Author Topic: Getting past the hagiography surrounding Fred Rogers  (Read 17302 times)

elmtree

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Getting past the hagiography surrounding Fred Rogers
« on: March 14, 2013, 01:32:03 AM »
Hello all!  I'm glad to have found this forum, and to know that such an active and lively discussion about MR is going on after so many years :)

I thought I'd post about something I've been wondering for awhile -- in my research I've been intrigued by the discrepancies between the popular image of Fred Rogers (his image on the show and in newspapers, etc.) and the "reality" of who he "really" was.  And I don't mean this in terms of my finding out anything negative.  It's just very interesting hearing things that made him seem more human and less saint/icon, or hearing things that contradicted the popular perception of him.

For instance, I was watching this video with Margaret Whitmer http://exhibit.fredrogerscenter.org/advocacy-for-children/videos/view/981/ and at 01:31 she describes how when she came to get him to go get ready to tape the assassination special, he started to cry and told her that he wondered if he did any good.  This was surprising to me because 1) I did not peg him the type as one to show overt emotion often; and 2) I also always saw him -- and of course this is speculation -- as very confident in the impact of his work.

Another example -- this is quite naiive but I was shocked to find out that he came from such wealth ... on the show he had such a tiny little house, and wore such normal clothes, and peddled such mainstream, "middle-class" values.

And I've been browsing through old forum posts (especially from BKA -- hi Betty! I love that you are on this forum!) and was intrigued to read about Fred's insistence on tight scripting and control over his work.  Again, I don't bring this up to be critical -- hey, different strokes for different folks.  Regardless, it's an interesting facet of his personality that isn't mentioned in most sources about him.

So to conclude my rambling: Despite Fred's insistence that he wasn't acting ... I'd argue that he was.  The way he portrayed himself on the show and in the public eye was no accident.

I'm curious -- "what" humanizing sorts of things have you all found out about Fred Rogers or the Neighborhood that surprised you? (Betty, if you have the time and inclination I'd especially be interested in hearing from you, since you knew him personally, and because it sounds like you are one of the few unbiased, un-FRC-affilliated voices out there. )

itsyouilike

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Re: Getting past the hagiography surrounding Fred Rogers
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2013, 03:46:30 PM »
I'm interested in this as well. I was honestly a little disappointed when I first read through BKA's posts because she made it clear that he wasn't the saint I thought he was, but I really appreciate her openness about her experiences and now find comfort in the fact that he was only human just like the rest of us. :)

earnhardtfan4life

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Re: Getting past the hagiography surrounding Fred Rogers
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2013, 09:56:33 AM »
Welcome to the forums elmtree!  It isn't quite as active as it used to be but nevertheless there is a lot to read about. 

In real life he did have constant battles with his son (maybe son(s) plural) in the mid 70s.  I can't remember which one but one of them was a rebellious teenager.  Not something that you would expect Fred to have to deal with; however, for who he was and stood for I guess there would be a higher percentage for his own children to have problems.  Much like how a pastor's children tend get into trouble.  I could probably imagine his children probably got teased to death.  I imagine Fred probably carried a burden that if he couldn't take care of his own children how is he suppose to be the man that he was.  From a historical perspective, I think history will override his family issues and will still carry the stance that he cared for children through the tv medium.  In my opinion, during the 1979-2001 era of MRN, I think you can tell that he shows more confidence in what he is doing. 

Mike

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Re: Getting past the hagiography surrounding Fred Rogers
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2013, 10:58:56 AM »
I'd be very curious to know if this idea about his son being overly rebellious is documented anywhere. I've heard that a few time before myself but nothing more than hearsay. I'd hesitate to make this claim until something officially documented surfaces. Until then, as far as I'm concerned, this can be chalked up to urban legend along side the sniper and tattoo claims.

elmtree

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Re: Getting past the hagiography surrounding Fred Rogers
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2013, 12:13:53 PM »
I'd be very curious to know if this idea about his son being overly rebellious is documented anywhere. I've heard that a few time before myself but nothing more than hearsay. I'd hesitate to make this claim until something officially documented surfaces. Until then, as far as I'm concerned, this can be chalked up to urban legend along side the sniper and tattoo claims.

