Psychology in Mary Poppins Returns

image: rollingstone.com

The other day, I asked my Amazon Alexa to play the Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack. I was somewhat surprised when she found it, even though I knew she’d probably be able to.

Listening to the soundtrack, I fell in love with the songs even more. And I noticed some new things I didn’t pick up on while I was watching the movie, while I reinforced the things I did notice. I am going to try and break down my observations. I’m no expert though, so please take this with a huge ton of salt.

Reverse: Can You Imagine That?

When Mary Poppins arrives, John, Anabel, and Georgie Banks (Nathanael Saleh, Pixie Davies, and Joel Dawson respectively) insist that they don’t need anyone to take care of them because they’ve basically been taking care of themselves since their mother passed away.

So Mary Poppins kicks it up a notch with a little reverse psychology aimed at John, by far the most skeptical of the three children.

John, you’re right

It’s good to know you’re bright

For intellect can wash away confusion

Georgie sees

And Anabel agrees

Most folderol’s an optical illusion

You three know it’s true

That one plus one plus one is two

Yes, logic is the rock of our foundation

I suspect, and I’m never incorrect

That you’re far too old to give in to

Imagination


Later in the song, Georgie says “Wait, I want to take a bath!”

Mary Poppins follows Georgie and Anabel into the bathtub, whispering “Off we go!” Let’s face it, she probably hasn’t had this much fun since she looked after Michael and Jane. And that was forever ago.

Too many questions: Royal Doulton Music Hall

When Mary Poppins, Jack, and the children go inside the bowl, Mary Poppins asks the coachman to take them to the Royal Doulton Music Hall. When the children ask where they’re going, Mary Poppins says

We’re on the brink of an adventure, children. Don’t spoil it with too many questions.

But what’s wrong with the kids asking where they’re going? Mary Poppins could’ve said something like “You’ll see”. That would’ve kept them on their toes and encouraged excitement. She didn’t need to be a buzzkill.

Reframing: Turning Turtle

In order to get the Royal Doulton bowl fixed, Mary Poppins takes the gang to her cousin Topsy’s house. But Topsy is all out of sorts because it’s the second Wednesday of the month, and that means her house is going to turn upside down, like a turtle on its back.

Toward the end of the song, Mary Poppins says

When you change the view from where

you stood

the things you view will change for good

And Topsy replies

I never thought of things that way

Reframing, or thinking of things in a different way, is a nice idea, but sometimes it’s easier said than done. I know from experience.

Acknowledgement: The Place Where Lost Things Go and There’s Nowhere to go But Up

“The Place Where Lost Things Go” is sort of a turning point in the movie. It’s definitely emotional. The children realize that it’s kind of nice to have a mother figure around, though Mary Poppins is no replacement for their own mother. That’s okay though, she doesn’t expect to be. Their mother is the whole reason for the song anyway:

So, when you need her touch and loving gaze

Gone but not forgotten is the perfect phrase

Shining from a star that she makes glow

Trust she’s always there, watching as you

grow

Find her in the place where the lost things go.


The penultimate song in the movie is “Nowhere to go But Up”. Michael Banks finally acknowledges that what happened with Mary Poppins was real:

Jane, I remember! It’s all true! Every impossible thing we imagined with Mary Poppins – it all happened!

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