Mister Rogers, hippie peacenik

In 1983, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood aired a series of anti-war episodes.

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.


  1. Owlmirror says

    I disagree that these episodes “Might Be a Message to Trump”. The current chief of the executive does not have the emotional intelligence or analytical intelligence to understand far less subtle messages. He probably has a low opinion of Mr Rogers, too.

    The episodes might well be a message to those who oppose Trump. #Resist!

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    also note he did a heartfelt speech to the Congress when they were considering de-funding PBS. His speech brought them back to their senses to continue funding PBS.
    45* really needs to visit Mr Roger’s Neighborhood and be taught how to be friendly with ‘actual people’ instead of the ghouls he thinks are his friends.

  3. blf says

    also note he did a heartfelt speech to the Congress when they were considering de-funding PBS. His speech brought them back to their senses to continue funding PBS.

    This has me confused at first, as I thought the “he” referred to hair furor, making the entire claim implausible. Then I vaguely recalled Mr Rogers doing something like that — He did, back in 1969, when PBS was under threat from tricky dicky, When Mister Rogers Defended Public TV. There is also a video of his testimony at the link.

  4. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re 5:
    thank you for saying what I failed to include. I leave too much unsaid.
    *shuffling off stage*

  5. vucodlak says

    I was in high school when Mr. Rogers died. I expressed sadness about his passing to a fellow student on the following morning, in religion class (before class started). The pastor who taught the class overheard me, and said something to the effect of “Bah, I never liked that guy. He was a pansy.”

    The pastor is a friend of a friend on the book of people’s faces. Huuuuge Trump fan. Whines about how Christians are persecuted in the U.S.

    If only.

  6. robro says

    vucodlak — Perhaps the pastor doesn’t know that Fred Rogers was an ordained minister, or thinks he was the wrong kind of Christian (Presbyterian).

  7. unclefrogy says

    @7 that is funny sad and predictable as Fred Rogers was probably one of the few actual real christian’s on TV who lived the life but did not try to judge anyone nor force it on anyone.

    uncle frogy

  8. vucodlak says

    @ robro, comment # 8

    The second thing. The pastor is Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, which is a denomination that seems to exist solely to look down on other denominations.

    Seriously; the class in question was supposed to be Lutheran Theology, but we spent much more time on why all other Christians are getting it wrong than on whatever the LCMS is supposed to be about. As a Presbyterian, Mr. Rogers probably wasn’t actually hellbound, but that’s only because God isn’t as discriminatory prejudiced stuck-up discerning as the LCMS.

    Relatedly, I remember that after 9/11 there was interfaith service that the president of the LCMS attended. It was a great scandal that he held the hand of/prayed with a Muslim. I believe he even lost his post for it.

  9. starskeptic says

    I had the opposite reaction – it surprises me not at all that they were pulled; I’m shocked they got made at all…

  10. Hairhead, Still Learning at 59 says

    Pansy? Mr. Rogers a pansy? Fred Rogers was married and had two sons. Fred Rogers stood up to Congress and (gently) bullied them into maintaining funding for his show specifically and PBS generally. And here’s a little item from his Wikipedia biography:

    “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood won four Emmy awards, and Rogers himself was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 Daytime Emmys,[32] as described by Esquire’s Tom Junod:

    Mister Rogers went onstage to accept the award—and there, in front of all the soap opera stars and talk show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone, “All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Ten seconds of silence.”

    And then he lifted his wrist, looked at the audience, looked at his watch, and said, “I’ll watch the time.” There was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn’t kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch, but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked. And so they did. One second, two seconds, three seconds—and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier. And Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said softly “May God be with you,” to all his vanquished children.[14][33]

    Fred Rogers, pansy? Fred Rogers — not a man to be intimidated or argued with or looked down upon.

  11. vucodlak says

    @ Hairhead, Still Learning at 59, comment #12
    To people like the pastor who made the “pansy” remark, Trump is a paragon of strength and leadership- a bigoted, ignorant, tantruming bully. This particular pastor was notorious for throwing a screaming fit anytime he felt he wasn’t getting proper respect.

    I recall one class when he suddenly started screaming at one of my classmates for having the audacity to yawn while he was lecturing. Mind you, this was a class that started at 8 AM, and ran for more than two hours. She hadn’t made a production of yawning, either, but he went on a five-minute, top-of-his-lungs tirade about the disrespect she was showing him.

    Subtlety, gentleness, humility (genuine humility), compassion- these things are womanly, and therefore bad.* Not every pastor in the LCMS is like that, but it’s a denomination that tends to attract that kind of person.

    *Women are allowed to speak in church, technically, but they’re not allowed to hold leadership positions, and women aren’t even allowed to do scripture readings.

  12. says

    I saw that week of shows. I don’t know if I happened to be watching their first run or they got re-run at least once. It was utterly wonderful and I remember sitting there marveling that such a thing could be on a children’s show. It didn’t pussyfoot around either – fear of The Other led to bankrupting the kingdom, all citizens conscripted, and all the money going into what they assumed were parts for making bombs. Adding to the pointedness of the topic, the other Neighborhood was represented by Keith David, one of the few POC to appear on the show.
    It breaks my heart to think that someone would have ordered the episodes destroyed.