Thirty-four years ago, on five consecutive episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, two feuding sects representing Russia and the United States began stockpiling parts for bombs—at one point stripping the neighborhood’s arts funding to bankroll the build-up.
I guess I’m not too surprised that Fred Rogers would put on shows with a message promoting peace and criticizing building up for war. What does surprise me, though, is that they were yanked from circulation afterwards.
The episodes were pulled from syndication and future releases. While production stills reappeared over the years, and a poor-quality, five-minute clip wound up on YouTube recently, the individual episodes themselves were never surfaced again.
I wonder who complained? I wonder who at PBS listened to those complaints? It’s a disturbing kind of low profile censorship. Now, suddenly, a couple of those episodes have appeared on YouTube in a weirdly timely release. I watched one of them — it was kind of sweet to see a children’s show I haven’t watched in probably 25 years, and it reminded me of what a nice guy Rogers was — and it really is rather explicit. The King has drafted everyone to make bombs, on a kids’ show, in response to the fear that a different puppet was making bombs, and is stripping the kingdom’s economy to the point where they can’t buy record players for the schools.
It’s a fine message. It tells us that there has been some subtle propaganda going on for decades, though, that this was policed off the air.