Entertainment education research has shown that television programs can communicate important health information to television viewers. Much of this research focuses on mass media effects (e.g., behavioral intention of viewers, post-viewing; attitudinal change, post-viewing). Less is known about the rhetorical strategies employed in such messaging. We review para-social and para-proxemics literature to describe the viewing context and then offer a detailed rhetorical analysis of immunization messaging on the children’s television program, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” arguing that, aptly, Fred Rogers’ rhetorical framing mirrored that of the inoculation theory of resistance to influence, presenting “weak” challenges to his young viewers to help them to build resistance to stronger challenges encountered later. We conclude that, in a sense, the episode inoculated against inoculation fears.
Compton, J. & Mason, A.M. (2021). Immunization communication in “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”: inoculation theory, health messaging, and children’s entertainment television. The Midwest Quarterly.