank’s son plays Mr Rogers for it.

  2. Assistant Editor, KrissyJuly 9, 2018 at 9:57 AM

    I can’t imagine “they’re be things” is correct, but I’m sorry if I’m wrong. Your hair looks amazing today

  3. I love that Mr. Rogers was banned and too violent in your household; in mine it was The Simpsons because my brother and I behaved too much like Bart and Lisa and in fairness, that wasn’t a family show in the early 90s anyway. 😂😂😂

    But Mr. Rogers was my younger brother’s friend (as he once told my mom), so I thought of him while watching this wonderful, touching movie. I’m glad you experienced it.

    1. Oh, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Cathie banned so many movies and TV shows when we were kids I don’t think we’d have time or space to list them all. After Mr Rogers, there was The Carebears, The Simpson’s, the Golden Girls, 90210, Married With Children....the list goes on and on and on.

    2. We could watch Mr. Rogers, but I remember having a ban on Barney and Friends, Sesame Street, and Power Rangers, along with the ones you've mentioned! I was going to mention how weird parents are, but I recently banned my own kids from any YouTube videos starring kids making things, going places, singing, receiving promo gifts in the mail, etc. so I totally get it!

    3. Krishelle I think your mom must be related to my mom, she had a very similar list of banned shows. When we eventually got cable in the late 80's she called the cable company and got them to block MTV, VH1, and several other channels that she deemed inappropriate. So we just watched them at our friends houses after school. Kina thank heavens Barney was after my time, my nieces and nephews loved that show but I couldn't stand it.

      I thought about our household ban on shows the other day as I was rewatching an episode of Supernatural and thinking that all those banned shows were nothing compared to what's considered "normal" on tv now. And then I felt very old for thinking that.

    4. Oh! In my defense you have to remember I grew up watching great TV.... The Rifleman, the Art Linkletter Show, The Bob Hope Hour and the Lawrence Welk Show featuring the Lennon Sisters. And as a teenager the wonderful Carol Burnett Show started. Once in a while I would sneak and lay in the hallway in the dark as a little girl and watch the Twilight Zone while my mom watched it. That was as bad/scary as it got! Soooo... you can imagine my hesitation on 90210....Married with Children....and the Golden Girls. On Carebears and the Simpsons I caved to Peer Pressure (other moms). LOLOL!! I now give all my kids permission to watch all the shows mentioned about! BWAHAHAHA! :) ;)

    5. Thank goodness Golden Girls is now Cathie-approved!!

      My parents decided early on they wouldn’t allow certain things in their house but fully understood we’d watch it at our friends’ houses.

      And that’s how I experienced Austin Powers and American Pie in fifth grade.

  4. I love Mr. Rogers, too.

  5. I loved Mr. Rogers, too. My favorite excursion ever is the one where you see how crayons are made. It still fascinates me, so I was so excited when they did it again on Daniel Tiger. I saw the one where they made the rocking horse way too many times, so it got old.

    I will say, though, sometimes his reassurance backfired. One episode, he was explaining that you can't get sucked down the bathtub drain by showing that even a little toy boat doesn't fit down the drain, so of course a person couldn't fit. My 3- or 4-year old brain said, "Wait, this is something I should have been worrying about?!?!?!" Even though Mr. Rogers had just proved to me that I wouldn't get sucked down the drain, for the next several baths I took, in the back of my brain I was thinking about it and low-key worrying about getting sucked down the drain. I guess my brain needed to work through the stress even though I already knew the outcome, haha.

    1. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I'm sure I had experiences like this, too, but I can't think of any!

    2. The Crayons episode was my favorite too!

    3. The crayon video is immediately what came to mind when I read this post. I had to go watch it again.

    4. I don't remember ever watching Mr. Rogers specifically, but I definitely also had a point in my childhood where a show menrioned fears about being sucked down the drain, which then led to months of me jumping out of the tub panicked as soon as it started draining. As such I have concluded this is a perfectly reasonable reaction to being told not to fear something that you had not previously taken time to consider frightening.

  6. My mom took me to see it and I ugly cried the entire time. My boyfriend and I are getting “143” tattooed in each other’s handwriting for our first tattoos. It’s one of the more significant parts of my childhood.

    But, I think I’ve been reading Strangerville since I was 15. And it’s always been a neighborhood for me, where everyone can sit down and talk and stretch their legs out, not afraid of judgement. Jokes and fun and love. And so polite to each other, very Mr. Rogers style.

    So thank you for being the extension that I needed ❤️ I fall into the “didn’t have any adults” category and needed the love.

  7. I need to see this. I don't get out to movies much, so I hope it will be on DVD some time. Some movies I buy solely on the recommendation of people whose opinion I trust, and you are one of them. Also, I loved Mr. Rogers growing up as well. I'm assuming you have seen that little Mr. Rogers remix music video from a few years ago? This one I don't think it's supposed to make a person cry, but I totally cried watching just because of how great Mr. Rogers is & the good memories & feelings from watching the show growing up. I think I better watch that movie alone...I don't like crying in front of anyone.

  8. I want to see this movie but I live in Logan so I'll just have to wait until it comes out on Netflix or I can find time to drive to Ogden (the nearest town with a theatre showing it) before it's out of theatres. I was raised on PBS kids programs, Looney Tunes, classic movies, and tv shows in syndication from the 50s and 60s. The joys of being raised by a member of someone who was the same age as my friends grandparents, and in one situation...greatgrandparents.