Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
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Today, November 19, is apparently World Kindness Day, which makes it an appropriate day to read this not-astonishing/astonishing profile of Tom Hanks by New York Times Magazine columnist Taffy Brodesser-Akner. It’s not astonishing because it’s a story that is, at heart, about how Tom Hanks is a fundamentally decent person, and that’s not something that seems like a revelation. The piece even acknowledges it. Look at this subhead:

Screenshot: The New York Times

It’s astonishing because it’s astonishingly good, with an astonishingly tricky angle that, astonishingly enough, works. It’s also astonishing because even if we all suspected that he was as nice as he seems, having it confirmed by multiple sources over and over again is kind of mind-blowing. He’s so nice that, as the piece makes clear, the PR team for Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is desperate to make sure that everyone is aware that Tom Hanks is acting when he plays the saintly Mr. Rogers, and not just being himself. That is a hell of a public relations crisis.

The whole thing is worth a good long read, because it is lovely and smart and funny and moving. He wrote a weekly newsletter on the set of Forrest Gump. He collects typewriters and is now giving them away. Come for the anecdote about a wedding that was disrupted while he was filming Angels & Demons and what he did to right the situation, stay for Brodesser-Akner crying through part of their interview because of some nice stuff he said about parenting:

It isn’t easy being a parent, not for any of us, he said. “Somewhere along the line, I figured out, the only thing really, I think, eventually a parent can do is say I love you, there’s nothing you can do wrong, you cannot hurt my feelings, I hope you will forgive me on occasion, and what do you need me to do? You offer up that to them. I will do anything I can possibly do in order to keep you safe. That’s it. Offer that up and then just love them.”

He looked at me for my next question and when he saw my face he said, “O.K. Go ahead. I’m right here for you, Taffy. It’s good to cry. It’s good to talk.”

Once you’re done reading it, you might want to venture over to Brodesser-Akner’s Twitter feed, which is now slowly filling up with tidbits she had to cut, great Hanks stories from others, and the assertion that writing the profile helped her move out of a depressive period:


This one is especially good. Click the image if the font’s too small:


In closing, Tom Hanks, at least, is actually as nice as you hoped he is, which is a refreshing change of pace, no?

Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves television, bourbon, and dramatically overanalyzing social interactions.

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