Fred McFeely Rogers (March 20, 1928 February 27, 2003) was an American television personality, musician, composer, puppeteer, writer, producer, and Presbyterian minister from Pittsburgh whose iconic television series, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, brought up generations of children in an atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance.
Rogers received over 40 honorary degrees and several awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002 and a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in 1997, and was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999. He influenced many writers and producers of children's television shows, and served as a source of comfort during tragic events, even nearly two decades after his death. He eventually retired from his program at the end of August 2001.
After suffering from chronic stomach pains for a long time, Rogers was diagnosed with stomach cancer in October 2002, and he eventually died from complications related to the disease on February 27, 2003.
- First Experiences series
- Let's Talk About It series
- Mister Rogers Talks to Parents
Notable guest appearances:
- Arthur: Voiced an anthropomorphic Funny Animal version of himself in the episode "Arthur Meets Mister Rogers", and appeared on screen in a bumper at the end.
- Captain Kangaroo: He appeared in a couple Crossover episodes during the show's run.
- Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: He was a Special Guest in just one episode, titled "Deal with the Devil", playing the role of "Reverend Thomas". The part was created for him when producers heard Rogers (who famously had a low opinion of TV in general) say that Dr. Quinn was one of the few shows he enjoyed watching. It was his only on-screen appearance as a fictional character.
- Good Night, Little Ones: The famous Russian children's show did a mutual Crossover in 1988, with Mr. Rogers and presenter Tatyana Vedeneyeva (and their puppets) appearing as guests on each other's programs. This was considered a very big deal for international relations in the days before the fall of the Soviet Union.
- Sesame Street: He appeared in a Crossover episode where he meets Big Bird.
- Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?: Performed X the Owl and Henrietta Pussycat giving a clue in one episode.
Works about Fred Rogers:note
- Kill Them All: He shows up when Taylor visits the DC Animated Universe, and soon proves his mettle by gently comforting Taylor and allow her to let out her fear that her father will be ashamed of her. He then ends up becoming an Indigo Lantern, and plays a role in helping stop the multiversal threat Taylor is fighting.
- A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: Biopic based on Tom Junod's reporting, starring none other than Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers.
- Won't You Be My Neighbor?: Documentary on Rogers' life and career, directed by Morgan Neville.
- Mister Rogers: It's You I Like: PBS documentary.
- Mr. Rogers Gets A Tonsillectomy: A short documentary, Exactly What It Says on the Tin, that was the directorial debut of George A. Romero. No, seriously. Romero (who was a cameraman for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood at the time) credited the bizarre tone of the experience as a direct inspiration for Night of the Living Dead (1968).
- Donkey Hodie, a series based on the works of Fred Rogers that is set in Someplace Else from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
- "The Garden of Your Mind" and "Sing Together" by John D. Boswell (best known as "Melodysheep"), commissioned by PBS themselves.
- Lemon Demon's novelty song "The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny" describes a Massive Multiplayer Crossover of pop culture icons, fictional characters and real-life celebrities duking it out to find out who will be the one survivor. Mr. Rogers gets a notable reference as the ultimate winner, wearing "a bloodstained sweater"!
- xkcd in this strip imagined a hidden audio recording of Fred having an argument with his wife— in which, since he was an All-Loving Hero, he gently expresses his disagreement and explains his emotions rounded off with some kind words of affirmation.
- This webcomic by Twistwood has Mr. Rogers meet The Mighty Thor and, to the latter's shock, lift Mjolnir with ease.
- Appeared for a few seconds in a Rule of Three gag in an episode of Eek! The Cat after two previous doors in a haunted house proved to hide more conventional monsters. His red sweater and call of "Won't you be my neighbor?" caused the biggest panic attack in Eek.
- Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, a Spiritual Successor to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood focusing on the preschool-aged offspring of the puppets of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.
- Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum season 1 finale is "I Am Fred Rogers', where the gang goes back in time to meet Rogers and learn that they are special just the way they are.
