50th Anniversary of an Umbrella-Bearing Flying Brit Named Mary Poppins
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because at least some childhood reminiscences should be sans sorrow.
By Eugene S. Robinson
In 1964, all kinds of massive social changes were afoot.
And into this mix steps … Mary Poppins .Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for life, China had its first nuclear test, and there were the Civil Rights Act, Jack Ruby’s conviction for killing Lee Harvey Oswald and, of course, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution setting the scene for the deepening of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. On top of that, the nuclear family was rending itself asunder courtesy of no-fault divorces, climbing divorce rates and an increasing number of single-parent homes.
And the untended children of the modern age fell in love.
Magical in the extreme, this Disney nanny brought to life by the estimable Julie Andrews flies into the lives of the film’s kids, bringing with her order, kindness and a kind of socially responsible fun. You know … kind of like real parents might have been likely to do if they weren’t following their muse while following a band or doing anything other than parenting. Mary Poppins presented a fantasy of structure and benign discipline, all wrapped up in a playful bow — and the untended children of the modern age fell in love.
Cinematic surrogacy aside, Mary Poppins endures for all the right reasons when it comes to musical storytelling (even if it did picture an England absent any people of color). And on its 50th anniversary, we’re all feeling a little bit supercalifragilisticexpialidocious at the memory of how groovy some of the not-so-groovy times managed to be.