Same. When I read the People article I didn't interpret it as anything serious at all ... I mean, lots of students don't really talk with their parents while they are in college!

elmtree

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Re: Getting past the hagiography surrounding Fred Rogers
« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2013, 12:16:46 PM »
I'm interested in this as well. I was honestly a little disappointed when I first read through BKA's posts because she made it clear that he wasn't the saint I thought he was, but I really appreciate her openness about her experiences and now find comfort in the fact that he was only human just like the rest of us. :)

Yep, I feel the same way.

Right now it seems like what's written and said about the Neighborhood is very tightly controlled, which is why I'm glad that we can hear from Betty on here.

galenfott

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Re: Getting past the hagiography surrounding Fred Rogers
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2013, 08:57:13 AM »
Yes. I have often thought that the image of Fred as "a saint walking the earth among mortal men" is, in its own way, as much of a ridiculous injustice as the image of him as a heavily-tattooed Navy sniper.

mitsguy2001

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Re: Getting past the hagiography surrounding Fred Rogers
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2013, 08:57:31 PM »
I wish that when Fred was alive, it would have been interesting to see a candid interview with both Fred and Betty to hear their opinions on various things.  That would have been very interesting.  I don't want to use the word "debate", since that sounds too adversarial.

itsyouilike

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Re: Getting past the hagiography surrounding Fred Rogers
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2013, 02:42:48 AM »
That would have been fascinating.

Jazzman67

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Re: Getting past the hagiography surrounding Fred Rogers
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2013, 12:49:49 PM »
The notion that Fred Rogers was acting can flatly be debunked! What you saw was the real thing!

Even if I had only met him in person for 10 minutes in Boston in 1985, and saw him live in concert, together wirh Betty Aberlin, Johnny Costa, Francois Clemmons and Mr, Mcfeely together with the BSO, I can honestly say that Mr. Rogers didn't change at all.

The programs were indeed controlled, and that basically has to do with the budget concerns of each program. There wasn't much tme to be wasted in the studio. Keep in mind that it's PBS. That's probably true for any other program produced for PBS that' aimed for children.

Oh, and I respectfully ask that we drop any issues that have anything to do with the personal lives of Mr. Rogers or anyone else associated with the program. Just trust me: Mr. Rogers never acted at all. But, he did think carefully about how to best produce the programs.

earnhardtfan4life

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Re: Getting past the hagiography surrounding Fred Rogers
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2013, 01:06:05 PM »
I bet the concert must have been fascinating.  I wished I had seen the whole group in concert together.  I think in the 70s or 80s they had concerts that even included John Reardon.  I have met Roscoe Orman (Gordon) from Sesame Street before.

Jazzman67

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Re: Getting past the hagiography surrounding Fred Rogers
« Reply #11 on: March 21, 2013, 04:11:56 PM »
Yes. The shows were one hour long each. Oddly, aside from the opening anc closing songs, I only remember Betty Aberlin singing "I like to take my time" in the show. I think the story line centered around Purple Panda's Birthday. The date of the show was March 22, 1986, too.

I was tickets since my father had connections with the local PBS station, in Boston. Since I was hearing impaired, tickets were available for those who were disabled, through the statiion.

It was fun to hear Johnny Costa, too. I was able to give Mr. Rogers a special birthday gift, too: A photo of me and him together outside the WBZ station when we met the year before, as he was literly on his way back to Pittsburgh, after his interview. He had been taping the segement about the Empire Brass Quintet, for the musc week.

mitsguy2001

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Re: Getting past the hagiography surrounding Fred Rogers
« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2013, 09:23:22 PM »
The notion that Fred Rogers was acting can flatly be debunked! What you saw was the real thing!

