Mary Poppins and COVID-19


I was watching Mary Poppins Returns again recently when I noticed something I hadn’t before.  Toward the end of the movie, Wilkins – aka the wolf aka Colin Firth – says something like

“Who would’ve thought the Slump would be so good for business?”

He’s referring to the Great Depression here, (in England they called it The Great Slump), but I couldn’t help but think that this also applies to the current global pandemic.  Throughout the past four or so months, America’s problems have been amplified.  One of these problems is that the rich accumulate more wealth while the poor live paycheck to paycheck.  We need to reopen business so that people can return to work.  In order to do that, however, we need to get the virus under control.  This includes more testing so that we can figure out who has COVID-19 and who doesn’t.  It also includes wearing masks and social distancing so that the virus doesn’t spread any further.

Until we have adequate testing and everyone wears a mask and practices social distancing – how wearing a mask became a political issue I will never understand – or better yet, someone somewhere comes up with a vaccine, people will need to stay at home.  And if they don’t have the luxury of working from home, they’re not making money.  Which is why we need another stimulus package.  Or else the rich keep getting richer while the poor continue to suffer.

Other countries like New Zealand and Germany have been able open schools and get back to somewhat normal, but that’s because they have COVID-19 under control.  So, America needs to get it under control.  In order to do that, we need to take care of people until they can safely return to work.


It’s not nonsense

John, you’re right

It’s good to know you’re bright

For intellect can wash away confusion

Georgie sees

And Annabel agrees

Most folderol’s an optical illusion

Can You Imagine That?, Mary Poppins Returns

If you thought my Mary Poppins Returns posts were done, well, honestly, so did I. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on how you want to look at it – they’re not.

I was listening to “Can You Imagine That?” from Mary Poppins Returns the other night, when I randomly had the inkling to look up “folderol”. I always thought it was a made-up word to rhyme with something. But now that I think about it, it doesn’t rhyme with anything else in the song.

Anyway, I pulled out my phone and tapped on the Merriam-Webster dictionary app. And I found the following:

As you can see, “folderol” isn’t nonsense, but that’s exactly what it means.


More Mary Poppins?

When Mary Poppins Returns ended, I left the theater hoping there would be a sequel. However, I made peace with the fact that there probably wouldn’t be another movie. The original is iconic, and the arc of the franchise felt complete. I didn’t see any storylines in Mary Poppins Returns that could be expanded into a sequel.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I found this article from The Daily Wire. Rob Marshall isn’t saying there will be a sequel, but he definitely seems to be thinking about it:

Should Mary Poppins return again, according to Marshall, she would be returning at a time of another great social movement: LGBTQ rights.
“Our movie takes place in the ’30s. But if it were to take place now, that’s exactly what it should be,” Marshall said. “I understand so deeply what it’s like to be on the outskirts and not feel like you are worthy. And I will say that kind of passion to explore acceptance in life is something that’s so important.”

Paul Bois, The Daily Wire

Like I said, I’m all for the idea of a sequel, but the theme of LGBTQ rights really threw me for a loop. Not that I think it’s a bad idea, I’m just wondering how Marshall would pull it off. Maybe he would have one of Michael Banks’s children come out as gay or something similar and Mary Poppins would help the family (and everyone else, for that matter) navigate the situation and understand what it means to be [insert identity here]? That doesn’t seem like it could turned into an adventure as magical as ones in the first two movies.  

But maybe I’m overthinking this. And anyway, what do I know? I’m sure someone somewhere will be able to come up with something. Obviously, that person won’t be me.


Leerie speak

My favorite part of “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” is when Mary Poppins slips into “leerie speak”. The rhythm is soothing, and realistically, it’s probably the closest thing to rapping Emily Blunt is ever going to do.

However, I’ve been thinking about it recently, and something doesn’t quite add up. When he’s explaining “leerie speak” to the children, Jack says

Kick and prance – it means “dance”

It’s Leerie speak. You don’t say the word you mean

mean; you say something that rhymes only –

Here, I’ll show you how it works. Angus …

Give us your weep and wail

To the rest of ya, that means: “tale”

Leerie speak uses words to mean other words in the same language. How does one Leerie know what another is talking about? From the little information in the movie, it seems like you’d always need a translator.

I know it’s a movie, so it doesn’t really need to make sense, but that’s the language nerd in me rearing its head.


Where do we draw the line?


So, I came across this article by way of another article that Google shoved in my face. Somehow it knows I’m really into Mary Poppins and Emily Blunt lately. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but it still feels like my guilty pleasure is on display or something. It could be worse, I suppose.

Anyway, the essay argues that Mary Poppins is “flirting with blackface”.