- The Simpsons episode "Missionary: Impossible" features Homer pledging $10,000 to PBS, then getting chased by a number of the network's personalities when it turns out he doesn't actually have that money, including Rogers.It's a beautiful day to kick your ass!
These tropes like you just the way you are:
- 100% Adoration Rating: There are essentially two types of people: those who love him, and those who have never seen his show.
- Ability over Appearance: Discussed by his widow, Joanne Byrd. When the movie about Rogers' life saw him played by Tom Hanks (who looks nothing like Rogers), Joanne said that Rogers would have been thrilled with the choice, seeing as how Forrest Gump was Rogers' favorite movie.
- Acceptable Breaks from Reality: A concept he became especially passionate about later in life. The decision to uncancel his show came about after he'd learned that several children who had seen Superman: The Movie had seriously injured themselves jumping from high places and attempting to fly like Superman, and it was his opinion that not enough children were being taught the difference between reality and fiction, hence why the "Neighborhood Of Make Believe" segments became explicitly separate from the "real world" segments rather than be depicted as a real place, along with several demonstrations of how costumes and puppets (including his own) work and a few episodes where he'd outright show that he was on a set in a TV studio just so there was no confusion. He'd even go to the set of a superhero TV show and interview its star, said hello to his co-star, Lou Ferrigno, and one of the directors, who explain how the show was just as much a make-believe world as the Neighborhood of Make Believe is.
- All-Loving Hero: Probably the closest thing to the archetype we have in real life.
- Appointment Television: Inverted, Rogers was strongly against having this be the only way of viewing the show. He famously testified in court about how the VCR could be used for good, and how families who wanted to watch the show together didn't have to be deterred by their station airing the show at inconvenient times. His being such a big supporter of the VCR is heavily credited for part of how Sony ultimately won its case against the studios.
- Approval of God: While he generally didn't care much for parodies of his show, he was said to have had a very good sense of humor about Eddie Murphy's "Mister Robinson's Neighborhood" sketch on Saturday Night Live, as he not only recognized it as an Affectionate Parody but knew that he didn't have to worry about children seeing it and confusing Murphy's skit the real deal. During a chance meeting, Rogers personally complimented Murphy on the skit, to which Murphy responded by embracing him and saying "You know we only do it because we love you."
- Badass Pacifist: If ever a man was this, it was Mr. Rogers.
- Take a look at this XKCD strip and try to say this is an exaggeration.
- Mr. Rogers once faced down a hostile U.S. Senate committee that was threatening to cut a $10 million government grant for PBS. He simply gave a six-minute speech describing his TV show. The grant was increased to $20 million.
- He was also cited as a key witness in the Supreme Court's decision that home recording technology was fair use. Think about that: The man could persuade the U.S. government to change their minds on a controversial policy issue simply by talking to them. Now that's badass.
- When Burger King had a series of TV commercials featuring a No Celebrities Were Harmed spokesman, "Mister Rodney," promoting their food, Mr. Rogers took issue with his likeness being used for commercialism (not to mention went against his personal beliefs as a vegetarian) and politely but firmly asked them to cease and desist. Burger King, a massive multi-million dollar corporation, pulled all the ads immediately, and the VP he spoke with later remarked to the press, "Mister Rogers is one guy you dont want to mess with, as beloved as he is."
- Badass Preacher: Being an Ordained Minister and successfully facing down the US Senate, the Supreme Court, and the Ku Klux Klan clearly qualifies Mister Rogers for this.
- Berserk Button:
- While it was more popular during the man's lifetime, making a derogatory comment or a sick joke about Fred Rogers while in the company of certain people can be a very, very bad idea.
- Certain people being almost anyone who grew up watching the show, for example. Considering that the show was on for nearly half a century, that is a lot of people.
- Put it this way: 4chan, which has earned itself the reputation as one of the most hateful, disgusting, perverted websites ever and the very cesspool of the internet, will instaban you if you insult Mr. Rogers.
