Works of Fiction

I think I’ll go see Saving Mr. Banks this weekend.

Did you ever read Mary Poppins when you were a child? I did. Don’t ask me how an actual book got into our house. TV Guide and in later years Reader’s Digest plus three well-read comic books – Joe Palooka, Caspar The Friendly Ghost and one lone Archie – were the sum total of printed matter that made it through the door.

Someone must have given this to me but I can’t imagine who. Maybe it was on loan because it wasn’t around for long. I read it like I read the comic books – in my bed lit by the hallway light after I was supposed to be sleeping.

And it was disturbing. There were some Golden Books in my younger years so I knew what a children’s book was supposed to be – this wasn’t it. I don’t remember much but I do know that Mary Poppins was cranky and authoritarian. There are only things I can remember from the book:  pasting stars from paper wrapped around gingerbread cookies onto the night sky and a visit to an old lady friend who snapped off her own fingers which instantly became candy that the children ate as a treat.

I was 13 when the Mary Poppins movie came out and much more into the Beatles than Disney so it’s very likely that I would have thought the film was crap even if I didn’t have the book as reference point. Seriously, was anybody not embarrassed by a heavily-mascaraed Dick Van Dyke trying to keep up with cartoon penguins?

So I was never a fan of the MP movie but I was mildly interested in seeing  Mr Banks, probably because of the heavy advertising for it. As we know from the TV ads, the story here is that the rigid frigid cranky female author of Mary Poppins agreed after decades of pursuit to allow her work to be made into a Disney film. Her wishes were over-ridden during the process and she was ill-pleased with the result. But THANK GAWD that Walt Disney’s vision  prevailed and the world knows the story and the character as delivered in the film. Walt must have been right because not only was/is the movie an enormous financial success , it continues to be beloved

Except now that I’ve done a little background reading, I feel that I really must see this Disney film commissioned to retell Disney history.

From The Vulture: Saving Mr. Banks Is a Corporate, Borderline-Sexist Spoonful of Lies

“In reality, Travers was a feisty, stereotype-breaking bisexual — a single mom who adopted a baby in her 40s, studied Zen meditation in Kyoto, and was publishing erotica about her silky underwear 10 years before Walt had sketched his mouse. Now that’s a character worth slapping on-screen, instead of this stiff British stereotype determined to steal joy from future generations of children. With her longtime girlfriend and then-adult son erased, this frigid Travers seems like she may not even know how babies are made. Maybe Mary Poppins could sing her a song about it.

Why does it matter that Saving Mr. Banks sabotages its supposed heroine? Because in a Hollywood where men still pen 85 percent of all films, there’s something sour in a movie that roots against a woman who asserted her artistic control by asking to be a co-screenwriter.”

I really don’t know if it’s wise that  I should aggravate myself with this. I am by no means a pioneer or an outspoken women’s rights representative, but I’m doing okay in the business world. But let me tell you that after all these years, it’s still a man’s world and the Equal Rights Amendment is still unfinished business.

Now I’m cranky.


Recommended New Yorker article from 2005:

P. L. Travers, Walt Disney, and the making of a myth

I am amused by the notion of mink-clad B-List Suzanne Pleshette arriving at the Mary Poppins movie premiere

1 thought on “Works of Fiction”

  1. I read every book in the Mary Poppins series and liked them very much. I suppose I should have been more horrified about her cranky and authoritarian ways, but I just thought it was the way things were done in England at that time. Bouncing around on the ceiling filled up with laughing gas sounded like a lot of fun. And after all adults were full of cranky and inexplicable nonsense anyway.

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