Fifteen years after his death, Fred Rogers is experiencing a resurgence in popularity as people seek solace in his gentle, steadfast moral code. On YouTube, clips of Rogers’ show regularly amass millions of views, watched in large part by those who were either too young, or not alive, the first time around. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, which explores Rogers’ life and legacy, has already become the highest-grossing biographical documentary of all time– it was released in the US in June, and has so far made $12.4 m.
It’s 1968. Daniel Tiger– one of several puppet characters on children’s TV show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood– is being shown how to blow up a balloon.
“What if you blow all your air out?” he frets to Lady Aberlin, one of the neighbourhood’s human inhabitants.
“But people aren’t like balloons, Daniel,” she replies. “When we blow air out, we get more back in.” She begins to blow it up again, breathing demonstrably as she goes. There’s a beat. “What does assassination mean?”
“I felt that I had to speak to the families of our country about grief,” said Rogers, an ordained minister who chose a more secular path when it came to offering emotional guidance to America’s children. “A plea not to leave the children isolated, and at the mercy of their own fantasies of loss and destruction.”