- Fred Rogers himself was mostly ambivalent about parodies, but there were a couple of places where he drew the line:
- In 1990, the Ku Klux Klan recorded some messages that impersonated his voice to circulate racist and homophobic messages among elementary school children. While Mr. Rogers was usually easygoing about parodies of his style, he took this one straight to federal court and sued them out of their robes for copyright infringement. It took no more than one day for the judge to issue a restraining order against the Klan. (Said Rogers, "I am hardly a suing person, and yet that just got my goat.")
- He hated the use of his image to promote meat products only slightly less, as Burger King found out after they started using a parody of him, Mister Rodney, in their commercials. However, in this case, he showed more restraint and simply contacted Burger King to convince the company to pull the ads by explaining why he objected to them.Mister Rogers: I've never done a commercial. I haven't even done public television auctions. When I saw it, of course, I felt that it needed to come off the air right away because of the way I feel about the host of a children's television series making any commercials at all. Kids trust me, and I don't want in any way to misuse that trust.
- Beware the Nice Ones:
- He was as kind and warm a person as you could ever meet but, as the story with the Ku Klux Klan above illustrates, even he had his limits and was not afraid to push back when sufficiently provoked.
- One time, he yelled at his nephew for squirting him with a hose.
- But Not Too Bi: In his official biography, Rogers stated that, if sexuality were a scale from one to ten, "Well, you know, I must be right smack in the middle. Because I have found women attractive, and I have found men attractive." That said, Rogers ultimately settled with one Joanne Byrd and remained faithful to her for the rest of his life. Moreover, François Clemmons said in an interview for Won't You Be My Neighbor? that he didn't get any signals that Rogers was even partially gay and would've known if he did. So, it's debatable whether Rogers meant to say that he was bisexual or merely bicurious.
- Cool Old Guy: He was already forty years old when his show began and in his early seventies when it ended, becoming a grandfather twice over in that time, and he remained just as kind, warm and sincere at the end of the show as he was at the beginning.
- Digital Piracy Is Okay: Fred Rogers testified to the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of home video recording during a contentious case when the MPAA was arguing that personal recording devices like the VCR should be banned because they would kill the entire industry. Mr. Rogers simply stated the case that it would actually be beneficial to allow people to watch shows whenever was best for them and that it would allow children and parents to watch his show together no matter what schedules they had. We all know how that turned out.
- Embarrassing Middle Name: Fred McFeely Rogers. Also a bit unfortunate, especially considering that he works with kids. His mailman character Mr. McFeely shares the burden.
- Everyone Has Standards: On the Internet, everything and everyone is fair game to be mocked, insulted, or made dirty. Except for Mr. Rogers. No one wants to make fun of Mr. Rogers. Those who do will be torn to shreds in milliseconds. Even on 4chan, the infamous cesspool of pornography and Holocaust jokes, attacking Mr. Rogers is an offense that will get you banned instantly.
- In relation to Mr. Rogers himself, he generally didn't mind parodies of his show and demeanor and even enjoyed a few such as Eddie Murphy's affectionate take. But he drew the line as his likeness being used for meat products and he was absolutely furious when the KKK tried to use parodies of his voice to record racist and homophobic messages aimed at children.
- Excited Kids' Show Host: Averted; Mr. Rogers' gentle and peaceful demeanor made him a notable exception to the norm, and he consciously sought out a slower pace with his show and even his in-person appearances to both contrast the fast-moving nature of most kids' media and better connect with his child audience."I've always felt that I didn't need to put on a funny hat or jump through a hoop to have a relationship with a child."
- Friend to All Children: Of course. Rogers spent his entire career telling children how they were valued and loved.
- Friend to All Living Things: Koko the sign language gorilla loved him. He was also a vegetarian, saying that he "couldn't eat anything that had a mother".
- Gasshole: Surprisingly, Mr. Rogers was one in real life. His widow Joanne admitted that if they went to an event that was too bland, he'd pass gas in a way that made her laugh every time without fail.
- Happily Married: To his wife Joanne, from 1952 until his passing in 2003.
- Hidden Depths: His sense of humor was cheekier than his child-friendly image belied. He'd often go on late-night talk shows and make sly hints that he knew that the hosts were trying to get something saucy out of him but wasn't going to take the bait.
