12 October 2015

Mary Poppins

It is October and despite the aberrant warm days this past weekend, the weather has begun to approximate the typical Fall climate, the latter term, William James notes as just the way people describe the name of a certain group of days but which is treated “as if it lay behind the day . . .”  At this time of year and weather I think immediately of Mary Poppins. I am not sure of the exact film sequence but at the opening the wind blows and the wind vane turns to the opposite direction. Bert, the chimney sweep looks up at the sky—but really at the universe, and portentously (but keenly!) intones,
          Wind's in the east, mist comin' in.
          Like something is brewin' about to begin
          Can't put me finger on what lies in store
          But I feel what's to happen, all happened before.
And soon floating in on her umbrella will appear Mary Poppins to assume duties as nanny at Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane, the residence of George Banks, esquire and his seemingly incorrigible children.
     I’ve always thought I fairly well understood the first three lines of Bert’s almost ominous rhyme—here in the Midwest the autumn winds often violently blow the leaves down and about stripping the trees of their cover—the wind will sound forever different until next Spring’s growth. In just a few weeks the trees will be naked and the ground cold. As Pound threatened “winter is icumen in.”  Given what I know about Mary Poppins (the children watched the film continuously for any number of years) I’m intrigued today at what I understand by that last line. Because at some basic level, Mary Poppins is a rebellious agent disrupting the body politic not consciously as a rebel but organically as a personality. Mary Poppins just is! Like the Cat in the Hat she threatens the social order and serves to break through the bonds that restrict individual freedom. Mary Poppins unsettles every element in society from the individual to the social, from the upper echelons of the bankers to the lower social levels of the chimney sweeps in a way that contrasts with Mrs. Banks’ seemingly innocuous activity in the Suffragette movement. Mary’s feminism is essential to her character and not an add-on to it. And when all has been upturned, Mary Poppins moves on . . . to settle, I suspect, into some other needy household and community that has some need for her anarchic inclinations.
     So I suppose what Bert feels acknowledges the inevitable disruption of the obsessive, compulsive order that maintains a strict guard against any taint of freedom and the entrance of any anarchic force into the repressive and unequal social and political environments that now (and maybe always) oppress us. Mary Poppins’ stay at 17 Cherry Tree Lane alters the trajectory of the entire Banks’ household; when she floats off on her umbrella at the film’s end it is to some other household that requires liberation that Mary Poppins flies. It is not a revolution that she advocates, it is life!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jolly good piece! Just heard an NPR interview with Dick Van Dyke yesterday.

12 October, 2015 15:22  

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