Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Parent Guide
The legacy of Fred Rogers.
Parent Movie Review
“The space between the television screen and whoever happens to be seeing it,” explains Fred Rogers, “I consider that holy ground.”
The documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? delves into the life and career of Fred Rogers as he communicates to generations of kids through a medium more often crass than holy. A Presbyterian minister, ordained to evangelize through television, Mr. Rogers uses Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to share his theology of “love your neighbor and yourself.”
Key to Mr. Rogers’ success is his powerful ability to empathize with the young, to put himself in their shoes, to truly listen as they speak. Seeing himself as an advocate for children, he demands television programs that respect and provide safe places for them.
This film is very sedate and is composed of interviews, clips from Mr. Rogers’ television programs, and some animation exploring his youth and inner life. One of its most exciting moments occurs when Fred Rogers testifies before a Senate hearing into PBS funding. With a passionate plea for the emotional needs of children, he manages to secure the network’s budget.
But the mood becomes increasingly melancholy as Mr. Rogers begins to doubt his ability to have a positive influence on the media and society. Despite his discouragement and persistent self-doubt, Mr. Rogers continues to write scripts and songs, to encourage and comfort his little viewers, to remind them that they are loved for who they are. “Those who would try to make you feel like you’re less than who you are – that’s the greatest evil,” he warns.
This documentary is about reaching out to children but it is not a movie for children. Although there are no real content concerns (there is minimal crude language and a photo of a man’s bare buttocks), from a kid’s perspective, the film moves very slowly and the interviews lack excitement. Parents, on the other hand, will appreciate Mr. Rogers’ insights into the emotional lives of the very young and his dedication to providing positive media experiences for them. Adults who grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood will also enjoy this heartwarming retrospective.
Perhaps the best known of Mr. Rogers’ lyrics are, “I’ve always wanted to have a neighbor just like you! I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you. So let’s make the most of this beautiful day. Since we’re together we might as well say, Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor?” This poignant little film gives us all the chance to spend some quiet, thoughtful time with a remarkable man and the gentle neighborhood he sought to build.Directed by Morgan Neville. Starring Joanne Rogers, McColm Cephas Jr., François Scarborough Clemmons . Running time: 95 minutes. Theatrical release June 25, 2018. Updated September 4, 2018
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Rating & Content Info
Why is Won’t You Be My Neighbor? rated PG-13? Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some thematic elements and language.
Violence: The documentary includes newsreel clips from the assassination of Robert Kennedy and from 9/11, but none of it contains explicitly violent material.
Sexual Content: There is a photo of a man (not Mr Rogers) who put on a King Friday mask, dropped his trousers and took a picture of his buttocks. One interviewee discusses Mr Rogers’ evolving attitudes towards homosexuality. There is no explicit sexual content in the conversation.
Profanity: One interview subject uses occasional terms of deity, mild profanities and some crude language.
Alcohol / Drug Use: There is no alcohol or drug use in this movie.
Page last updated September 4, 2018
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Parents' Guide
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