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Mary Poppins… Practically Perfect?

Politically equality!

Political equality!

My grandmother is obsessed with Mary Poppins.  None of us are sure where this fixation came from, but we’re all just as glad that there’s a long movie we can suggest watching when she’s otherwise to stubborn to take it easy (like she’s supposed to).  And it’s a fun movie, although I recently came across another explanation of the ending that startled me, but at the same time makes sense.

At the end of the movie during the song “Go Fly A Kite” as Mr. Banks makes his peace with the children and reinvents himself as less of a stick-in-the-mud businessman, Mrs. Banks offers one of her “Votes for Women” sashes as a tail for the new kite.  I have always interpreted this ending as Mrs. Banks no longer being afraid of openly showing support for “the Cause” around her husband.  And he does look pleased seeing the feminist kite flying among all the other, less creative ones in the park.  They all live happily-ever-after.  Or do they?

The other interpretation I came across recently states that Mrs. Banks’ gesture means that she’s giving up “the Cause” for a life of staying home, barefoot, and pregnant.  Unfortunately, it’s an equally valid claim– Mrs. Banks is something of a straw feminist (although that’s par for the Hollywood course) and other films contemporary with Mary Poppins, such as The Great Race, took delight in punishing those characters or making them as unappealing as possible.  Given Disney’s track record with female characters and Uncle Walt’s politics, the anti-feminist ending is pretty likely.

Unfortunately, without a “Word of God” on the subject, we won’t know, and Disney is probably savvy enough to keep mum on the subject.  Unless Saving Mr. Banks answered the question– I had no interest in watching it.  That means it’s up to us to write our own conclusions.  I’d like to go on with my feminist interpretation of the movie.  Mr. Banks accepts his wife’s cause and lets her host meetings of the other suffragettes in the house with minimal grumbling, and even helps out from time to time.  For her part, Mrs. Banks sometimes misses meetings to look after Jane and Michael, and organizes with the other mothers in her group to share childcare on picket-line days.  In a few years, Jane starts picketing with her mother.

They all live happily ever after.  I wonder what Grandma thinks of the ending?  I shall have to ask her….

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