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Joy

What exactly were Mister Rogers' views towards the LGBTQ community?

In many ways, Rogers was well ahead of his time, boldly pushing boundaries in the right directions.

Screenshot via YouTube official trailer, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"

Mister Rogers consistently shared love and kindness.

A few nights ago, I was sitting in a dark theater — popcorn in hand and tears leaking down my face — embarrassingly bent out of a shape from a movietrailer. Fred Rogers was to blame.

The whimsical theme song to "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" concluded a short but powerfully nostalgic preview for the new documentary about the soft-spoken star, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" And yeah, I'd morphed into a teary-eyed hot mess in a matter of seconds.



A question popped into my queer little brain right then, though, and I'm not entirely sure why:

Could Rogers have quietly been a homophobe?

He was a religious dude who grew up in a wildly different era than today. It's a toxic combination that, if we're overgeneralizing and I reflect on my personal experience, tends to produce the worst kinds of homophobes. Had the former Presbyterian minister been as saintly to queers like me as he'd been to seemingly everyone else?

I needed answers! So I went searching.

big-hearted, television show, compassion, counterculture

History suggests Rogers saw humanity in LGBTQ community.

Photo pulled from YouTube official trailer, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"


But first, let it be known that I respect Rogers and cherish the mark his big-hearted series left on me and generations past; I certainly wasn't looking for justifications to write a "Mister Rogers" hit piece. In a dark and dreary world, Rogers was a reliably bright light, and I wanted whatever I discovered to confirm my suspicions that the beloved children's advocate was a benevolent force for good — and nothing else.

But one thing I've come to learn as a jaded gay man is that the more flawless a fave of mine seems to be, the harder they fall from the high pedestal I've placed them on once their shortcomings inevitably air. Rogers could very well be the latest victim of my hero-worshipping, I warned myself, opening a Google tab with a preemptive cringe.

Here are the two big things I discovered:

1. Rogers' unfaltering kindness and compassion certainly extended to the LGBTQ community.

Rogers didn't go on the record with specific opinions about LGBTQ people or the matters that affect them (at least from what I could find). But others have reported their experiences with him on the topic. By putting those puzzle pieces together, I would confidently argue that Rogers saw the humanity in LGBTQ people.

He didn't let his faith box him into any certain ideology regarding gay people or their rights. Michael G. Long, who authored the biographical "Peaceful Neighbor: Discovering the Countercultural Mister Rogers," noted Rogers' church in Pittsburgh was and continues to be inclusive to the LGBTQ community. Rogers' widow, Joanne, has said her husband had close friends who were gay, according to Slate.

He also stood strong against outside pressures to use his platform to condemn same-gender relationships, according to Vox's Todd VanDerWerff. Panning homosexuality likely would have been applauded by many parents tuning in, as mainstream America widely embraced homophobic attitudes throughout much of Rogers' reign.

But doing such a thing on-air never felt right to the sweater-loving saint. "He felt everybody was, in some way, a reflection of God," VanDerWerff wrote.


2. But Rogers wasn't immune to the backward views society has held of queer people.

While Rogers hired and befriended Francois Clemmons — a gay man who played Officer Clemmons in the series for 25 years — he didn't necessarily want the show associated with Clemmons' sexual orientation, either.

After word got back to Rogers that Clemmons had been spotted in a gay bar, Rogers asked the actor to avoid such venues, fearful Clemmons' sexuality would bring negative attention to the show.

"It was not a personal statement of how he felt about me," Clemmons assured UU World in 2016, noting the two remained close friends. "It had to do with the economics of the show."

Rogers urged him to stay in the closet, believing Clemmons' sexuality may alienate viewers. He encouraged him to marry a woman, too. Clemmons did — and the relationship ended in divorce a few years later.

It's difficult to reconcile the harmful actions of an icon who lived in a different time.

I wish Rogers had addressed Clemmons' predicament differently, of course. I wish he'd celebrated Clemmons' queerness on screen and off and allowed the actor to sashay his way on stage one trailblazing episode, rainbow flag held high.

But that's the thing: The rainbow flag wasn't associated with LGBTQ pride when Clemmons considered leaving the closet, because LGBTQ pride wasn't even a thing in those pre-Stonewall days (at least in the mainstream). It's not reasonable for me to expect a straight, cisgender man — even a superhero like Rogers — to possess a visionary moral compass and will to champion queer rights half a century before same-gender marriage even became normalized.

