October will see the debut of Joker, a movie about the worst side of humanity. A month later the Mister Rogers movie will highlight the best about humanity through the story of the children’s television legend. The A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood featurette just released shows new footage from the film and features interviews with those who knew him and worked on the film.
The featurette begins with a new scene from A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Mister Rogers, played by Tom Hanks, explains to his audience that forgiveness is “a decision we make to release a person from the feelings of anger” we harbor towards them. A subtle nod to Mister Rogers’ philosophy that love is an active verb, something that we must work on continually. Adults need this message as much as Mister Rogers’ audience did, and director Marielle Heller hopes the film delivers it. Heller likens the film to an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for adults.
Mister Rogers Was Just as Good as the A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Featurette Suggests He Was
It seems impossible that someone like Mister Rogers really could be the sort of person his legend suggests he was. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood tells the story capture in “Can You Say…Hero,” written by Tom Junod, who is interviewed in the featurette. Mister Rogers possessed the ability to completely disarm anyone with his quiet, contemplative philosophy. In the featurette, colleague Bill Isler talks about Mister Rogers’ famous “moment of silence.” Luckily, the video clip above features both an example of it and an example of Mister Rogers’ active loving. The clip above features a segment from his show featuring Jeffrey Erlanger, a boy who lived with disabilities. Mister Rogers wanted to show his audience how strong kids like Jeffrey are. He also sings “It’s You I Like” with the young man.
At about 5:30 in the video, we jump forward some years to Mister Rogers’ induction into the Television Critics TV Hall of Fame. Jeffrey, now an adult, emerges on the stage to present him with the award. Mister Rogers is genuinely shocked and delighted to see him. He stands, mouth agape in surprise, and clambers onto the stage early, skipping the stairs entirely. In what is almost a mirror image of the video of their last interaction, he bends down to talk to his old neighbor. In his speech, he tells the audience full of weeping celebrities to take “ten seconds” to think about those who “loved you into being.” No one dared play the “wrap it up” music during his speech. Ask anyone who met Mister Rogers, and they will tell you that he was simply that good.
My (and My Mom’s) Mister Rogers Story
Image via the author
Many people tell their stories about how Mister Rogers made an impact on their lives, from those who received letters from him to those he met in person. Writer Anthony Breznican recounted a story about how he met Mister Rogers at the University of Pittsburgh during a low point. Many people native to Pittsburgh or living in that area ran into Mister Rogers once or twice. I met him once in the street near the WQED studios with David Newell myself. Not wanting to be a bother, I just said hello, shook his hand, and went about my business. However, my mother had a very memorable encounter with Mister Rogers in 1999 at the Greater Pittsburgh Airport.
At the time, I deployed with my U.S. Army Reserve unit to Eagle Base in Tuzla, Bosnia for a year-long deployment. Parents are never excited about sending their children off to overseas military service, even for relatively safe peacekeeping missions. After I boarded my plane, she left the airport, tears in her eyes. She spotted Mister Rogers, himself heading to catch a flight. She also introduced herself, having been a fan of his local children’s television show Children’s Corner in her youth. Mister Rogers noticed she’d been crying. Even rushing to catch a plane, he took the time to ask her what was wrong. He comforted her and then offered to pray for me, which according to the A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood featurette he definitely did.
In a situation when anyone would feel justifiably rushed, Mister Rogers took the time to sit with and console one of his neighbors. This is the example we all must strive to emulate.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Is a Film People Need Right Now
One interesting phenomenon in our digital age comes in the form of “reaction videos.” These videos feature folks like you and me reacting to trailers for upcoming films or series. Typically, they focus on the big stuff like Marvel Comics movies, video games like Cyberpunk 2077, or other notable pop culture projects. The above video comes from a man who goes by the name of Jay-3. Unlike many of the videos in this category, the A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood trailer elicits a very real reaction. He first tries to hold back his tears, saying only “I felt it” about the trailer for nearly a full minute. All Mister Rogers ever wanted from his audience was for us to feel and be unashamed about it. He’d be so proud of Jay-3, who ends his video by having a good cry.
Matthew Rhys plays the character based on Junod, though named “Lloyd” in the film. In the A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood featurette, the actor says that the world “needs” this Mister Rogers story. Almost any other time, such a pronouncement would be a mix of hubris and marketing savvy. However, this film does have an important message that many in the world need to hear. We live in a very contentions age. From sexist fan backlash to the Batwoman trailer to active censorship of political speech in art, we have a lot to be angry about. Thus a film about a man whose mission was to teach people healthy ways to deal with feelings of anger is just what we need. Another new scene from A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood in the featurette offers another Yoda-like pearl of wisdom from Hanks’ Rogers.
“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood doesn’t hit theaters until November. Yet, we don’t need to wait to see this film to start trying our best to be the people Mister Rogers always knew we could be.
I want to hear about your favorite Mister Rogers’ memory, whether you ever met him or not. Let us know in the comments or shout us out on social media.
Featured image via screengrab
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.