Dec 10, 2015

Gay Neighbors in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood

The toddler tv show Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood (1966-2001) arrived in Rock Island when we got PBS in 1971 or 1972.  I was too old for it, but my sister Tammy watched, and sometimes I caught a glimpse while waiting for Cartoon Showboat.

The live-action segments I could do without: Mr. Rogers visits a nursery school or a bakery, or tries to put things together.  But I liked the Neighborhood of Make Believe, a medieval kingdom with both puppet and real-life residents who weren't entirely maudlin.

The pompous King Friday XIII, whose rendition of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" became "Propel, Propel, Propel Your Craft," was the only resident to engage in heterosexual behavior, at least in the episodes I watched.  He fell in love with a Southern-accented commoner named Sarah, married her, and sired a son, Prince Tuesday.

The other residents didn't display any heterosexual interest, and many had gender-atypical traits which allow for a gay reading.

The feisty Lady Elaine Fairchilde, who runs a revolving museum, flies in a spaceship to Jupiter, and calls everyone "toots."

X the Owl, with a Southern drawl and an affinity for Benjamin Franklin.

Daniel Striped Tiger, a tame tiger of French ancestry, neat, tidy, fashion-conscious, who carefully points out that his middle name has two syllables.

Not a lot of beefcake, but Joe Negri was cute (early photo, left), and Chuck Aber (top photo) had a muscular physique.

A Presbyterian minister before entering show biz, Fred Rogers was apparently tolerant of gay people but an opponent of gay marriage.

In 2012, an animated sequel, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, premiered on PBS.  Set entirely in the Neighborhood of Make Believe (which has somehow become a tropical jungle), it stars the children of the original cast.  Apparently Lady Elaine Fairchild and Daniel Striped Tiger were heterosexual after all.

But not X the Owl -- he's raising his young nephew, O the Owl.  So maybe there's still a gay neighbor in  Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

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