Rogers was extraordinary — but he wasn't a social justice clairvoyant.

Mister Rogers' empathetic nature pushed him, and his viewers, to be bold and continually grow in wonderful ways.

It's what has helped enshrine my appreciation for him and his show.

He adored kids and relentlessly fought for their wellbeing. His show regularly took on important and tough topics, like racism, the messiness of divorce, and the importance of inclusion. In many ways, Rogers was well ahead of his time, boldly pushing boundaries in the right directions.

Even on queer issues, Rogers evolved as time went on.


As Long wrote for HuffPost in 2014, Rogers' perspective on Clemmons' sexuality shifted throughout the years:

"Rogers evidently believed Clemmons would tank his career had he come out as a gay man in the late 1960s. But — and this is a crucial point —Rogers later revised his counsel to his younger friend. As countless gays came out more publicly following the Stonewall uprising, Rogers even urged Clemmons to enter into a longterm and stable gay relationship. And he always warmly welcomed Clemmons’ gay friends whenever they visited the television set in Pittsburgh."

I can't speak for Mister Rogers, of course. But he was the one who always told me, "I like you just the way you are."

If he were around today, I'd like to think queer kids would feel right at home in his neighborhood, too.

Watch the trailer (that made me cry) for "Won't You Be My Neightbor?" below:

This article was written by Robbie Couch and originally appeared on 06.07.18


Pop Culture

Why Beyonce's 'Protector' song has parents bawling

"Beyonce you gonna need to start paying for my therapy cause the way these tears are flowing."

Beyoncé/Youtube

Brb, grabbing tissues.

Not even 24 hours after its release, Beyoncé’s soulful, genre-bending “Cowboy Carter” album broke records on Spotify, becoming the platform’s most-streamed album in a single day so far this year.

With 27 tracks—ranging from thought-provoking covers to an eclectic array of originals—there’s a little something for everyone. There’s even a more whoopass version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.

But there’s one tune in particular that’s striking a cord with parents. Not to mention making them shed a few tears.


In “Protector,” there’s a quick snippet of Bey’s youngest daughter Rumi asking mom for a “lullaby.” The heartfelt acoustic ballad proceeds to be just that, and more.

The tender lyrics touch on the special love oath a parent makes to their child—both to shield them from the world, and help them shine in it.

This can most clearly be seen in the chorus, which says:

"And I will lead you down that road if you lose your way / Born to be a protector, mm-hmm / Even though I know someday you’re gonna shine on your own / I will be your projector.”

"I first saw your face in your father’s gaze,” she sings, perhaps referencing the love shared between them that helped create their child. (excuse my while I wipe a tear)

“Protector” is such an emotional bullseye that one person on X dubbed it this year’s “Mother’s Day anthem.”


Another listener agreed, “Bey gave us Protector right in time for Mother’s Day.”

Of course, there were many more reactions where that came from. Especially from new parents.

“Listening to protector while rocking my 7 month old son to sleep….. Beyonce you gonna need to start paying for my therapy cause the way these tears are flowing,” one person shared.

Another added, “Just bawled my eyes out listening to Protector… as a new mom that one hit different Beyoncé.”

But that doesn’t mean childless folks weren’t moved.“I don’t even have kids and Protector on #COWBOYCARTER has me like this on my drive to work,” read one X post.

If you’re one of the very, very few who haven’t heard it, grab some tissues and give it a listen below. Then go call your mom, if you can:

Joey Grundl, Milwaukee pizza guy.

Joey Grundl, a pizza delivery driver for a Domino's Pizza in Waldo, Wisconsin, is being hailed as a hero for noticing a kidnapped woman's subtle cry for help.

The delivery man was sent to a woman's house to deliver a pie when her ex-boyfriend, Dean Hoffman, opened the door. Grundl looked over his shoulder and saw a middle-aged woman with a black eye standing behind Hoffman. She appeared to be mouthing the words: "Call the police."


