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Remixing Mr. Rogers, by Eduardo Navas

Image source: Youtube

I recently ran into some interesting remixes of Mr. Rogers and a young breakdancer in Youtube. The original excerpt in which Mr. Rogers interacts with a young African American boy already has sexual and class tensions, which could be ignored by the average viewer. But these tensions are brought forth in a one minute remix titled, “Mr Roger’s Breakdance Remix” in which Mr. Rogers states repeatedly “Hey Jermaine”, “Breakdancing with your friend…” and “I really like the way you do that…”

And then there’s another remix titled, “Mr. Rogers Was a B-Boy MOFO ! (feat NWA)” which is subtle in its intervension: it leaves the entire video clip intact, except for the moment when the young boy performs. In this remix, the original musical composition, which is non-intrusive, middle of the road, and exudes enough funk for the young boy’s moves to feel authentically off the street, is replaced by one of NWA’s track “F__k the Police” from back in the day–cursing from beginning to end. And like the previous remix, this one also makes obvious the cultural tensions at play between the two individuals. Mr. Rogers’s pleasant stride feels a bit forced, and when the music is over, he appears a bit out of touch with the boy’s performance.

These are multiple readings that any Mr. Rogers fan may want to retaliate against or at least play down, but one only has to look at the original clip carefully to sense the tension that the two remixes have brought forth for critical reflection. And this does not necessarily mean that there is something “wrong” with Mr. Rogers’s behavior, or with his interest in featuring a young breakdancer in his popular show. It just means that the remixes are able effectively to make obvious the social codes that both Mr. Rogers and the boy carry based on their ethnicity, class and gender, that are already at play in culture and they both, as well as us (the viewers), should be aware of.

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