Spending too much time on the Internet is a surefire way to become hopelessly cynical, but we know there's a tiny glimmer of idealism burning away inside you. It's worth it to take some time every now and again to remind yourself that those cheesy inspirational stories your grandma forwards to you via email are sometimes actually true. Sometimes idealistic, naive people will go head-to-head with the cold, cruel world and make the cold, cruel world back down. Like ...
#5. Mr. Rogers Gets Money from a Cynical Congress by Being Mr. Rogers
Generations of Americans grew up with PBS and shows like Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, but the whole network came very close to dying an early death. In 1969, President Richard Nixon proposed halving the funding for the newly formed Corporation for Public Broadcasting, because why should there be such a thing as kids' programming that isn't one long barrage of advertisements for toys and snack food? The U.S. Senate held hearings to decide the matter, and someone was going to have to convince them to keep the funding in place, rather than use it to buy, say, part of a new B-52 bomber. Good luck, sucker!
The Crazy Solution:
During the hearing, a then-unknown kids' show host named Fred Rogers stepped forward to give a statement on behalf of the philosophy behind his show and the channel in general. Mr. Rogers, being Mr. Rogers, didn't get emotional or worked up over it; he just calmly sat down for six minutes to have a heart-to-heart with the Senate about feelings and imagination.
"We deal with such things as the inner drama of childhood. We don't need to bop someone over the head to make drama over a scene; we deal with such things as getting a haircut or dealing with brothers and sisters ... I give an expression of care each day to each child."
At the beginning of the speech, Senator John Pastore seems impatient, even making fun of Rogers in the first couple of minutes. But at the end, after Rogers shares a little song that he wrote, Pastore says, "I'm supposed to be a pretty tough guy and I'm getting goosebumps for the first time in days ... looks like you just earned your $20 million."
And what happened then? Well, in D.C. they say that Pastore's small heart grew three sizes that day ...
That would not be the last time that Rogers would do something like this. In 1984, when the Supreme Court was considering outlawing home-recording technology, they decided not to at least partly because Rogers was worried that taking away VCRs would make it so that some kids who couldn't watch his show at the scheduled time wouldn't be able to watch it at all. The court thought that made perfect sense.
Then, when Burger King ran a commercial with a parody look-alike named "Mr. Rodney" in 1984, Rogers asked them to stop. The senior vice president of the company pulled the $15,000 ad without a second thought, saying, "Mr. Rogers is one guy you don't want to mess with ... hopefully now we have peace in the neighborhood." Can we doubt at this point that Rogers was some kind of sorcerer?
"I have some experience with getting kings to do what I want."
#4. Teacher Stops School Shooter With a Hug
On a Tuesday morning in March of 2006, another school tragedy almost occurred in Nevada when a 14-year-old student walked into Pine Middle School, pulled out his parents' .38 pistol and opened fire. But this wouldn't be another Columbine -- nobody was seriously harmed, thanks to one teacher's ballsy-to-the-point-of-insanity actions.
"Afraid of bullets? I work at a school. With kids."
NOTE: We do NOT recommend that you do this if confronted by a mass shooter. If we saw this in a made-for-TV movie on the Lifetime channel, we'd scream bullshit, so we're thinking that this is the sort of thing that only works once.
The Crazy Solution:
The young man squeezed off three shots, hitting one boy in the arm and striking a young girl with a ricochet (both victims recovered), before one teacher, Jencie Fagan, walked right up to him, put her arms around him in a hug and told him she wouldn't leave him. He dropped the gun, and Fagan held him firmly against her until other teachers arrived to help.
"I may have executed a defensive maneuver that happened to resemble soiling myself."
Fagan later said that she believed that anyone else would've done the same, saying, "I look at the students as if they're my own." We're not sure we agree with her assessment that "anyone" would hear the sound of gunshots and immediately walk toward the gunfire with designs on hugging whoever was doing the shooting, unless they were driving a giant armored mech suit at the time.
#3. A Teenager Stops a Magazine from Photoshopping Women (by Asking Them To)
Seventeen magazine, like most magazines in that market, is notorious for using image-altering software to crowbar all of its models into whichever body shape we've all decided is best this decade. Science shows that this type of marketing is directly linked to the rise in eating disorders and self-harm among teenage girls, but magazines continue to use these strategies, because, man, anxiety and low self-esteem are effective ways to trick kids into spending their parents' money on silly bullshit.
"If you really loved me, you'd get me implants."
The Crazy Solution:
Horrified that the middle school girls in her ballet class were complaining about how fat they felt, one 14-year-old girl named Julie Bluhm from Waterville, Maine, put together a petition asking for something incredible: She wanted Seventeen to stop using Photoshop to make its models thinner and publish one unaltered photo of a model each month. This is like asking McDonald's to drop meat from its menu.
"Uh, yeah ... meat.
And when was the last time an online petition changed anything, right? Well, Bluhm's petition on Change.org quickly got over 84,000 signatures, at which time Seventeen Editor-in-Chief Ann Shoket wrote a letter in the magazine promising to never alter their models' body or face shapes, and to display a diverse range of body types and "celebrate every type of beauty."
Now, it's worth mentioning that the magazine didn't really acknowledge that they decided to do this because of a petition -- it's as though the idea sprang fully formed into their own minds by coincidence. But Bluhm says that she doesn't mind -- "However they want to say it in their magazine is fine. The important thing is they agreed to what we asked them to." And since then, similar campaigns have been started against other magazines, like Teen Vogue.
Wait, not all Photoshopping, right? Let's think this through.
Is that really all it takes? Like, could we just start a petition and get them to stop making "found footage" horror movies? Or get stores to sell eggnog year-round? Feel free to suggest your own petition ideas in the comments.