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Jeanninehead2010

Mary Poppins

The party for Borrowed Names was so much fun, but now I’m getting back to the final days of classes. I’m glad the celebratory spirit continues, though, as thoughtful and generous Cynthia Lord http://cynthialord.livejournal.com/596132.html is holding a contest for a signed copy of Borrowed Names to be drawn on Saturday. All she asks is for people to go to the link above and make a comment about your mother. Anything, she says. But some of the comments: wow. They’re a reminder of what a few heartfelt words can do. Go take a look.



My students recently wrote papers comparing a novel they read in class to a film adaptation. A few wrote about P. L.Travers’s novel Mary Poppins and the Disney version in which Julie Andrews debuted and Dick van Dyke charmed as Bert. I love the songs. but honestly, while I hum “Feed the Birds,” and “Chim Chim Chiree,” it’s been many years since I saw the movie, so I was glad to have some updated impressions.

I did remember a problem with the parents. Of course it’s common for movies to cast characters as prettier and richer, but my student Esther Pounds objected to changing Mrs. Banks from someone who mostly gossiped over afternoon tea to a suffragist. “Apparently when the male film writers put their heads together to think up the perfect hallmark of a bad mother, they decided she must be a feminist. No wonder P.L Travers was upset, she probably had not expected the adaptation of her whimsical children’s book to include a misogynist smear campaign.”



Samantha Balaban also focused on Mary Poppins, but her topic was the theme of magic that in the novel is primarily Mary’s world, which the children glimpse. The parents in the novel are clueless, but in the movie, the parents gradually come to see the fun. The banker dad picks up the spirit of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and decides to fly a kite. Instead of magic separating parent and child, it bonds. Once the mother and father understand about magic, Mary Poppins is no longer needed and can take off on her umbrella. Her exit is less about whim and the wind.

I adore my smart students, who are so right. And yet, I challenge those of you who click on this video and listen to Julie Andrews not to sing along and be happier than you were a moment before.

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Some of us feel Disney enchantment simultaneously with the tug of our better judgments on some issues. Our admiration for the novel-Mary’s independent somewhat chilly core tugs against our desire for a nurturing nanny.

There’s the wonderful book, and others which follow, which deserve more allegiance, but the movie, theme-twisting as it is, is pretty wonderful, too. Okay, it’s wonderful. To which I say, oh well. Which those of you who are parents know we say often. The children’s lit class just gives them a jump. Nothing’s perfect, nothing quite fits, where’s the fairness? But the world is full of beauty, too, and we’ll grab it wherever we can. And sing along.

Comments

I didn't read this book as a child because a) I was into mysteries and b) I objected to books that featured grown-ups. Coming to MP as an adult, I think it's *strange.* And so was Pamela Travers.

I wasn't a huge fan of the movie either (okay, *I'm* strange), but I thought the suffragist mother was an improvement over the tea-sipping gossip. I thought she was spunky and not bad! Your students make me think, too!
Love all the *strangeness* in your world, Candace!

I also liked the mother marching into the house with her Votes for women banner, and forget that at the end of the movie she ties the banner to the kite for a tail.
Oh, lots to contemplate here. I haven't read Mary Poppins in a long time and want to get back to it. The movie has blurred my memory of the original book(s). "Rosy cheeks, no warts, play games, all sorts . . ." My favorite song.

My students do give me lots to think about, and though it's good to see summer on its way, I will miss them!

(Anonymous)

"I did remember a problem with the parents. Of course it’s common for movies to cast characters as prettier and richer, but my student Esther Pounds objected to changing Mrs. Banks from someone who mostly gossiped over afternoon tea to a suffragist. “Apparently when the male film writers put their heads together to think up the perfect hallmark of a bad mother, they decided she must be a feminist. No wonder P.L Travers was upset, she probably had not expected the adaptation of her whimsical children’s book to include a misogynist smear campaign.”

I suppose that is one way of looking at it, though to my way of thinking it is a bizarre perspective. It's been a while since I last viewed this movie, but my recollection of the mother was that she was a strong woman, and a lot less of a stick-in-the-mud than the stuffy father. And the song she and her fellow Suffragettes sang was great:

"Our daughters' daughters will adore us
As they sing in grateful chorus,
'Well done! Well done!
Sister Suffragette"!

Hardly a "misogynist smear campaign", IMHO. -- PL
I agree the mother is more interesting than the father. And that is a great song!

The problem is with what happens to it, the hint, via the way the film is structured, that both parents are neglecting the children, who need to be saved by Mary Poppins. The family is fixed and Mary can leave when the mother gives up politics to stay home with the kids.
Just looking at that picture makes me smile. How many times have we sung these songs through our lives, I wonder. The music was such an amazing part of the movie, wasn't it? And I'd love to hear your students thoughts comparing the book and the movie--I'm sure they have so much wisdom to share. Now I'm tempted to go back and read MP.
Mary Poppins is worth reading, but if you're short on time, a few chapters can be read. Disney took this elements and tried to pull everything into an arc, while the book is written episodically. Like Winnie-the-Pooh, for instance, each chapter can stand pretty well alone after the intro to Mary.

My favorite chapters are Mrs. Corry, in which they visit the bakery for gingerbread with stars pasted on, then get pasted onto the sky, and John and Barbara's Story, about the two babies (who never appear in the movies) and, before their teeth come in, can understand the language of birds.
I need to go back and read the book again. Your smart students have given me much to ponder. Wow. I'm with you on the music bringing a smile, though. There's no denying that (for me, at least).

Again, I really wish I could be in your class!
We all kind of missed that music -- and dancing! -- when reading. I wrote to Lorraine above about my favorite chapters, in case you have time for just a fast go through!
Have you read Steve Kluger's My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park? Just a wonderful, happy, funny story, but also--I think--catches so much of what kids (and grown-ups) feel about Mary and about Julie Andrews.

I think Julie played Mary with much less "acid," which is funny, because she also turned Princess Mia's grandmother into something much more pleasant (but maybe less interesting) in The Princess Diaries. Most likely, in both cases, the screenwriter or director's choices, but... :)