The original 1964 Mary Poppins movie won over 20 awards — ranging from Oscars to Golden Globes. In the 53 years since, Mary Poppins has been adapted into a Broadway show, small theater productions, and numerous school plays. But what is it exactly about the singing nanny that has stolen everyone’s heart?
First off, Disney’s version of Mary Poppins was actually based off the first book in the Mary Poppins series by P.L. Travers. Walt Disney’s daughters had read the books and made their father promise to make a film based on the story; however, when he tried to buy the rights, Travers refused because she felt a film could never do Mary Poppins justice. Years later, Walt Disney finally acquired the permission to begin filming and soon everyone fell in love with the classic story.
Even today, Mary Poppins is considered one of the most famous female lead protagonists, because she is intelligent, caring, and strong. The nanny, as requested by the children, Jane and Michael Banks, has everything a “perfect nanny” should.
“If you want this choice position, have a cheery disposition.
Rosy cheeks, no warts. Play games, all sorts.
You must be kind, you must be witty. Very sweet and fairly pretty.
Take us on outings, give us treats. Sing songs, bring sweets.
Never be cross or cruel, never give us castor oil or gruel.
Love us as a son and daughter and never smell of barley water.
If you won’t scold and dominate us we will never give you cause to hate us.”
-Jane and Michael Banks
Not only does Mary display characteristics of a loving mother by caring for Jane and Michael like her own, but she also is very firm and adamant about the way they behave. Mary Poppins is famous for being “practically perfect” and demanding the same from the children she watches over. After all, during the movie, Jane and Michael grow to learn several life lessons from Poppins herself.
Alongside Mary is Bert: the artistic chimney sweeper who just so happens to know Poppins quite well. Some days he’s filling up the park with chalk and other times he’s walking the roof top while covered in soot, but regardless, Bert is one of the happiest and energetic characters ever created. He’s constantly doling out advice to Jane and Michael and proves to the audience that it doesn’t matter how you look or what you do… it matters where your heart is.
The entire point of Mary coming to Cherry Tree Lane wasn’t only to straighten out Jane and Michael, but instead to help the entire Banks family. Mrs. Banks is desperately trying to be a good mother and a good wife; however, she doesn’t know how to be both at one time. She tries to be supportive of her husband, but he constantly belittles her and undermines her talent. Mr. Banks demands the hiring of a nanny, which Mrs. Banks feels takes away from her authority as Jane and Michael’s mother. However, at the beginning of the film, she is too afraid to stand up for herself.
At first glance, this may seem like a horribly sexist story where the husband suppresses the wife, but once looking at the film as a whole, the development is phenomenal. It is evident to the audience that Mrs. Banks is more intelligent and graceful than Mr. Banks gives her credit for, making the entire situation rather satirical.
Throughout the film, the audience holds their breath every time Mr. Banks is on screen. He’s the worst type of antagonist: the kind that doesn’t realize what they are doing is wrong. As a cautious banker, he is very stingy with money and prides himself on appearances in the public eye. With the arrival of Mary Poppins, however, he takes a risk based on his gut and judge of character. When he is essentially laid off without pay, Mr. Banks becomes even more hostile and angry, inspiring Jane and Michael to help him out in the family’s time of need. Thankfully, in the end, Mr. Banks realizes what a wonderful family he has and shows what true character development means.
In today’s society, it is vital that we educate ourselves and constantly reevaluate where we stand on many issues. Every day new discoveries in science and psychology shape our world and it’s important we absorb that new information and use it to further ourselves as human beings. Be devoted like Mrs. Banks, be uplifting like Bert, be adaptable like Mr. Banks, be accepting like Jane and Michael, and eventually you will become practically perfect like Mary Poppins.
We have the power to change, why not do something with it?