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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers? Never! Can Vinegar Pass Muster as Honey?

I love Mr. Rogers. He was the real deal, a joyful culture warrior who used his show to bring up issues not normally discussed with children: death, racism, assassination, divorce. He loved and respected the little ones and they knew it. But not only children... every person he met felt valued in his presence.

His messages, no matter how serious, were never heavy handed. When debates occurred over integrating swimming pools, he did a show where he shared a wading pool and a towel with the black police officer in the neighborhood. When one of the actors on the show was found visiting a gay hangout, he let him know he couldn't do that and continue to be part of the neighborhood, but didn't fire him in outrage. The actor later said Fred Rogers felt like the dad he never had growing up. Did he change his behavior? I don't know, but I'm sure Rogers prayed for him.

Fred Rogers was a gentle soul with a backbone of steel. And millions loved him including me. When he died I had a Mass said for him and continue to pray for him in thanksgiving for giving my kids a show that offered a real role model as well as one for parents.

When I read today that Tom Hanks is playing Mr. Rogers in a movie to be released this fall, I sighed. Actors like Hanks make politics part of their bios and shove their activism down people's throats. In doing that, their characters on screen become inextricably linked to positions that alienate many in their audiences. It's one thing when Fred Rogers testifies before Congress about children's television, his area of expertise. It's quite another when a celebrity like Meryl Streep helps create mass hysteria over Alar, the apple spray never proven to have any perceptible negative effects on people. As for Hanks, despite his reputation as a nice guy off camera, he's joined the left's attack Trump.

Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers?
Not in my neighborhood!
Don't get me wrong. Entertainers have the same right to be involved in politics as anyone else. If they want to endorse a candidate or canvass door to door fine. But they have no business acting like they are authorities on pesticides, immigration, global warming, gun control, abortion, etc. And...they should keep their politics out of their entertainment. That's not what fans pay for!

My daughter once left a Dixie Chicks concert when the chicks got into a tirade advancing their personal opinions on politics. Shut up and sing! No one bought a ticket to listen to your opinions about Donald Trump or abortion or LGBTQ rights. Fans don't want that! I felt the same way when my husband and I took several of our kids and their spouses to hear comedian Emo Phillips at a comedy club. When he started on Trump, he wasn't funny, and it was a gratuitous insult to any Trump supporters in the audience who didn't come to hear their candidate trashed. Emo's in Winchester this month, but we won't be going to his show or taking our kids and their spouses. If you want to do politics, Emo, be a Mark Russell, the political satirist whose schtick was politics.

But this is the new Hollywood -- actors as experts who want to dictate to the deplorables who are so stupid they need remedial education from the geniuses who make a living by pretending to be somebody they're not. The Academy Awards these days is so politically partisan and offensive it should be aired by the DNC. I wouldn't waste one minute of my life watching it. Oscar acceptance speeches in recent years are political rants laced with profanity and obscenity. Who needs that?

At any rate, I will probably skip Tom Hanks playing Mr. Rogers. He's a great actor and may be able to pull it off despite being the epitome of everything Fred Rogers was not. For me, I won't be able to separate Tom Hanks as Mr Rogers from Tom Hanks the political activist. I wonder how many others feel as I do.

On the other hand, playing a person can have a major impact on an actor. Alec Guiness' journey to the Catholic Church began with his portrayal of Chesterton's famous detective priest, Fr. Brown. So who knows. Maybe Tom Hanks will come to resemble the man he pretends to be. Please join me in a prayer for that intention.

Whether I go to A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood or not, here's a Mr. Rogers movie I fully intend to watch. I hope it's as good as the documentary, Won't You be my Neighbor?

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