"I gave him his pizza and then I noticed behind him was his girlfriend," Grundl told WITI Milwaukee. "She pointed to a black eye that was quite visible. She mouthed the words, 'Call the police.'"

domestic abuse, celebrity, community, kidnapped

The Dean Hoffmann mugshot.

via WITI Milwaukee

When Grundl got back to his delivery car, he called the police. When the police arrived at the home, Hoffmann tried to block the door, but eventually let the police into the woman's home.

After seeing the battered woman, Hoffmann was arrested and she was taken to the hospital for her wounds.

Earlier in the day, Hoffman arrived at the house without her permission and tried to convince her to get back into a relationship with him. He then punched her in the face and hog tied her with a vacuum power cord.

"If you love me, you will let me go," she pleaded, but he reportedly replied, "You know I can't do that." He also threatened to shoot both of them with a .22 caliber firearm he kept in his car. The woman later told authorities that she feared for her life.

An alert pizza delivery driver helped save a woman from her abusive ex-boyfriend, police say. A 55-year-old Grafton man now faces several counts of domestic ...

A day later, Grundl was seen on TV wearing a hoodie from Taylor Swift's "Reputation Tour" and her fans quickly jumped into action, tagging Swift in photos of the hero. Grundl already had tickets to go to an upcoming Swift concert in Arlington, Wisconsin, but when Swift learned of the story, she arranged to meet Grundl backstage.

"She … she knew who I was," Grundl jokingly tweeted after the concert. "I'm thoroughly convinced Taylor gave me a cold."

"This has been one of the most exciting weeks of my life," Grundl said. "I'm legitimately getting emotional and I almost never get like this. But as the likely most memorable week of my entire life comes to an end … I guess I can really say … I'm doing better than I ever was."


This story originally appeared on 10.4.18

Family

A recently-deceased mom became a celebrity after her kids' published stunningly clever obituary

“I finally have the smoking hot body I have always wanted… having been cremated.”

The Hamilton Spectator

RIP Sybil Marie Hicks

It's said that everyone dies twice. The first is your physical death, the second is the last time anyone utters your name.

Sybil Marie Hicks, from Baysville, Ontario, died on February 2, at the age of 81, but it'll be a long time before her name is forgotten. Her children have turned her into a posthumous celebrity after writing a hilarious first-person obituary for her that was published in The Hamilton Spectator on February 5, 2019.

According to her daughter, it was fitting tribute.


"Mom was never boring," Hicks' daughter, Barb Drummond, told Yahoo Lifestyle. "Mom lived large. She would do anything for anyone. It was rare for Mom not to have a smile on her face. Mom was always ready for a laugh."

The obituary begins with a shot at her husband, Ron. "It hurts me to admit it, but I, Mrs. Ron Hicks from Baysville, have passed away," they wrote. "I leave behind my loving husband, Ron Hicks, whom I often affectionately referred to as a 'Horse's Ass.'"

She then goes on to roast her own children.

"I also left behind my children whom I tolerated over the years; Bob (with Carol) my oldest son and also my favourite. Brian (with Ginette) who was the Oreo cookie favourite, Brenda AKA 'Hazel' who would run to clean the bathrooms when she heard company was coming," they continued. "Barbara (with Gordon) the ever Miss Perfect and finally Baby Bruce who wouldn't eat homemade turkey soup because he didn't want to be alert looking for bones while he ate.”

The piece ends with a great zinger and a bit of a mystery: "I finally have the smoking hot body I have always wanted… having been cremated. Please come say goodbye and celebrate my wonderful life with my husband and his special friend Dorothy who is now lovingly taking care of my horse's ass."

Did her husband have a side piece or are they talking about the dog?

The viral obituary has done more than just spread a few much needed laughs across the world, it's helped the family heal after Hicks' long battle with Alzheimer's disease. The disorder may have stolen Hicks' quick wit sharp tongue; but, in a way, the obituary, has given voice to a woman who was long silenced.

"We just thought that when she passed, we really didn't want to have this sort of boilerplate template obituary," Brian Hicks, the second eldest of Hick's five children, told the CBC.

"We wanted to do something that kind of celebrated who she was and to give us an opportunity to basically have one last conversation with her, and have some laughs at the same time," he said.

The Hicks family hopes that those who are moved by their mother's story will consider donating to their local Alzheimer's charity.

Read the entire obituary at Legacy.com.

This article originally appeared on 02.11.19.