I try not to get sucked into the Facebook anger-wormhole as much as I possibly can.
You all know the Facebook anger-wormhole. One of your friends (or acquaintances, or whoever) posts a link to a post that they’re TOTALLY INCENSED about, and if you watch it, odds are good that your blood pressure’s going to go up. So you have to make a choice. Do you watch it? Or do you say DANGER WILL ROBINSON! and avoid it altogether and keep your blood pressure in a normal range, at least until you are tempted by the next link of anger-wormholeness?
I try VERY HARD to avoid these things. If you’re a regular reader here, you know I’m pretty much all-or-nothing. I can’t just take something, ingest it, say, “oh! Yeah. Sucks” and move on. I feel things VERY DEEPLY. So if something’s going to upset me, it’s going to really, really upset me. That’s ok, I guess. There are worse ways to be. At least I’m self-aware enough to realize it about myself.
I got sucked into a Facebook anger-wormhole the other day. My own damn fault, really. I blame it on Fox News.
Here’s the video that got my blood pressure up.
This is a clip from Fox and Friends. My Dad really digs this show. I think it’s because he likes that the token lady-person wears a lot of cleavagey dresses and giggles a lot. (But when I brought that up, he scowled and said “SHE IS VERY SMART, AMY.” A lot of times, Dad equates smart with cleavagey, and MENSA-level with bikini-wearing.)
Mostly, I mistrust anyone with this level of a shit-eating grin, to be honest. Add to that the nonsense that Fox newspeople spout, and, well, there’s not a lot of love lost between Fox and Friends and good old Lucy’s Football. They’re no friends of mine, anyway.
This “news” clip, which (I looked) is not available as a transcript anywhere (hmm, wonder why they wouldn’t want their blathering transcripted?) is talking about a study done at Louisiana State University in 2007. For those of you playing along at home, 2007 was six years ago. This YouTube clip (and Fox and Friends story) is from 2008. So the place that posted this is about 5 years old in their outrage. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to RANT about it, just letting you know it’s not a RECENT thing. (Always do your research before you rant. You’re less likely to look like an ass.)
This study says that due to Mr. Rogers telling children who watched his show (which aired, again, for those of you playing along at home, from 1968-2001) that they were special and unique just the way they were led to them having a sense of entitlement, which directly leads to them grade-grubbing.
Professor Don Chance thinks that Mr. Rogers led to an upswing of narcissism in college students, which has been growing for 25 years, and calls these people part of “a culture of excessive doting.”
Since Fox and Friends doesn’t have transcripts, I helpfully transcripted some of the clip for you. Because I’m nothing if not helpful.
“This evil, evil man has ruined a generation of kids.”
“Mr. Rogers didn’t say if you want to be special, you’re going to have to work hard. He said, you’re special just for being you.”
“These kids are growing up and realizing ‘hey, wait a minute, Mr. Rogers lied to me, I’m not special.'”
“Instead of saying ‘you’re special, you’re great,’ why didn’t he say, ‘there’s a lot of room for improvement. Keep working on yourself. The world owes you nothing.'”
“Mr. Rogers had a message of ‘everyone was special, even if they didn’t deserve it.'”
“The signs of narcissism in this country have been growing for 25 years.”
“That man, unintentionally, did a whole generation or two a disservice.”
“Everyone’s gonna get a trophy. Everyone’s gonna wear a sweater. Everyone wins!”
“It would be better if we went to school and then went home and milked the cow, made the butter, went onto the loom, and made our own sweaters!”
“It would be better for my household chores if I could train my kids to do that!”
“Instead of going to Macy’s, make your own sweater! Almost done with the right sleeve? You stay indoors til you’re done.”
“Mmmm. Butter.” <— ACTUAL QUOTE
“Mr. Rogers and the narcissistic society he gave birth to because he told every kid that they were important.”
“DO YOU BELIEVE HIS PHILOSOPHY DESTROYED A GENERATION?”
My favorite quote is obviously the “Mmm, BUTTER” one, because it’s just this random non-sequitur that makes the Fox Friend that says it sound soft in the head.
OK. Let’s have a talk about Mr. Rogers.
I am firmly in the Mr. Rogers demographic. As a kid, we got very few channels. We got a very snowy CBS and NBC, ABC when the weather was right, two Canadian channels as clear as a bell (one of the perks of living that close to the border) and PBS. That’s it. (We also had to change the channel manually, as well as change the antenna with a rotor-box-thingy on top of the TV that made a grindy noise and moved the antenna on top of the house, and walk uphill both ways in the snow to get to school.) My childhood shows were Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Sesame Street, Mr. Dressup (that one was a Canadian wonder about a man whose child was a puppet and dressed up with clothes stored in a “Tickle Trunk”) and The Electric Company. Children of the 70s didn’t have much in the way of variety, unlike today, where there are WHOLE NETWORKS available for children, as well as DVDs when they get bored of what’s on offer.
