5 Reasons Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Is Creepier Than A David Lynch Film


This weekend we tripped across Mister Rogers on Netflix. We had some great bonding time and introduced our first born, age 10, to one of our childhood mainstays. Fred Rogers taught kids lessons, shared the neighborhood of make believe, and welcomed us into his own neighborhood with a quick change and a song. But, as adults, things aren't quite as we remembered them in Mister R.'s neighborhood. In fact, when viewed through jaded, cynical and experienced adult eyes, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood is creepier than any David Lynch film. You remember him? He's the guy who created Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet


Suggested listening while reading this post:

Weezer, "Undone-The Sweater Song," because, well, Mr. R. loved sweaters.



Mister Rogers, "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" for obvious reasons.



1. Sweaters--Yes, Mister R. had sweaters. In fact, his mother knitted most of the sweaters he wore on the show. While this is very sweet, as an adult it was easy to imagine the poor elderly Mrs. R. shoved in the back of the closet (sweat shop style) working her fingers to the bone--knitting. Wait, wasn't that her gnarly, arthritic finger holding out the sweater as Mr. R reaches for it? Maybe he sings to cover up the shrill screams of his aged mother as she begs to be released from the horrors within. 

2. The Great Shoe Swap--Fred Rogers greeted us and then went straight to the closet (where his mother was trapped, hiding out, knitting). He swapped out his 70's sports coat for a handmade sweater and his dress shoes for the comfort of tennis sneakers. At the end of the show he would wrap things up by opening the closet (while again singing another song...coincidence?) and changing back into the clothes he apparently wore whenever he was outside of the neighborhood. But, upon viewing several episodes we noticed something strange, Mister R. never actually puts his shoes back on. He leaves the house and heads back into the real world sans shoes. In the final shot they only show him from the calves up. Which leads any rational adult to wonder, was Mister R. a hippy, a nut, a wannabe nudist who couldn't fully commit or simply a man who's had his toes pinched one too many times by the formal confines of dress shoes? 

3. The Neighborhood of Make Believe--Fred would include a visit to this fantastical neighborhood in every episode. A place made up of puppets voiced by adult humans. Creepy, right? The puppets were both human and animal. Odd, hmm? Of course, the animals talked. But, this isn't the strangest thing. What makes these puppets especially scary (and I wonder how I wasn't frightened as a child) was the sexual and phallic nature of their faces.  Harriet Elizabeth Cow had a nose shaped like either breasts or a buttocks. We decided her nose was much more breast-like because there appeared to be one pink 'nipple' (in actuality a nostril) on each breast. And what of Lady Elaine Fairchilde whose nose looked like a large, erect penis and her bright red cheeks, two irritated testicles. There were other curiosities, like why was Prince Tuesday in school with a demanding, know it all duck and a passive, pussy of a tiger Daniel Striped Tiger instead of human children? And why did I never realize as a child that Fred Rogers was voicing many of the puppets? Sort of creepy. And don't even get me started on Lady Aberlin

4. The Outside of the House Adventures--Fred often took us outside of the house and into the neighborhood to meet friends and explore the world. We saw the inside of factories and shops. In one episode Mister R. was jogging in a track suit, picture Ben Affleck circa the J Lo Days...there you've got it. He joined a friend to see how electric cars ran. The excitement and anticipation were intense. In another we watched a film about crayons being made. Mister R. called them, "crayins." These short, informational bits were far too long, extremely boring and often featured things we found frightening like (as mentioned before) Fred Rogers in an ecru and burgundy track suit. At least he was promoting physical activity long before our children sank into the depths of childhood obesity, and it actually became the 'it' thing to do. 

5. Let's Talk About Sex--Okay, so it wasn't exactly S-E-X, but long before shows like Beverly Hills 90210 cast a harsh and glaring light on the societal ills that plagued a generation (rape, divorce, teen suicide), we had Mister Rogers. In one episode, he indirectly broached the subject of divorce by using the creepy adult-voiced puppets. Prince Tuesday explained that his parents had been fighting lately and that he was afraid they were going to get divorced. The demanding duck classmate said her parents had been fighting too. And then the 'd' word was dropped like a bad f*cking habit. From there, the creepy adult character who looks like a giant next to the puppets, says some sort of mumbo jumbo and the topic of divorce drifts into the ether leaving kids (and viewing adults) more confused than ever. 

*If you'd like to see Mister R. tackle divorce by using creepy puppets click on the clip below and watch from 15:40 to 17:50. 
Mister Rogers Tackles The 'D' Word


Now, don't misunderstand, Fred Rogers was an icon, a legend in children's television. His lifetime was devoted to making kids happy and keeping them entertained. But as an adult the man, the neighborhood and the talking puppets seem creepy. I often wonder, if this poor man would be embraced by Generation Z in the same way Baby Boomers and Gen Xers embraced him.

14 comments:

  1. I happen to have been a huge Mr. Rogers fan, but this is brilliant!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank, Kathy. Actually, I think Fred Rogers was a very kind man and truly loved kids and education. But, it can be totally creepy if viewed from the right (or wrong) perspective.

      Delete
  2. This. Is. Awesome. Thanks for reminding me of his ultra creepiness!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love to remind people of all things creepy. This is a great lead in to my favorite day of the year, Halloween!

      Delete
  3. Ha!! His poor knitting mother in a sweat shop. Hilarious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That poor woman. She must have had the gnarly fingers of a Catholic nun. Growing up we were always afraid of the nuns and their knotty (arthritic) fingers didn't help.

      Delete
  4. You totally brought me back. I have to admit I was never truly a fan, but my brother loved watching his show when we were kids, but still me not so much, because yes he totally creeped me out even back then LOL!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Consider yourself one of the lucky ones. The show is very strange (now that I'm looking back as an adult). My 10 YO thought it was so creepy...

      Delete
  5. One day in college, a bunch of us were talking about how much we loved Sesame Street as kids. So we skipped class to go to my apt to watch it, but it wasn't on. So instead we watched Mr. Rogers. The WHOLE EPISODE was about taking a dump. Except instead of calling it "going poop" or "going potty" he kept calling it "B.M.s"

    It was the creepiest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's great and must have been so funny in college.

      Delete
  6. I used to have nightmares about Lady Elaine when I was a kid. She was the creepiest thing about the show to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She is a super creep. I don't know how more children weren't plagued by nightmares.

      Delete
  7. This made me giggle. And I agree. I remember thinking as a kid, "That's a lot of sweaters."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad to make you giggle. Giggles are the best.

      Delete

Welcome to the Sh*t Show

Subscribe to Suburban Sh*t Show to enjoy new weekly posts. Never miss a thing!