I had the opportunity to see Mary Poppins on the big screen last night, and it was a delightful viewing. I realized I have not seen it since early adolescence, and I will admit I was shocked to come away with a very different perspective.
Mary Poppins was a lazy, narcissistic bitch!
Allow me to explain.
We meet Ms. Poppins atop a cloud fixing her makeup. Certainly looking good is important, but this does rather become a theme. Below, general madness occurs amid a healthy bit of turn-of-the-century misogyny in the Banks household. Jane and Michael write their advertisement (please read that with the appropriate British accent, because it sounds so much better), it goes in the fire and the stage is set for her dramatic entrance. In the morning, a line of well-qualified applicants arrive appropriately early, showing initiative and desire, and she sends all of them packing to cut to the front of the line. A little entitled are we?
The interview begins, and the only two points from the ad she manages to address are rosy cheeks and cheery disposition – fifty percent devoted to appearance. She seems all business and effectiveness, to the point of really being quite presumptuous and rude. She ends it dismissively and just assumes, no doubt based on a history of getting whatever she wants when she wants it, that she has received the position.
The first thing she does on arriving in her room is complain about the decor, her charges waiting dutifully as she makes the environment more suitable for her own comfort. She needs better lighting, and what narcissist doesn’t know this is key, leading to the piece de resistance – a giant ornate mirror. Not content with the single giant mirror, she immediately pulls out a handheld one and gets distracted by her own reflection for a moment!
Is it even necessary to discuss the “practically perfect in every way” moment? I mean, she has it permanently inscribed on a tape measure! She’s a grown women, obviously not getting taller, so she knows it will be the answer every time she feels the need to show off. In front of impressionable children of course.
Finally, it’s time to work. Sort of. Instead of teaching the children to make up a fun game out of actually putting their things away, she doesn’t actually lift a finger after she sets the rocking horse upright. Or more precisely, all she does is lift a finger. And snap. And all of the work is done for her. If that isn’t the epitome of lazy, I don’t know what is.
She leaves the children to finish snapping away the chores, and as things run amok, she once again becomes obsessed with herself in the mirror. Three mirror moments in five minutes. That’s narcissism folks. Not only that, as we learned from Michael Jackson, the Evil Queen and Christina Aguilera, you can learn a lot about a person from what they see in the mirror. Ms. Poppins has a bitchy, competitive, totally show-offy reflection. Draw your own conclusions.
It’s finally time for an outing. Like all good nannies, she takes them for a trip to the park. Or to see her boyfriend. One or the other. Bert does his best to actually amuse and entertain the children, while Ms. Poppins roles her eyes – something she spends a great deal of the movie doing – and huffs at how ridiculous he is before begrudgingly tossing them all into the drawing.
Rather than guide the children through this wonderland of adventure, she immediately lets them run off. Now, Jane and Michael always seem to be wonderful kids with a normal sense of adventure, but I’m pretty sure it’s the actual job description of the nanny to keep a watchful eye. Ms. Poppins, now bedecked in the best outfit of the four it should be noted, instead goes off on a date with this man of the streets. On her very first day of work!
She and Bert dance their way through the countryside as he sings glowingly of her and how wonderful it is to be with her. She smiles patronizingly, waiting, and then when it’s her turn to sing she emasculates him by singing of how sure she is nothing will happen between them. Clearly this is not their first meeting, so she is just stringing the poor man along with breadcrumbs! Bert continues to give it his all for her with an exhausting song and dance number, heedless of his uphill battle.
After lunch she finally checks on the children, takes the horses off the merry-go-round and then after entering a horse race in the middle, she uses her looks and charm to cheat her way to the win. Then she gives a nauseating helping of false modesty as she stands and poses like a Kardashian arriving at an airport with an arm full of flowers in the winner’s circle. Rather than give an interview she makes up a nonsense word. If Amanda Bynes had tossed out that word, we’d be having her committed.
The day in the drawing finishes and the children return home, delighted with their day. As they ready for bed, reliving the wonder of it all, Mary proceeds to plant seeds of doubt by denying that any of it actually happened. That’s a surefire way to teach a child to question their own sanity. And all of that is just the first day!
Let’s move quickly through day two. Ms. Poppins leaves the house with her two charges, clearly with directions from Mrs. Banks to stop by the piano tuner and make several purchases. Instead, she drags them off to see her bipolar lispy gay uncle who is obviously not quite right. Family emergency or not, she pulls them along on her personal visit and accomplishes none of the tasks requested by her employers by the time they return home. That seems like a lovely lesson in personal responsibility.
Mr. Banks attempts to address his frustrations with Mary’s unorthodox, and as we have seen, ultimately lazy methods, and her answer is to huff at his questions and then foist them off on him for the day rather than answering his questions about her methodology and doing the job she is paid to do. “I never explain anything” she declares. I mean, he is her boss, even if he is short-sighted and a patronizing misogynist.
The catastrophe at the bank happens, and who finds the children? Not Ms. Poppins, she’s enjoying her self-created day off. Once again, it’s Bert taking care of the children. They return home and naturally head for the rooftop where even Bert seems unsure how far away from the house they should be traveling with the children. Not Mary, she drags them across dangerous rooftops and then sits center stage like a queen as once again men compete and outdo themselves showing off for her. (And let’s not forget she once again gets out her ever-present compact. Even if it is to move herself dangerously closer to being in blackface.)
After the rooftop party, she allows dozens of dirty strange men into the house of her employers for a massive party, exerting her bad influence on the other household employees. I’m sure all of the sweeps are lovely, but this isn’t her home, and even a teenage babysitter knows you make everyone leave and clean up from the party before the homeowners return. Not Mary, she doesn’t care. She brashly acts like she has not done anything wrong. They’re having a good time, why end it?
The giant turning point of the story comes not from Ms. Poppins, but from Bert’s heartfelt sharing and guidance with Mr. Banks after all of the madness calms. It’s the realization in this moment with Bert that changes Mr. Banks and leads to the wonderful family moment that ends the film.
Certainly it can be argued that Mary created the moments that led to the enlightenment of Mr. Banks. It can also be argued that she wanted a cushy job where she could do as little work as possible while hanging out with her friends, visiting family and enjoying the attention of men of all kinds while judging the lives of her employers. All of her shenanigans would just be madcap disorganization if Bert, ever hopeful that cleaning up her messes might make her see him as something more, had not stepped in to drive the actual message home, after all, Mary doesn’t explain anything. She said so. Then she quit after three days.
Oh, and that spoonful of medicine? Yeah, hers was alcohol. Maybe it had a sugar rim for her rum punch and that helped it go down for sure. Drinking on the job makes her at least a bit of a lush too.
The faults keep piling Ms. Poppins. Practically Perfect? Methinks not. Lazy? Yes. Narcissistic? Definitely. Bitchy? I mean, more than a few times, it has to be said. Mary Poppins is certainly no Super Nanny.