Mary Poppins

At dinner on Thursday evening, after an excellent dinner prepared by Isaac, we adults wanted to play a little game of Apples to Apples. In order to distract Elena for a few minutes, Jenny recommended something with songs and dancing, and Julie pulled out Mary Poppins. Elena loved it, of course, although she would wander over in between songs to see how our game was going.

We finished our game before the movie was over, so we all gathered around the TV to watch the exciting conclusion. I was able to sing along with some parts of the songs, but it’s been a long time since I last watched it. I don’t think that I ever understood the plot and the character dynamics that drive the movie; I was too busy trying to figure out how to make my pants look like Bert’s in the penguin dance.

As we watched I was struck by how applicable the story of Mary Poppins is in today’s society. It’s about the relationship between parents and children, and how the swirling forces of economics and politics affect families. Father and mother are too occupied by work and suffrage issues to take an interest in their children, who act out because of it. Mary Poppins handles the childrens’ behavior problems with a two-pronged strategy: she imposes discipline and engages the imagination. As a result of a financial crisis* and resulting layoff, the father reconsiders his life and reconnects with his family, thus finding happiness.

We’re inundated by film remakes, reboots, and sequels; I was surprised that the only reference to a new Mary Poppins was a discredited old rumor about Spielberg being interested. I couldn’t help but indulge in some speculation about what an updated version would look like. Here are some thoughts: Mr. Banks would work at a hedge fund, or possibly Lehman Brothers in the days before its collapse. Instead of being a suffragette, Mrs. Banks would be a rising political star, possibly a young congresswoman. Bert would have a Ph.D. in one of the evergreen liberal arts disciplines, but be unable to find a job. Even better, how about this all-star cast:

  • Mary Poppins: Amy Adams
  • Mrs. Banks: Anne Hathaway
  • Mr. Banks: Antonio Banderas
  • Bert: Hugh Jackman

I’m not sure about the other roles. Leave suggestions and disputes in the comments.

*The book Mary Poppins was published in 1934, in the middle of the Great Depression.

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