In Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, Mrs. Which (a.k.a. Oprah, a.k.a. “God”) briefly talks about the legion of “warriors” — protectors of light and all the good in the universe — who have come from Earth. Names like Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Einstein pop up, but there was one glaring omission: How come there was zero mention of Mister Rogers? I was low-key livid — imagine how nerds felt when The Dark Knight didn’t receive a Best Picture nod, and multiply that by 100.
Fred Rogers, the late longtime host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, is the closest I might come to considering a person a saint, aside from our wholesome, plane-wedding-officiating Pope Francis and the sweetly giggling Dalai Lama. Rogers was a “warrior” in every sense of the word, his weapons of choice a sock puppet, spiffy cardigan, and a warm, inviting smile. His influence on my childhood — and that of countless others — can’t be overestimated.
There’s never not a good time for more Mister Rogers content, but I’m certainly clamoring for it in the dark, Tide Pod–eating days of 2018. Lo and behold, my prayers have been answered in the form of a documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, which dropped its first trailer on Tuesday — coinciding with the late Rogers’s birthday.
The trailer is primarily composed of archival footage of Rogers, his show, and his interactions with children — along with a couple snippets of interviews with former collaborators like Francois Clemmons (Officer Clemmons). It does the trick; I’m still clearing the tears from my barely functioning keyboard. I’m calling it the Rogers Effect, and it works on anyone — even a cynical journalist or late-night television host.
Rogers could break you down with kindness, with an innate ability to make it feel like his program — and his words — were speaking directly to you, even as it reached millions of children (and adults). I’d aged out of the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood demographic by the time my parents divorced, but his lessons on divorce still comforted me — mix and match with any number of scenarios (a pet dying, liking someone, etc.) and the soothing still applies.
Thankfully, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? isn’t the only Rogers-adjacent work we’re getting in the near future: A biopic starring Tom Hanks is also on the way, in a perfect bit of casting. We could all use another trip or two down to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Who else is buying a red cardigan for opening night?