I grew up with Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers taught wee-Amy (and later, Amy’s brother) that we were ok, just the way we were. That the bathroom drain won’t suck you down (because it’s too small and you’re too big; my brother – who will VIOLENTLY DENY THIS NOW – used to be petrified of this.) He taught us to love our friends and about different jobs and acceptance and tolerance and animals and that it’s ok to be angry, sometimes, and it’s ok to make mistakes. He taught us the value of being calm. He was an island of calm, actually, in a world that was very often loud and scary and just a little skewed. He never raised his voice. He was patient, and quiet, and when he smiled, you thought everything was going to be alright.
He did not teach either of us we were special snowflakes. We are both fairly grounded individuals; the special-snowflake gene skipped us by, or we were kept from it by parents who taught us that while, yes, we were amazing, and could do or be whatever we wanted, we damn well better be ready to work our asses off for it. Nothing comes free in this world. Being special and unique and ok just the way you are and working hard to get what you want aren’t the same thing. Why does this professor think they are? You can be a whole human being, centered, grounded and complete, yet still striving to be better, learn, grow, improve. There’s always room for growth. There’s always room for mistakes, because you learn from those, and they’re just springboards from which to reach greater things.
Mr. Rogers didn’t make a generation (or two) of children grade-grub. What in his message told kids that they were ok just the way they are, and THEREFORE INFALLIBLE? Nothing. Nothing he said, is the answer to that question.
Listen, just because this Don Chance is a professor doesn’t mean his research is correct and he’s right. I have a degree in theater, but that doesn’t mean everything I say about theater is correct. I find his research methods biased and skewed. I think he’s a bitter little man who got angry at kids who kept coming to his office begging for better grades (and I would, too – I knew those kids, both in high school and college, and they’re the pits) so he decided to blame it on someone – and he blamed it on Mr. Rogers.
So today I did a little research about Mr. Rogers.
First, here’s John Green talking about Mr. Rogers. This one’s for the kids. You know, ’cause the kids, they like John Green. (I kind of also like John Green, even if his books are a little manipulative.)
I like the anecdote at the very end the best, though. I like to think of that subway car of jaded New Yorkers seeing their childhood idol and not being able to help themselves from breaking into a song that’s part of most American children’s collective childhood memories. I like to imagine the smile on his face when that happened. He was such a good man. Such a kind man. And he really, really loved people. He didn’t just act one way on the show and another in real life. He was Mr. Rogers on the show, and Mr. Rogers in real life. He was this man.
Oh, you don’t believe me?
Want to bawl for a few minutes? Because my glasses have tear-salt all stained up on ’em from watching this one.
This is Mr. Rogers defending PBS to the US Senate in 1969. They were going to cut PBS’ funding. This is Mr. Rogers all fired up about something. I like how Mr. Rogers all-fired-up is a quieter, more intense Mr. Rogers. And I like watching the senator presiding over the thing, who starts kind of dictatorial and asshatty, fall under the spell of Mr. Rogers.
1969. Have you been playing along at home? His show was broadcast nationwide in 1968. He was BARELY Mr. Rogers in 1969. People hardly knew who he was. He didn’t let that stop him. He sat, quietly, humbly; stated his case, and he won. He WON.
Just by being himself. Because who he was was ok. He was special, just by being himself.
And if you can listen to that last sentence without a little thrill (or, like me, weeping copiously) I think your soul might be a little broken.
“I think it’s wonderful. Looks like you just earned the twenty million.”
So Fox and Friends, we’re all savvy enough to know that you’re only trying to stab one of the most beloved men in America’s history in the back because it’s something that will get you ratings, and something that will get people talking about you. Your show is not news. It’s infotainment. Light on both the info AND the tainment.
And Professor Chance, I’m sorry your students are entitled. There are kids like that. It’s a fact of life. (I went to college with a lot of rich spoiled kids. I’m not talking out of my ass, here.) You have to put your foot down, present them with the rules for extra-credit clearly at the beginning of the semester, and if they approach you about additional extra credit, shut them down. They’ll learn to respect that they can’t push you around. Kids talk; they know which professors are an easy sell and which ones aren’t. I promise.
And Mr. Rogers: thank you. Thank you for giving kids, for 33 years, an alternative to violence and loud noises and a constant stream of stupidity. Thank you for being our port in a storm. And thank you for telling us we’re ok, just the way we are. I still believe that. All these years later, I still believe I’m ok, just the way I am. And I learned that from you.
So, yes. I got sucked into the Facebook anger-wormhole. But as Mr. Rogers taught a young-Amy: it’s ok to have mad feelings. Then you talk about them, and you feel better.
Also, Fox and Friends, you are officially banned from the Land of Make-Believe. BANNED. Daniel Striped Tiger is really disappointed in you.