|Goodbye, gentle light
||[Feb. 27th, 2003|05:29 am]
|||||Won't You be my Neighbor?||]|
Mr. Rogers died of stomach cancer early this morning. In a world filled with cynicism and a belief that only flashiness will attract the attention of small children, Fred Rogers led a quiet counter-revolution with a message of kindness, gentleness, and respect. Only two groups of people really appreciated Mr. Rogers: pre-schoolers, and their moms. My children adored Mr. Rogers and his simple songs filled with the message that they were special, loved the way he talked right to them through the screen. I learned how crayons and tricycles are made, and how much half an hour of quiet repose could counteract the frantic pace of a day.
Fred Rogers was as decent a man as he portrayed himself to be. I remember seeing a set of out-takes from one episode in which he was supposed to set up a tent, a simple act for which the tent refused to cooperate. Despite numerous failures, he never lost his good humor, never resorted to frustrated force, and certainly never explicated. Surrender was accompanied with a smile, a laugh, and a good-natured shrug. Being a good guy wasn't Mr. Rogers' schtick - it was who he really was. As Ferrett once told me, the attempt to dig up dirt on him resulted in the shocking news that when his son went off to college, Fred didn't write him for the first two weeks. Even his reaction to those who poked fun of him displays the depth of his character: I was fotunate enough to hear one of his last interviews, wherein he said that he always considered Eddie Murphy's take-off on the show to be "funny and affectionate."
This isn't the loss of creative genius that Jim Henson's death was, certainly. Mr. Rogers' amazing puppeting style was never going to break into the big screen. But there is honor in choosing to do something and doing it well for some 30 years.
Children across the country will still watch Mr. Rogers age and grow young, week by week, as his vast catalog of reruns are played over and over. That is a legacy of which to be proud, left by a man who genuinely loved and cared for the people he touched.