By Amy Ryan
Updated July 06, 2007 at 02:00 PM EDT
Credit: Mr. Rogers: Evertt Collection

Who’s to blame for America’s culture of narcissism? Our vanity-minded advertisers? Our media, obsessed with celebrity? Our elected officials, with their overdeveloped sense of entitlement? Our country’s centuries-old isolationist strain that discourages us from exploring the world beyond our front yard? Nope, it’s all the fault of Mr. Rogers (pictured).

So say the experts quoted in this Wall Street Journal article, laying the blame on the gentle children’s TV host (who, alas, is not available to respond) for instilling generations of kids with too much unwarranted self-esteem. “”He’s representative of a culture of excessive doting,” says one such expert, a finance professor at Louisiana State University. Another pundit quoted is an anonymous yahoo posting on a Yahoo message board, saying, “Mr. Rogers spent years telling little creeps that he liked them justthe way they were. He should have been telling them there was a lot ofroom for improvement.”

addCredit(“Mr. Rogers: Everett Collection”)

Sigh. Remember the good old days, when the cultural fulminators againstbad TV role models cited actual rebel figures — Bart Simpson,Murphy Brown, Tinky Winky? Now, not even someone as harmless as Mr.Rogers — an ordained minister who called each of us his special”neighbor” (as in, “Love thy…”) — is safe from this sort ofrevisionist calumny. Let’s face it, there are some folks who considerall popular culture to be a bad influence, and some who will hijack anypop-cultural artifact, no matter how anodyne and free of ideology, anduse it to score vindictive, partisan points. Forget the culture ofnarcissism; where did this culture of mean-spiritedness come from?

I blame Oscar the Grouch.