Headscratchers: Mary Poppins

  • The scene at the bank, where Michael's father and the board of directors are trying to persuade him to put his tuppence in their bank. Even in 1910, that much money can't have had much buying power, so why would these men go to that much effort to get his business? It would be one thing if there were already an account in Michael's name (which I could even believe, what with George Banks' job and characterization to that point; he'd be the type to think of that), but the implication is that there isn't. Yeah, I can see George Banks wanting his son to start learning about money management, follow in his footsteps, that kind of thing, but isn't this a bit much?
    • Yes it is. That's the point of the scene. They're greedy men, and they covet every single penny they see.
      • Maybe, but I still think it's stretching plausibility for George. By this point, we've already gotten a good idea of George's character. Heck, he's one of the first characters we meet, and the first song of the movie exists to establish his character. Him being that greedy doesn't gel with the characterization we've already gotten for him. The board of directors, fine. We haven't met them before this scene, and them being that greedy does gel with what we know of them. One might think they'd have something better to do with their time, but other than that, I'll buy it.
      • Actually, it's perfectly in character with Mr. Banks. Mr. Banks isn't really acting out of greed. He's acting out of spite. It's not so much that he wants to teach his son to invest money in his bank so much as it is that he wants to subvert Mary Poppins' authority.
      • I disagree. For Banks at least, he didn't care about the tuppence in the Bank, he wanted his children to like him and what he does. (His verse was all about what wonderful things banks do, not about giving the bank money). However, he didn't understand how and couldn't break his shell to understand that he should do child-things with them and was trying to make them do adult-things.
      • Another motive for Banks was that he sort of looked up to them. After they call him to tell him to come by he mentions wanting to walk with giants. His father also worked for them apparently so it's not a stretch that he would ignore the absurdity of their demand for Michael's small amount of money.
    • It's not just that they're greedy, it's that they take a long view of things. If they persuade Michael, the son of an up-and-coming executive to open an account and get into the habit of saving and investing, then several years later his savings will have grown to a substantial sum. Tuppence today equals pounds down the road.
    • And if you're wondering, tuppence (two pence) in 1910 is about seventy cents American in 2010. So maybe Michael could buy a candy bar with his coins, but it's obviously not going to result in any appreciable amount via compound interest anytime soon. Specifically, a basic 5% interest savings account would take twelve years just to double the tuppence.
      • At the time, a typical bar of Cadbury's chocolate would have cost about 1.5 old pence.

  • Practically perfect in every way? Where does the 'practically' part come into it?
    • No canon/word of god answers in either the movie or book, but some popular WMGs include...
      1. That Mary Poppins can't preemptively help people from unhappiness.
      2. That she can't help everyone.
      3. The so-called "fact" that she probably has never really been "romantic" with anyone — save Bert, and even that is dependent upon her being needed in London.
      4. That she can't get her parrot to stop back-talking to her.
      5. That eventually, people don't need her anymore, echoed in Nanny McPhee.
    • She also doesn't change the Banks family on her own. Bert not only seems to nudge her into taking the kids on several adventures, but is ultimately the one who gets Mr Banks to question the way he lives his life and treats his family. If she were truly perfect, she would do that all on her own.
    • She does have a bit of a temper, doesn't she? That mars any claim of 100% perfection. Besides, she lied outright about a few of the adventures, under the guise of being an ordinary nanny. Dishonesty isn't quite perfect behavior, is it?
      • In the books it's less lying, and more displaying a mock outrage that effectively quells any remarks the children might make later. Mary knows that remarks like, "And then Mary Poppins took us to the moon!" would raise eyebrows at the least, and more seriously have the children accused of lying (a capital sin for a child in Edwardian London); so she deflects her charges' excitement by dismissing the whole thing as foolish, "Go to the moon? The very idea!" I've noticed Mary never flat out denies what happened, just states that it's very improper. It could be cruel, but was quite effective, leaving the children free for more adventures.
    • I always thought it was a joke about humility. She actually is perfect, but part of that perfection is humility, which means she can never claim to actually be perfect. It's a simple Catch-22.
      • I agree. It wouldn't sound as good if she said, "Absolutely and undoubtedly perfect in every way."
    • This troper always thought it was for Added Alliterative Appeal.
    • After thinking about it, it's impossible to be absolutely perfect, especially when different people have different ideas of perfection. Thus she can only say that she is 'practically' perfect (in a sense of being close to and of being realistically).
    • Absolutely perfect people don't hiccup after taking their r-r-rum punch medicine.
  • This also sort of applies to the book, but this notion that Mary Poppins accepts the magical adventures at the time, but the instant it's over (a personal Big Lipped Alligator Filter?) she's all "I'm a traditional nanny and we only do ordinary stuff; magic does not exist". *Hand-wringing*
    • Maybe it is happening in the minds of the children? But then, what prompts Bank's sudden epiphany?
    • This Troper just always assumed it was simple Blatant Lies on Mary's part. Both as some sort of obscure lesson for the children, and self- (and job) preservation: after all, CHILDREN will tell you they jumped through chalk drawings, rode a carousel that came to life, and the nursery cleaned itself by magic, and adults say "Aw, how cute, they have imaginations." If an adult responsible for said children says "Yep, absolutely, and while they were riding the carousel the local sweep and I were dancing with penguin waiters", at best they might wind up dismissed. At worst, well, early Edwardian mental hospitals weren't the most fun places on Earth to be...
