Tuesday, July 25, 2006

mr. rogers tackles greek mythos

when i was a lad my parents, being both wise and good, directed much of my early-age TV-viewing to PBS's educational fare. The classics: Sesame Street, Electric Company, Reading Rainbow, 3-2-1- Contact, and Mr. Rogers.

while The Count bored into my brain a love of numbers and Levar Burton gave me the scoop on the latest and greatest kids' literary works to be enjoyed, Mr. Rogers seemed to set his agenda around social manners and courtesy; this is not to suggest that the Muppets were having knife fights a few blocks away on Sesame Street but that he was one of those particularly gentle beings who was well-suited to help mold children into Good People.

in addition to being a man who conversed with puppets, Mr. Rogers was also a bit of a songwriter. "won't you be my neighbor" is, of course, the standard of his works. most of his songs covered the basic gamut of kids' issues (learning to share, how to express your anger in an acceptable manner, etc.) but i wonder now if ol' fred slipped in some trickier issues as prepwork for the mentally dizzying roads ahead into teenagery and adulthood.

for example the other day a cloudy memory resurfaced of one of his other, somewhat less well-known tunes: "I'm Going to Marry Mom"

i can't recall the setup exactly (the prince of the kingdom of make-believe tells the queen he's going to marry her?) but mr. rogers must have anticipated such a pyschological grenade in drafting this song to kindly open childrens' eyes to what was a little off about this well-intentioned but misguided expression of affection.

lyrics went something like ( and i think the tune was remniscent of "Ol' Gray Mare"):

(kid saying to Mom) when i'm grow up i'm gonna marry you... many years from now

(Mom pointing out to kid) you can't marry me, i'm married to your Dad


it's a heartfelt declaration from the kid; genuine and pure as the driven snow, but still a bit creepy (through no fault of his own, being young and many years away from the complex realities and education of pubescence)

the rest of the song story eludes me; might have ended with the kid singing:

"ok Mom, well i'm gonna go kill Dad"

but i suspect our cardigan-sweatered host left it to Jim Morrison a few years down the road to complete the examination and expression of the Oedipal complex through song.

one can only wonder if Mr. Rogers attempted to enlighten youngsters on other greek mythological constructs...

does the bathtub-oriented fear addressed in "You'll Never Go Down the Drain" share its emotional roots with that felt by Odysseus towards the ship-swallowing Charybdis?

One can only theorize, though we might have more certainty to that question's answer had Fred also penned the song "Your Ship's Crew Will Never Be Devoured By Scylla's Six Heads".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"honey, don't eat the kids?"