- Humble Hero: Mr. Rogers never let his fame or status as a beloved icon go to his head and always saw himself as simply a regular person who happened to be on TV trying to help kids and make the world just a little bit better however he could. In fact, he had frequent doubts about whether he could do good in the world, whether he could get his message across, and even whether he was a good person at all.
- Iconic Item: Just try to imagine Mr. Rogers without his famous cardigan sweaters.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Urban Legends notwithstanding, Fred Rogers maintained his reputation as a downright all-around good guy on and off screen, even in the midst of the cutthroat television industry.
- It Has Been an Honor: This is the sentiment that David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely, described pertaining to his final scene with Mr. Rogers, in which the two shake hands.
- It's the Best Whatever, Ever!: Noted actor Tim Robbins, who presented Mr. Rogers his Lifetime Achievement Award at the 24th Daytime Emmy Awards (in 1997), described him as "the best neighbor any of us has ever had".
- Jaw Drop: Mr. Rogers and Jeff Erlanger were reunited when Rogers was inducted into the TV Hall of Fame in 1999. Rogers was completely surprised.
- Just Ignore It: Fred Rogers didn't think this was a good solution. In fact, he divulged that much of his personal philosophy where funded by realizing in his childhood that doing this rarely ever helped. He related that he often was bullied as a young child for being chubby and having asthma, and it didn't help his self-confidence that he felt additionally alienated from his peers because his parents were well-off and very overprotective, having hired a private chauffeur to him drive from and to school. He was regularly told to just "ignore the bullies and just let on you don't care and then nobody will bother you", but he quickly realized that he was just bottling up his emotions and this just made his pain worse. This experience inspired him to express his emotions through creative pursuits, such as music and puppetry, and to try to be a friend to anyone else who felt lonely.
- Just Think of the Potential!: What got Rogers into television was his foresight that an entire generation was going to be raised on this medium and that there should be something of more value than cheap, violent entertainment like Bozo The Clown or Three Stooges reruns.
- Averted breaking of the trope when Carroll Spinney and the Children's Television Workshop objected to Rogers' idea to have Spinney remove his Big Bird costume on camera, as a way of Rogers explaining the difference between make-believe and reality. Spinney did agree to appear (as Big Bird) in the "Neighborhood of Make-Believe" segments, and then on the regular show talk about his career and puppetry. Rogers did make a few sly remarks, however, about fantasy creatures.
- Early in the series' run, Rogers and his supporting cast referred to the "Neighborhood of Make Believe" as a real place, before this was quietly dropped around the fourth season.
- Lampshade Wearing: An innocent variant in episode 1; Mrs. Russellite shows Rogers her collection of lampshades she likes to wear.
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: Lampshaded when he brought on Margaret Hamilton to talk about the differences between fantasy and reality. Also done with The Incredible Hulk's Lou Ferrigno.
- New Media Are Evil: Rogers' initial reaction to television. The entire reason he got into the TV business was his desire to make it better.
- Nice Guy: He's widely considered the personification of this trope and for very good reason. He was warm, friendly, kind, compassionate, patient, humble, sincere, loving and overall just a good person who tried to make the world around him better as much as he could. He's still beloved by both those who grew up with him and new fans even years after his passing and is about as close to a secular saint in pop culture as you will ever find.
- Not an Act: It was widely speculated for years that Mr. Rogers' warm persona was just a cover or that he had a shady past that sharply contrasted his image. But any digging revealed that it wasn't a facade and he really was as kind, sincere, and friendly as he appeared to be.
- Odd Friendship: With George A. Romero of all people! Romero started working in film as a cameraman on Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Fred Rogers saw Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead and, according to Romero, enjoyed them quite a lot.
- When talking about Fred Rogers, Romero pointed out he was extremely supportive and a great person in general.
