Tuesday, March 6, 2018

On 'Mary Poppins Returns', the Issues of Being Practically Perfect & Time Lords

Mary Poppins has a lot of those things we love: arriving (and leaving) by unconventional means (umbrella, or, more technically, the East Wind), a magical carpet bag you can fit anything into, a talking umbrella-bird, paintings you can jump into, floating tea parties, sliding up bannisters, having unlikeable people/nannies being blown away (by the wind - natural consequences!), talking to (and with) birds, a mirror with its own personality, dancing on rooftops, and so much more. It's clear this classic takes its cues from fantasy and fairy tales.
The original carpet bag... not made for carrying carpets (though it probably could).
But before we continue, have you seen the new trailer? No?

We'll let you watch before we weigh in:
So we're a little disappointed that she floats in on a kite, although that gives kites yet another magical connection, and it is, after all, the mode of conveyance in the book Mary Poppins Comes Back (the sequel to the first Mary Poppins volume.) The trailer is - obviously - supposed to underscore the melancholy state of, well, everything, without Mary there but there is a lot of that despair on display in this teaser before we get to the sunny breakthrough/arrival of the magical nanny. Generally speaking, we adore all the concepts of and around Mary Poppins, as mentioned above, but...

OK. Full disclosure:

We were always more-than-a-little disconcerted by Disney's Mary Poppins. She creeped us out, being so "practically perfect". The books didn't communicate quite that sense at all; she was clearly quite vain. (The references to this flaw in the books are many. Check the link to have an online read of just how many!) We loved Travers' books but the thought of having a '"jolly holiday with (the Disney) Mary" gives us the willies!

The following excerpt is from a very old post of InkGypsy's, (on a very old and defunct blog), from over ten years ago, and still holds true:
The new carpet bag
(can you imagine what that
carpet would have looked like?)
A character that's always bugged me is Mary Poppins. From the first time I saw that Disney film I was disturbed by this apparently perfect, almost emotionless, amazingly powerful woman with an agenda that's never revealed. She seemed alien to me and not at all comforting. If she'd been my nanny I would have had nightmares. As it is I just find her disturbing. Even with all that singing and dancing I was always aware of the ice in her eyes and the strangely perfect precision of all her movements and actions. I felt like Bert was under a spell, and not a good one. Oddly enough her arrival in the sky with the umbrella was like a black cloud appearing and it didn't go away until she blew away too. Despite this, umbrellas - and their potential to fly you away to distant places - are a wonderful image for me, as are dancing on chimneys and sidewalk paintings you can jump into, but my enjoyment of these is greatly disturbed by the shadowy, threatening presence of Miss Poppins. It's the cold perfection that I find completely inhuman and ultimately dangerous. I always felt she was really a personification of the Snow Queen and that the film was only ever Act I of the story. Act II, in which her sinister plan is revealed, was never completed and I was quite happy that we never saw her (that way on screen) again.
And now, behold Act II!

This new teaser trailer, with Emily Blunt as the new iconic and magical nanny, gives us a few of those same vibes... and a 'quick google' has let us know, we're not alone in this!

Even with all the creepy possibilities, we must admit we really are looking forward to this one. With the different awareness of how women are portrayed now, and Disney having done a bit of soul searching to produce the quite decent movie Saving Mr. Banks, we have this on our watch list. 

It is interesting to note that, from the brief glimpse we've had, this second movie, does indeed take its cues from Travers second Poppins book (just as the first movie did). We're curious to see how well it follows along with it. Here's a summary of that book from Wikipedia:
Mary Poppins Comes Back, published 1935
Nothing has been right since Mary Poppins left Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane. One day, when Mrs. Banks sends the children out to the park, Michael flies his kite up into the clouds. Everyone is surprised when it comes down bringing Mary Poppins as a passenger, who returns to the Banks home and takes charge of the children once again (though she'll only stay "'till the chain of her locket breaks"). This time, Jane and Michael meet the fearsome Miss Andrew, experience an upside-down tea party, and visit a circus in the sky. In the chapter "The New One" a new baby girl in the Banks family is born to the name of Annabel and concludes the family of now five children; three daughters and two sons. As in Mary Poppins, Mary leaves at the end (via an enchanted merry-go-round), but this time with a "return ticket, just in case" she needs to return.

There are other directions the problems of being "practically perfect" can go, too. While our Newshound was "researching" she ended up on Twitter, discussing two paths, that, interestingly, ended up converging. Here's the conversation thread that began with a fairy tale comparison:
Seriously, that mirror image, in both the original movie and in this teaser trailer, fairly beg to make the comparison. And it's not a stretch to have Snow White say, on her box being opened, "No thanks, just regenerating...".

Let's be honest, especially now that The Doctor has finally acknowledged the femme side, the movie we really want is to see is:
Mary Poppins: Time Lord
by Karen Hallion
Fairy tale bonus of the day:
Many years ago, someone edited together a trailer for Mary Poppins, as if it were a horror movie. Although it was a (great) exercise to show the power of editing, it also cuts a little close to being possibly true...

DO NOT WATCH if you're not interested in seeing the dark side of Mary Poppins!
(You'll never be able to see her the same way again.)


  1. Well, she does have a TARDIS carpetbag... I think I’ve seen that horror movie trailer recently, can’t recall where. I loved Saving Mr Banks. Emma Thompson was a wonderful P.L Travers. And who would have thought Tom Hanks could play Walt Disney?

  2. I don't agree with Disney Mary being perfect.
    She clearly is vain: She pays a lot of attention to her appearance and has a big problem with being outshone.
    That can be seen when her mirror image hits a higher note than her and she is clearly offended by that replying with a quite childish "Cheeky" and in some interactions with Bert which show that she is worried, that Bert will be more popular with the children. In my opinion that fear is the only reason she agrees to take the children to the chalk drawing or joins the tea party on the ceiling.
    In fact all her charming moments with the exception of the Feed The Birds sequence are a result of Berts meddling.
    Otherwise she is too obsessed with keeping up appearances, which makes her very similar to Mr Banks, while Bert who is more approachable due too his cheerful demeanor, but in the first half of the movie too silly and fickle can be compared to Mrs Banks (he changes jobs depending on what is most convenient like she is implied to change "hobbies").

    Feed The Birds is the only moment when Mary Poppins lets her aloof facade down in front of the children (The other two instances Jolly Holiday and the moments before her Fare-Well are not witnessed by them) and also the only moment where she is truly of help to them helping along Janes and especially Michaels character development.
    But then the children's arc is concluded by Berts talk to them after Chim Chim Cher-ee, when he drops his wacky antics (which may be just as much of a facade as Marys aloofness) and is therefore able to make his own connection with them.
    And after that (and the Step In Time sequence which shows that he did not completely change his character, but merely showed a new side of himself) he is once more able to share an earnest moment with Mr Banks in A Man Has Dreams, acting as an important contributor to his arc.

    Without Bert Mary Poppins wouldn't have been able to resolve the conflict within the Banks household, because her obsession with keeping up her "practically perfect" appearance and her fear of making a meaningful connection with the childrens, because she knows she can never stay for long, almost prevented her from not only "Saving Mr. Banks" a plot point introduced by Disney, but from being a good nanny.

    So if anything I would say Mary Poppins in the Disney movie is even more flawed than in the books, specifically because she attempts to be "practically perfect".