    • Further thought: one of the lessons (even the main lesson) she was trying to teach them was that there is a time for fun and a time for seriousness. As part of this, she would encourage their imagination through their outings (whether it was real and done by magic or all in their minds doesn't matter), but by then turning around and saying "What are you talking about? That never happened", she's reminding them that the Mr. Bankses of the world will not look kindly on or accept anything having to do with fun, entertainment, or imagination, even without magic being involved. So it's both a wink and nudge to hint at what really happened and a reminder "this has to be between us, because no one is going to believe you". An encouragement to keep imagining and dreaming, but also pointing out that there's still a realistic side to life from which you have to keep such things separate.
    • I assumed Mary was doing this deliberately. Clearly she isn’t going to tell the parents about the magic adventures. Her jarring attitude that “nothing happened” has some advantages. If she just told the children to keep their adventures secret, they might feel that they had some leverage over Mary by knowing her big secret and would engage in power struggles with her (they are, after all, supposed to be experts at making nannies miserable, and they don't follow orders well). Her total denial undercuts that whole line of thought, once the adventure is over, talking about it is not simply disallowed, it is totally futile and won’t be acknowledged. Also, having the children and Mary agree to keep secrets from their parents would create a barrier between children and parents that Mary does not want. Instead, she is basically telling the children “when your parents are busy we will do some amazing things, but once playtime is over we are going to live in your parents’ world.” It cuts the children down to size so they don’t get the attitude that their association with Mary makes them superior to their parents.
  • Are Jane and Michael in school?
    • Wealthy children in the early 20th century often were taught by governesses up until a certain age. Why Mary Poppins does no teaching, I can't say.
  • Why such a cramped and fake-looking setting? If budgets were an issue, they still had enough for location shoots in London if they updated the setting to The Sixties.
    • Probably to give it a distinctive look, and they wanted to make it as close to the original in terms of setting as possible.
    • I think they were probably too attached to the Edwardian setting to ruin it for the sake of having location shooting. Also, filming entirely on sound stages was much more common back then before the changing sensibilities (and better technology) of the New Hollywood era.
    • The books are actually set in the 1930s but Walt Disney had a particular fondness for The Gay Nineties and the turn of the century. That's why I assume the film was set in the Edwardian Era. It was viewed as a much more innocent and nostalgic time. The sinking of the Titanic and then World War I were viewed as a collective end to that innocence.
  • In rewatching the movie, it occurs to me: Mr. Banks doesn't dispute any of the adventures, he just thinks that they're unproductive wastes of time. At no point does he tell Mary Poppins, "Look, the children are lying about what they've been doing. Could you do something about these flights of fancy and teach them the difference between fantasy and reality?"
  • How the heck does Admiral Boom get away with regularly firing off cannons in a populated neighborhood without drawing noise complaints or racking up numerous public safety violations?
    • Too rich and/or powerfl for anybody to touch him, probably.
      • Bert does say that, "The whole world takes its time from Greenwich. But Greenwich, they say, takes its time from Admiral Boom," so he is a man of no small importance.
    • For that matter, where do his shots land? There is literally nowhere for them to go that will not damage a building and/or hurt somebody.
      • Maybe he uses just gunpowder, as noted below, makes a lot of noise and smoke, but doesn't shoot anything.
    • To top question: it's part of the point, he's doing something ridiculous, but everyone finds it easier to just roll their eyes and do their best to ignore it than to acknowledge the ridiculousness by doing something about it. To the first commenter: he's probably just lighting gunpowder without actually having a projectile in the cannon. He's effectively just using it as a signal cannon.
    • ...and the British love their eccentrics.
  • What was Mary Poppin's plan when she proposed the outing to the bank? If she thought the mere act of giving a tuppence to an old lady and feed some birds was going to change Mr. Banks' character completely, she either is too naive or overestimated the influence she had on him, if she *wanted* him to get fired (but then how did she foresee the riot at the bank?) that makes her completely unlikeable. The most probable outcome would have been that Michael was forced to put his money in a bank and Mr Banks feeling smug about having taught him a lifelesson, while Michael's resentment for his father grew. It all seems to come down to a huge Batman Gambit with way too many uncertainties. While she is magical, nothing in the movies or books (correct me if I'm wrong, since I haven't read all of them) suggests that she can tell the future.
    • I suppose the least malicious conclusion is that Mary Poppins simply wanted George to take the children anywhere and spend a prolonged period of time with them. The bank is the easiest and most plausible place to trick him into taking them to.
    • I've often thought that Mary Poppins did this because she felt that the only way to stop Mr. Banks and his employers from being so arrogant about life and other things in general was to knock them down a peg or two.
    • Mary's goal is to get the children and father to see eye to eye and understand each other. By getting the children to accompany their father to the bank, they would see his world and understand why he doesn't always have time for them. And for George, it allows him to actually spend time with his children. Note that George is actually excited about showing the children the bank, so perhaps Mary suggested it for that reason - as an outing to the park might mean that George only goes out of obligation and doesn't actually spend time with the children. Essentially she's both forcing them together and subtly encouraging George to take an actual interest in how his children are raised (until now he'd been happy to get Winifred to hire nannies to keep the children from bothering him).
  • Was George really planning on keeping the children with him at the bank all day? This is his job, somehow I doubt the bosses would take kindly to him saying "Thank you for indulging my children; could you spare me for an hour so I can take them home again?" As a junior partner, does he have a personal secretary to foist the children onto for a day? Or did George's day off happen to coincide with Mary Poppins' so he really wasn't expected to work that day?
    • It won't take him an hour to take them back home - he walks to work at the bank every day. In any case, he doesn't seem to have planned this whole outing thing very well.
    • From how the song goes, it seems that he was planning to keep the children there all day to watch him work and learn about what actually goes on in the bank.