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Mr. Rogers’ Gentle Masculinity

The new film A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, released last Friday, is a semi-biopic of the beloved public television star who brought a gentle simplicity to children’s television which lasted more than three decades. Starring the equally-adored Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, the film tells the story behind a 1998 Esquire cover story written by journalist Tom Junod, which the writer says “changed his life.” The film explores Rogers’ trademarked kindness and compassion through the lens of the skeptical journalist, wrestling with his own troubled relationship with his father. 

Director Marielle Heller, who also directed Can You Ever Forgive Me?, took on the project of telling the story of one man teaching another man how to “be a man” because, as she says: “It’s important to make movies about good men and men who are trying to be better, and about the struggle of manhood.”

The film shows that Fred Rogers had his own approach to male anger and came to practice an “alternate interpretation of American masculinity wherein men had to find constructive solutions for their rage and heartbreak just like everyone else.” Rogers channeled his own anguish in healthy emotional ways and taught his philosophy of “what to do with the mad that you feel” to generations of children.

If there’s one key takeaway from this holiday, feel-good film, the Rogers Doctrine— his legacy of empathy toward all people and the level of kindness he demonstrated in media is truly unparalleled and has not been met since.

Take Action! See A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood in theaters and celebrate the Mr. Rogers-like good men in your life!