I’m sure many of you have recently seen the Mr. Rogers video below pop up in your news feed. In the space of a couple of days I saw it shared by several of my friends. It is his TV Hall of Fame award speech but includes a clip from one of his shows at the beginning to set it up.
I had not previously been aware of this speech. I was impressed by the message he decided to share. It touched me and felt very much like an individual call to action. He challenged us in the entertainment industry to show the good life has to offer and make it attractive. To hear him say it with the power and authority afforded him by the life he lived both revitalized me and left me wondering at my own accomplishments in this respect. That his challenge was something that he had actually truly accomplished made it possible for people to hear it and know it was possible. His speech strongly resonated with me … on the one hand.
It is the other hand that I so often struggle to know what to do with. From the vantage point of adulthood the good in life seems so cloudy and mixed in with the pain and the truly awful. And so rare, it seems, is the case where entertainment designed to showcase the good doesn’t feel whitewashed or fake or is just plain contrived and boring, with all these negatives reducing the impact. For those who strive to create exceptional art participating in films like these is not satisfying. Reality is hard and it seems we must show reality as it is. And so what is the solution? How do we create art that satisfies Mr. Rogers’s call and also hold true to our many and conflicting systems of resonating truths? Specifically the seeming reality that good rarely exists alone. At the same time it does seem that we should not completely lose focus on and likely can do a better job highlighting it.
As I chew on this it is great to have the example of one person who seemingly accomplished this without compromise of their most dearly held beliefs. Yes it was for a child audience, so perhaps the mark of attractive was easier to hit. And yet, when I saw his episodes show up on Netflix I don’t mind admitting that I went back and watched several. Perhaps it was nostalgia, but somehow they didn’t feel fake or contrived to me. They felt safe and comforting and like I was at home. A different kind of entertainment. The Mr. Rogers kind.
If you have thoughts or ideas on this topic let me know. I would love to hear them.