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YMMV / Mary Poppins

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The books

  • Base-Breaking Character: Mary Poppins' strict and pompous behaviour has won over some readers, who feel thankful that her personality is refreshing when compared to some of the gentler children's book protagonists, and turned away others, who find her unreasonably heartless.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: While both the book Poppins and the theatrical renditions endeared audiences with her child-caring skills and magic (despite being something of a narcissistic Jerkass no less), P. L. Travers apparently did not live up to what her stories preached, as her bizarre decision to adopt just one half of a pair of twins based on the advice of an astrologer left her adoptive son Camillus bitter and resentful over his stepmother. He did however visit her adoptive mother on her deathbed and seems to have reconciled since then.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In Mary Poppins Comes Back, Mary Poppins promises the Banks children, "I'll stay until the chain breaks" (referring to the chain attached to her locket). Eighty-two years later, Mary Poppins would receive an unexpected, but unforgettable homage in a space opera with an ad campaign and climax accompanied by a Fleetwood Mac songnote  bearing the line, "I can still hear you saying you would never break the chain"...
    • Arthur Turvy's misfortunes began when he was born to a woman who wanted a daughter, instead of a son. The writers of Disney's second Mary Poppins movie, Mary Poppins Returns, essentially gave him a Gender Flip, by combining him with Topsy.
    • In the first book, a penguin writing a birthday song for Mary Poppins decides against rhyming her first name with "Contrary", since It's Been Done by "Mary, Mary Quite Contrary". Mary Poppins Returns resorts to that rhyme in "Turning Turtle".
  • Older Than They Think: "Mary Poppins is a Time Lord" theories based entirely on the Disney movies would disregard book-only instances of her actually saving the day though time travel.
  • Sequelitis: The books seem to get less creative as the series progresses, at least to some readers.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • Early editions of the books have some racial slurs and stereotypes. In particular, the "Bad Tuesday" chapter of the first book involves a whirlwind round-the-world journey via a magic compass, features stereotypes of Alaskan Native, Chinese, American Indian, and tropical "Negroes" that are grotesque even before a misbehaving Michael earns their wrath all at once.note  There's a reason Disney left this episode out of the movie. Later editions have a revised version in which native animals of the four regions take the place of the humans, but that has its own unfortunate implications for those who know the original (not to mention all of the other books' slurs and stereotypes remain intact). To be completely fair, Travers did pay a visit to Indigenous American reservations at some point in her career so she was at least somewhat aware of their culture, but the values at the time amounted to the rather prejudiced portrayals of other cultures in "Bad Tuesday".