- The Prankster: Rogers' crew were known to play the occasional harmless prank on him and Rogers would usually either go along with it or get in on the action. This ranged from swapping Rogers' shoes for smaller ones to (in the last episode) sneaking into the closet to surprise Rogers when he opened it and claiming "This place is condemned. You've got two days to get out!" One popular prank set was to take any camera that was lying around unattended, snap a photo of themselves mooning it, then put it back and wait to see Rogers' reaction when he got the roll developed. At least once, Rogers had the offending photo turned into a poster and sent it to the guilty crew member.
- Precision F-Strike: Though Rogers was known to be just as wholesome in person as he was on camera, he was not above using the occasional four-letter word, such as in one anecdote from François Clemmons when Rogers complimented him by saying he wouldn't "bend over and kiss my ass."
- He especially loved to do it in Lady Elaine's voice. When asked what she would say about a particular trip that was miserable from start to finish he replied without missing a beat: "I think she would say 'Oh, shit!'"
- Real Men Love Jesus: He was an Ordained Presbyterian Minister, see Badass Preacher. Rather than being assigned to a church, his work in television became his ministry; though he never explicitly mentioned Christianity or Jesus in his programming, he felt that spreading love and teaching children was a fulfillment of his Christian duty.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: When Fred learned that François Clemmons, a gay cast member, had been visiting gay bars, he neither fired nor condemned him for his sexuality, which was still considered largely unacceptable in the mainstream at the time. Rogers instead asked that Clemmons refrain from attending these bars so that he could keep his job without risking harm to the rest of the show, citing the political views of the sponsors (at a time when the show really needed the money and more accepting sponsors were rare, if not outright nonexistent).
- Sarcasm Failure:
- Induced this in Cracked, which snarks anything and everything, with no exceptions — but Mister Rogers. When Cracked can't snark at you and instead writes a tribute to your memory calling you "The Greatest American", well...
- Rotten Dot Com, a notorious Shock Site that dwelt on the worst of humanity, published a biographical piece on Fred Rogers that took a completely sincere and even reverential tone. The only thing they could find to be snarky about was that George W. Bush once mispronounced the name of the show.
- Sheep in Sheep's Clothing: There were rumors that his nice appearance and demeanor were, if not exactly false, a HeelFace Turn change from a much darker past. Said rumors included Rogers being a sniper in the Vietnam War, for instancenote or that he wore those sweaters to cover up military tattoos (despite being seen on the show in short sleeves or even swim trunks at times). But those rumors were all untrue; by all accounts, Rogers was every bit as kind and polite as he was made out to be on his show.
- Sneakers of Sneaking: Rogers began his television career as a backstage worker and got in the habit of changing from his business shoes into sneakers so as to move behind the scenery without making noise. This eventually became part of his Iconic Outfit on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, as he changed into sneakers at the start of every show.
- Stupid Statement Dance Mix: "Stupid" undoubtedly does not apply here, but PBS did commission Symphony of Science creator John Boswell (aka melodysheep), himself a huge fan of Rogers, to create two songs in the same style using clips from his show.
- Toilet Humor: Never on his show, but no less a source than his wife remarked that Fred loved fart jokes, especially farting to lighten up boring and stuffy parties.
- Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Or rather, too good for Yog Sothoth. It is officially accepted internet canon that Mr. Rogers can talk anyone into a discussion of their feelings, including the Chaos Gods. When he was interviewed by Joan Rivers, one of the most notoriously blue, cynical comedians of her time, she was reduced to an adoring, wide-eyed child. When he was interviewed by Arsenio Hall, Hall's famously rowdy studio audience remained pin-drop quiet for the entire segment.
- Truth in Television: The Mr. Rogers you saw on TV was the real deal. As Randall Munroe put it:"Mr. Rogers projected an air of genuine, unwavering, almost saintly pure-hearted decency. But when you look deeper, at the person behind the image... that's exactly what you find there, too. He's exactly what he appears to be."
- Voice Clip Song: "The Garden Of Your Mind" and "Sing Together" by melodysheep and officially sanctioned by PBS.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: One of his core messages was letting kids know that they were fine just as they were. Best summed up by his famous catchphrase:"You made this a special day just by being yourself"