Right after finishing Netflix’s Mindhunter, I saw Fred Rogers’ story, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Whoa.
Mindhunter is based on the true story of the FBI psychoanalyzing the souls of serial killers. Rogers’ story is about a man using the magic of make-believe to nurture young hearts and minds.
Mindhunter’s protagonist asks psychopaths crude questions to elicit horrific crime details. Mr. Rogers, with cardigan, sneakers and puppets, sensitively answers kids’ innocent questions to assure them of love and safety.
The FBI concludes serial killers were often abandoned/abused by the two people they needed the most—dad and mom. Fred Rogers begins his mission knowing the space between his TV show and young audience is the holy ground of human trust.
The FBI research was groundbreaking, but reactive. Fred Rogers was proactive. Our government and broadcast industry knew by the 60s that mindless, violent television was having a very detrimental impact on children. Rogers, a pastor, also realized this. But he believed TV could be so much better for early child development and that he could do more in a studio than in a pulpit. He was so genuine that his heartfelt testimony before a budget-cutting congressional committee, was a game changer.
When children can’t trust anyone to love and tell them good stories, their angered response can manifest itself in horror. Yes, good stories must deal with tough issues (Rogers addressed war, racism, divorce, inclusion, tragedies, etc.), while affirming trust and truth about what it means to be human beings made in the image of God.
Mindhunter is brilliant, but disturbing, as it projects the graphic darkness law enforcement deals with daily, along with the profanity and sexuality often part of gritty series like these.
But Rogers’ documentary is a candle to inspire storytelling that affirms and nurtures humanity. The great director, Frank Capra, nailed it. “The world is not all evil. Yes, we do have nightmares but we also have dreams. We do have villainy, but we also have great compassion. There’s good in the world. And it’s wonderful.”
Want to see a story of wonderful love and compassion? Go see Fred Rogers’ story.