 When the magical nanny (played by Julie Andrews) accompanies her young charges, Michael and Jane Banks, up their chimney, her face gets covered in soot, but instead of wiping it off, she gamely powders her nose and cheeks even blacker. Then she leads the children on a dancing exploration of London rooftops with Dick Van Dyke’s sooty chimney sweep, Bert.
This might seem like an innocuous comic scene if Travers’s novels didn’t associate chimney sweeps’ blackened faces with racial caricature. “Don’t touch me, you black heathen,” a housemaid screams in “Mary Poppins Opens the Door” (1943), as a sweep reaches out his darkened hand. When he tries to approach the cook, she threatens to quit: “If that Hottentot goes into the chimney, I shall go out the door,”she says, using an archaic slur for black South Africans that recurs on page and screen.

Daniel Polack-Pelzner, The New York Times

It’s obvious that if Mary Poppins were published today, it wouldn’t go over well at all. But we can’t always examine history through a modern lens. Sometimes, it has to be looked at in the context of its own time period. If these slurs were a problem in the 1940s, there’s no way P.L. Travers would have been published. But she was; society didn’t recognize these words or sentiments as slurs.

And I really don’t think Disney was trying to be controversial either. But there’s more:

The 1964 film replays this racial panic in a farcical key. When the dark figures of the chimney sweeps step in time on a roof, a naval buffoon, Admiral Boom, shouts, “We’re being attacked by Hottentots!” and orders his cannon to be fired at the “cheeky devils.” We’re in on the joke, such as it is: These aren’t really black Africans; they’re grinning white dancers in blackface. It’s a parody of black menace; it’s even posted on a white nationalist website as evidence of the film’s racial hierarchy. And it’s not only fools like the Admiral who invoke this language. In the 1952 novel “Mary Poppins in the Park,” the nanny herself tells an upset young Michael, “I understand that you’re behaving like a Hottentot.”

Daniel Polack-Pelzner, The New York Times

I mean, Mary Poppins has a friend who’s a chimney sweep. What do you expect? No one was making fun of anyone at all. And anyway, it’s just a story, and fiction at that. It’s not meant to offend anyone. I’m not trying to absolve P.L. Travers or Disney of accountability or anything like that. I’m just trying to point out that if we view everything through today’s societal lens, we lose important context, and we risk sucking all the fun out of both Mary Poppins and Mary Poppins Returns.


Tripping the light fantastic


I was watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel the other day, when I noticed something. In the episode I was watching, the Maisel family is on vacation in the Catskills, and Moishe asks his wife, Shirley, to dance with him. He says

Shirley Maisel, it’s time to trip the light fantastic, you big winner.

Which, of course, reminded me of this scene from Mary Poppins Returns:

So, I looked up the phrase to find out its significance. Actually, my mom initially looked up, if we’re going to get technical. This is what we found:

To “trip the light fantastic” is to dance nimbly or lightly, or to move in a pattern to musical accompaniment. It is often used in a humorous vein. As early as 1908, it was viewed as a cliché or hackneyed phrase


I know, I know. It’s from Wikipedia. But at least it provides a basic definition of the phrase.


Jack’s rap game

It would’ve been a waste of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s talent if Mary Poppins Returns didn’t have Jack rapping at some point. I didn’t mention it in my movie review because I couldn’t remember if he did or not. After I saw the movie, my head was spinning, so I couldn’t really think straight when I wrote the review.

Anyway, please enjoy Jack’s rap.


Psychology in Mary Poppins Returns


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


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


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!


Mary Poppins Returns



Years after her first visit, Mary Poppins returns to help the Banks family – Michael, his sister Jane, and his children John, Anabel, and Georgie – through difficult times.


This movie was magical. There’s no other way to say it. It was almost like Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda were crashing a mini Mamma Mia! reunion: Julie Walters, Colin Firth, and Meryl Streep were in the movie as well, though they didn’t have any scenes together.

It was slightly weird to see Lin-Manuel Miranda not playing Alexander Hamilton, and his English accent took some getting used to, honestly. That’s not saying it was bad, just different.

There’s no replacing Julie Andrews in the original Mary Poppins, of course, but Emily Blunt really did the role justice. No other person could have filled Andrews’s “Mary Poppins” shoes. And those are some big shoes to fill; Julie Andrews is iconic. However, there is a special appearance by someone who was in the original Mary Poppins. Sorry, no spoilers. Just go see the movie.

Just like the original, this movie combined live-action with animation. It was really fun, not to mention laugh-out-loud funny. It’s a nice, warm, and fuzzy world to escape to for two hours. Pity it doesn’t last longer.