“Arthur” – Arthur Meets Mr. Rogers (EPISODE REVIEW)
In this special episode of “Arthur”, children’s entertainer Fred Rogers comes to Elwood city, with the intention to speak at Arthur’s school, and he’ll be staying with the Reeds (Fred is an old friend of Arthur’s mom). Arthur is actually quite embarrassed about Mr. Rogers boarding at his home, because his schoolmates are giggling over a “baby show” host coming to visit, so Arthur desperately tries to hide this fact from his pals.
It does make sense that Arthur and Fred Rogers eventually had a crossover, as they were both children’s edutainment programs that aired on PBS, a station that Fred fought hard to keep funding going for, and it’s a match made in heaven. Arthur was a show that set out to teach kids about better understanding the world around them, as well as common etiquette in social situations, things that fit Mr. Roger’s philosophies superbly.
Now, I did not grow up with “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood”, I’m not even sure if it was ever even aired in the UK? But after seeing the Fred Rogers documentary “Won’t you be my neighbor?”, I felt instantly jealous of anyone who DID have a childhood with him, because he stands for everything I believe in! He trusted children’s intelligence, respected children’s feelings, showed a concern for the film/TV content being produced for kids, and was just an all round lovely man.
This episode’s portrayal of Fred Rogers is so perfect, it captures Fred’s personality spot on, from his calm charisma that soothes the soul to the compassionate understanding he expresses towards children of any age. I’m not sure how much Fred had to do with the script, but I can totally imagine him making sure that the lessons were healthy and constructive, because he was always that passionate about his craft, and can imagine the guilt he’d feel if he ended up on a show that promoted wrong ideals or messed up an important value.
This Arthur episode teaches that you shouldn’t let fear of embarrassment consume you, with Arthur going to so many lengths to hide Mr. Rogers, that he doesn’t realise that he’s worrying his pals. Throughout the whole episode, Mr. Rogers catches on to Arthur’s feelings, we can always tell that he recognises what maybe going on, so when Arthur admits his concerns to Fred, Mr. Rogers kindly lets him know that he understands.
Mr. Rogers doesn’t look down on or judge Arthur for feeling ashamed of being associated with him, but completely sees where Arthur is coming from, because the boy is at an age where he wants to feel grown up, and this a validation that older kids need sometimes. Even as a person gets older, Mr. Rogers STILL respects their feelings! He might specialise with very small children, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t teach something wise to an older child, and that’s because Mr. Rogers wanted to show love to EVERYONE.
With Arthur’s friends being worried about their pal’s odd behavior since Mr. Rogers moved in, Fred makes Arthur realise that maybe these aren’t the friends to poke fun at him, if they will keep an eye on him when his behavior seems off. When you assume that your friends will maliciously mock you for something, especially something out out of your control, then you need to question your relationship with your friends, because real friends don’t do that.
But at the same time, the show is about not letting yourself feel guilty of letting something from pre-school still mean something to you, that the best shows for young kids are so special that they stay with you forever, and it’s totally okay to admit that you still like them. The best television entertainers can shape our values, humour, and imagination!
Even as we get older, revisiting their advice or lessons can still ring true, because what they have to say was designed to spread love, kindness, or creativity. These entertainers may present themselves in a way that’s most suitable for young kids, but as we get older, the world still scares or confuses us sometimes, because adults are human, and people like Mr. Rogers suddenly become a useful inspiration to us again.
British children’s entertainer Mark Speight, who sadly committed suicide once I grew up, was someone I LOVED as a kid (The first career that I ever considered was a CBBC presenter), with his wacky sense of humour and fun approach to creativity. I watched a tribute to him recently, I never realised how much he influenced my personality, with his stretchy faced expressions and silly approach to hosting. When we sneer at these kinds of people, we’re not just insulting their hard working profession, but we’re also arrogantly ignoring the impact that they first had on us, because they can subconsciously make you into you.
The Late children’s TV Host Mark Speight
By the episode’s end, all the kids shyly admit that they are actually excited to meet Mr. Rogers, suddenly showing happy joy at the very sight of their pre-school hero, and they drop their “I’m too big for this anymore” act. This teaches kids that you DON’T have to abandon or hate certain things to be grown up, you can keep your love for them in your heart, and you’re not immature for saying that they are special to you even years later.
The show also says that it’s perfectly fine to openly dislike something that you used to love, but DON’T sneer at kids who do enjoy it, because it’s the world to them at their age, and you have no right to steal that joy from them, or make them feel less of themselves for liking it. Even as a critic, this is a value that I hold true, because I know that some children’s media I criticise could mean the world to some child, and I’d NEVER think less of them for having fun watching it.
The episode is also followed by something so precious, Fred Rogers himself telling kids in the audience how he was animated into the show, there’s nothing more wholesome than watching Mr. Rogers gently teaching this art form to young viewers, and hearing him say “Anyone can animate” is the cherry on top of this magical ice cream. Fred was terrific in the episode, bringing a natural delivery to his lines that couldn’t be replicated by even the best impressionist, the episode NEEDED the real Fred Rogers to work I think.
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