A spoonful of sugar
Elizabeth Greason | Monday, October 9, 2017
For as long as I can remember, “Mary Poppins” has been my favorite movie.
Maybe it’s strange for a junior in college to be wholeheartedly attached to a children’s movie, but I grew up with Mary, Bert, Jane and Michael. I watched “Mary Poppins” so frequently, I felt like an honorary member of the Banks family.
The meaning of the movie has changed for me as I’ve grown up with it.
When I was younger, it would throw me into fits of giggles. I loved to watch Mary Poppins and Bert leap into the chalk paintings on the London sidewalks and dance with the penguins and race off into the steeplechase on carousel horses. I loved watching the children float up the ceiling with Uncle Albert as they laughed uncontrollably.
But, my favorite part of the movie was watching “George get sacked.” I guess I simply did not realize how dark the scene in which Mr. Banks gets fired from his job at the bank really was, watching as a three or 4-year-old.
On the surface, “Mary Poppins” may appear to be a pure children’s movie. But, as Walt Disney discovers in “Saving Mr. Banks,” the film in which Disney attempts to obtain the screen rights to P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins novels, Mary Poppins isn’t for the children. She’s there for Mr. Banks. She does more for Mr. Banks than she does for the children.
I still love “Mary Poppins.” I can’t help but smile watching Mrs. Banks bounce around No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane rallying her sister suffragettes and grin watching the entire Banks family gather to finally fly a kite. But those scenes have taken on a whole new meaning to me as I’ve grown up with the movie.
There’s another layer to “Mary Poppins.” One of disillusionment, one that sees past the magic. One that is aimed at the adults in the movie. One that makes “Mary Poppins” more than just a children’s movie.
Mrs. Banks is trapped in a Victorian housewife’s unhappy life. Michael spends much of the movie wanting to learn how to fly a kite, but Mr. Banks spends so much time at the bank that he is unable to do so.
Mary Poppins, the chimney sweeps and the bird woman are the only characters who have any semblance of real happiness in their lives — the irony of which should not be lost on adult viewers, who are aware that the life of a chimney sweep was, in fact, miserable. But the message proves the point that work and money should not be what bring you happiness, as Mr. Banks doesn’t even crack a smile until he loses his job and realizes how free he is.
There’s so much going on around us on a daily basis, it’s easy to get caught up and forget what really matters, as George Banks did. We bury our heads in books and computer screens and fail to recognize the magical things going on around us — the little things that make all the difference between a bad day and a good one, a good day and a great one. We miss out on the moments that matter because we simply let ourselves be too preoccupied.
So, take a cue from “Mary Poppins.” Look for those little elements of magic, and take the time to feed the birds and fly a kite.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.