Even if I had only met him in person for 10 minutes in Boston in 1985, and saw him live in concert, together wirh Betty Aberlin, Johnny Costa, Francois Clemmons and Mr, Mcfeely together with the BSO, I can honestly say that Mr. Rogers didn't change at all.

The programs were indeed controlled, and that basically has to do with the budget concerns of each program. There wasn't much tme to be wasted in the studio. Keep in mind that it's PBS. That's probably true for any other program produced for PBS that' aimed for children.

Oh, and I respectfully ask that we drop any issues that have anything to do with the personal lives of Mr. Rogers or anyone else associated with the program. Just trust me: Mr. Rogers never acted at all. But, he did think carefully about how to best produce the programs.


Honestly, I enjoy reading what Betty has to say about Fred.  Regardless of what we may want to think, Fred was just a human.  He was clearly a good person, but he had flaws, just like anyone else, and he made mistakes, just like anyone else.  Fred even said himself that every puppet that he voiced indicated a certain aspect of his personality.  I know everyone wants to think that Daniel was the puppet most like Fred's real personality.  But Fred himself admits that all of the puppets are a part of his personality, including King Friday and Lady Elaine.

I also get the feeling that, for the most part, Fred surrounded himself by people who were obedient, even to a fault, and always said the "right" thing.  My feeling is that Betty was one of the very few people that was close with Fred who said what was on her mind, and acted as her own person.

itsyouilike

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Re: Getting past the hagiography surrounding Fred Rogers
« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2013, 09:43:05 AM »
I never doubted his sincerity; it's very clear that he was the real deal. But he was human, and to be human is to be imperfect.

MIKEBENNIDICT

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Re: Getting past the hagiography surrounding Fred Rogers
« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2013, 02:51:49 PM »
Hello all!  I'm glad to have found this forum, and to know that such an active and lively discussion about MR is going on after so many years :)

I thought I'd post about something I've been wondering for awhile -- in my research I've been intrigued by the discrepancies between the popular image of Fred Rogers (his image on the show and in newspapers, etc.) and the "reality" of who he "really" was.  And I don't mean this in terms of my finding out anything negative.  It's just very interesting hearing things that made him seem more human and less saint/icon, or hearing things that contradicted the popular perception of him.

For instance, I was watching this video with Margaret Whitmer http://exhibit.fredrogerscenter.org/advocacy-for-children/videos/view/981/ and at 01:31 she describes how when she came to get him to go get ready to tape the assassination special, he started to cry and told her that he wondered if he did any good.  This was surprising to me because 1) I did not peg him the type as one to show overt emotion often; and 2) I also always saw him -- and of course this is speculation -- as very confident in the impact of his work.

Another example -- this is quite naiive but I was shocked to find out that he came from such wealth ... on the show he had such a tiny little house, and wore such normal clothes, and peddled such mainstream, "middle-class" values.

And I've been browsing through old forum posts (especially from BKA -- hi Betty! I love that you are on this forum!) and was intrigued to read about Fred's insistence on tight scripting and control over his work.  Again, I don't bring this up to be critical -- hey, different strokes for different folks.  Regardless, it's an interesting facet of his personality that isn't mentioned in most sources about him.

So to conclude my rambling: Despite Fred's insistence that he wasn't acting ... I'd argue that he was.  The way he portrayed himself on the show and in the public eye was no accident.

I'm curious -- "what" humanizing sorts of things have you all found out about Fred Rogers or the Neighborhood that surprised you? (Betty, if you have the time and inclination I'd especially be interested in hearing from you, since you knew him personally, and because it sounds like you are one of the few unbiased, un-FRC-affilliated voices out there. )
I think you're being a bit illogical. Coming from a rich, middle-class, or poor background has nothing to do with anything.

Also why is it suprising he was strict over what was said in the scripts? The show was basically his idea and he's probably not the only one in TV history that was like that.


And of course he was acting. Though obviously he wasn't pretending to be someone that he wasn't.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2013, 02:53:51 PM by MIKEBENNIDICT »