Saturday, June 9, 2012

Fred Rogers Redevivus: Positivity and Goodness Go Viral

In the past few days, this beautiful Fred Rogers digital remix video of a segment from his popular children's show called "Garden of Your Mind"  has gone viral - approaching 2 million views in the first 5 days after it was posted.  It has been discussed on national television, shared countless times in the social networks, with some people even reporting it moved them to tears.  Just what is it about this video?
Certainly Mister Rogers had a beautiful way of expressing things - and that counts for a lot of the reaction - but I really think it is the message - and its underlying assumptions - that are so gripping.

This, essentially, is a video about the goodness of being human. It implies a world where people are surrounded by goodness and possibility. For the slightly over three minutes of this video, one can forget that sometimes human endeavor is not enough to overcome circumstances,  almost forget that to be human is to be fallible and flawed - and mortal. The fact that Fred Rogers, an icon of children's television, is reaching out from beyond the grave through the efforts of PBS Digital Studios should not be lost here. It makes this all the more poignant. The freshness of this message, accompanied by Rogers' ever-engaging smile and digitally enhanced voice is reaching adults and taking them back to childhood, when possibility seemed endless.

Where did Fred Rogers get that worldview? Look no further than his biography - he was both a musician and a Christian theologian (and ordained Presbyterian minister) who believed the power of television could be harnessed to reach people with a positive message. That message is very much of a piece with a key outlook of/Christian identity - God is good, the world is good, and human beings are essentially good.  Even though God is never explicitly mentioned, this video, in essence, portrays a sacramental worldview - that everything we do is done through, with and  in  the presence and goodness of God. It is playing out the moment in Genesis, when God created everything, including human beings and declared it was "good."  It is steeped in the theology of St. Paul, who said in Phillipians 4:13"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." 

In a world so darkened by bad news, political conflict, war and general hopelessness, Fred Rogers' timeless message calls us to become like little children again - to imagine hope, possibility and positivity. That, in the end, is what makes this video both timely and memorable.  Thanks, Mister Rogers - I know you are smiling in Heaven.


  1. This is a beautiful commentary. I will never forget the day I had to tell our young daughters that Mr. Rogers had died.....all of us sat at our homeschooling kitchen table and just cried.

    Mr. Rogers had an innocence to him that made everyone believe again in the possibilities of goodness, self-confidence, and charity in this crazy upside down world we live in.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Yes he did. I suspect we will never again see such an open and positive personality on TV. He was uniquely idealistic in a sea of cynics in the entertainment industry - keeping to an old-fashioned sense of reality long after it started to be replaced by what is "cool" and current in the culture.

  3. As one of the most human of human beings in the 20th century, Mr Rogers transcended mere "cool."