Disney's movie

  • Adaptation Displacement: How many of you can actually say that you saw the movie with prior knowledge that it came from a book?
  • Adorkable: Bert has his moments of endearing awkwardness, mostly around Mary Poppins.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • There are those who think Mary Poppins is an irresponsible, dangerous, abusive drunk. She supernaturally "blows" the competition away for the job, then takes her charges to play with a homeless man. After giving them cough medicine that tastes like rum to her. The cough medicine was probably Laudanum (tincture of Opium with alcohol) which was often given to children to keep them quiet, and was often sweetened with sugar to help the medicine go down. So she's getting them high too.
    • Some people think she gives off a cold and dismissive feeling and would not actually be very successful with real children, like she was in the movie.
    • Given how dismissive she is of everyone she meets, except when they fall about praising her, Mary Poppins is sometimes interpreted as some kind of high-functioning narcissist. And yet, Pamela Travers (the author of the books) thought the Mary Poppins of the film was too nice. Fans of the books often agree with her.
    • Time Lady of Gallifrey. Seriously, she pulls a six-foot lamp out of her bag, right there in the film.
    • Some people insist that Bert is actually a Crazy Homeless Person. On the opposite end, people are split if Bert is totally mundane if charming, or if he's of the same breed of magical that Mary is (albeit in a much lesser capacity). The musical seems to support the latter. It can also be argued that he is the true hero of the story, helping the children to understand the difficulty of their father's life while reminding Mr. Banks that childhood is fleeting and he should spend time with Jane and Michael before it is too late.
    • At the end of the movie, Winifred Banks makes a "Votes For Women" sash into a tail for the kite. Some viewers believe this means she'll give up the suffragette movement to spend more time around the house, while others interpret this action as her supporting the cause while spending more time with her family. Richard Sherman supports the former explanation in the DVD Commentary, but nothing else in the film itself suggests that Winifred had turned sour on the movement.
    • When Mary tricked Mr. Banks into taking his children to the bank, did she do so with the knowledge that his bosses would take Michael's money, Michael would demand it back, there would be a run, and Mr. Banks would get fired and learn the value of family? Or did she just do it because she wanted Mr. Banks to take his children on an excursion, and thought the bank would be the easiest place to trick him into taking them? If the former, then it's likely that her teaching the children about feeding the birds was part of said plan, but if the latter, it was likely just to teach them empathy.
  • Award Snub: Dick Van Dyke's effortlessly and infectiously lovable performance was snubbed by the Academy Awards. The accent likely didn't help.
  • Awesome Music: Often held as the greatest collection of songs The Sherman Brothers ever wrote.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Among people who've both seen the movie and read the books, opinions seem split over whether the movie's less conceited and condescending portrayal of Mary Poppins seems too sweet or easier to warm up to than her literary incarnation.
  • Broken Base: Dick Van Dyke's bad Cockney accent either ruins the film or makes it more memorable.
  • Can't Un-Hear It: It is impossible to read the books and not hear the cast of the film version as the characters.
  • Common Knowledge: Pop culture imagines the film version of Mary Poppins as Sickeningly Sweet and chirpy (particularly from book fans who dislike that her character was softened in the adaptation). This ignores that Mary is still very aloof and stern with the children; she actually describes herself as "kind but extremely firm". She only really sweetens up around Bert in the "Jolly Holiday" sequence, and even then they still engage in Snark-to-Snark Combat in their other scenes. In short, she's a Sugar-and-Ice Personality. Part of this seems to be confusing Mary with Maria von Trapp, the other Magical Nanny character Julie Andrews is famous for, who really is perky and sweet (although by all accounts, the Real Life Maria was closer to Mary Poppins in personality).
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: The collapse of the bank allows Mr Banks to reconnect with his children, and causes the greedy bankers to deservedly lose their fortunes. Unfortunately, as anyone who lived through the 2008 Great Financail Crash can tell you, greedy bankers are far from the only people who suffer from a bank run - many ordinary, blameless and relatively much poorer people lose their life savings and/or jobs and end up destitute. That's a lot of offscreen collateral damage to reunite one family.
  • Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: Mary Poppins could be an angel or even some kind of goddess, given her "perfection" and the fact that she comes from the sky. Also, note the religious overtones of "Feed the Birds."
  • Fanon: A lot of fans like to think that Mary Poppins only says "practically perfect in every way" because part of the perfection is humility - so Mary can't claim to be 100% perfect.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Ellen's suggestion to check the river for Mr. Banks's corpse, the morning after he loses his job, might feel harder to watch for viewers who learned that P.L. Travers' mother attempted to drown herselfnote , traumatizing the writer when she was seven year old.
    • Bert warns Mr. Banks that one day his kids will grow up and be too old to accept his sincere love. In Mary Poppins Returns, George and Winifred have passed by the time Michael is a grown single father with children of his own.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke disagreed on the radio talk show Hollywood Spotlight Microphone over the possibility of Mary Poppins getting a Broadway adaptation. Van Dyke strongly supported the possibility, while Andrews felt that it wouldn't work, as the film's effects seemed hard to recreate on-stage. Both have seen the stage production at least 40 years later.
    • When the children first see Mary Poppins arrive, Michael thinks she's a witch, and Jane says that she's not because witches have brooms. Seven years later, Disney released a Creator-Driven Successor to this film with a witch who rides a broomstick as an Expy of Mary.
  • Hype Backlash: The film has gained a small but vocal backlash in later years, with many younger audiences viewing it as just another corny old-timey kid's film and not understanding what makes it such an iconic classic.
  • Memetic Badass: Mr. Dawes Sr. became this among Italian Youtube Poopers, it all started with this (title roughly translates to 'Old Man Dawes will kick your ass!').
  • Memetic Mutation: Through the joy of Manipulative Editing, this trailer makes Mary Poppins look like a horror movie.
  • Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales: Though there exist a handful of Brits don't care for this "Americanized" version of English culture, especially Dick Van Dyke's accent, it was and remains hugely popular in England by those who do, especially for Dick Van Dyke's accent.
  • Narm Charm: Dick Van Dyke's accent was the result of his trying, and failing, repeatedly, to do a good Cockney accent. When it turned out he could only do a bad Cockney accent, he decided to make it hilariously bad. However, it ended up making his character very appealing and memorable, to the point where it's hard to imagine him without a bad Cockney accent, hence Lin-Manuel Miranda giving his character Jack (Bert's Expy) a similar exaggerated accent in Mary Poppins Returns. The cheesy fakeness of Bert's accent also helps to misdirect from Dick Van Dyke's secret secondary role as Mr. Dawes Sr., one he genuinely manages to disappear into.
  • Once Original, Now Common: Mary Poppins was the Jurassic Park of its era in terms of how visually and technically groundbreaking it was. The visual effects were jaw-dropping back in 1964, with several scenes clearly devoted to just showing them off. This trope started to hit in 1988, as Who Framed Roger Rabbit took a lot of the luster off of its mixed animation/live action Signature Scene by doing it much better with the benefit of 20+ years of technological advancement. Remastered and higher definition releases that have come out in more recent years have also helped expose Special Effect Failure that were previously hidden by the lower picture quality of the original release.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
  • Signature Scene: The twenty-minute long animated sequence is probably the most famous part of the film. Ironically, P.L. Travers hated that scene and ordered Walt Disney to remove it after the film's premiere.
  • Special Effect Failure:
    • Every higher-resolution Remaster, London looks more and more like a lot of paintings.
    • Many of the whimsical elements such as Mary and the children cleaning the room during "A Spoonful of Sugar" and Uncle Albert floating during "I Love to Laugh" are clearly done via blue screen.
    • The robin Mary Poppins holds looks unbelievably fake.
    • As pointed out in this video, during the animated segments, Julie Andrews' eye direction never properly matches up with those of the animated characters, which makes it look fake and unconvincing compared to the later Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • Winifred mentions the Sufragettes engaging in acts that, while not violent, would probably be seen as hideously disruptive, especially given violent protests in The New '10s. Some members of the suffragette movement were in fact violent terrorists, who committed acts of bombing and arson.
    • With all the talk about climate change and pollution, it would seem to be quite weird to see Bert proud at the London Skyline.
    • Admiral Boom uses the then-contemporary term "Hottentots" for the Khoi peoples of Namibia, which has since become recognized as a racial slur. Doesn't help that he's saying this about a group of chimney sweeps dancing around in Ash Face. In 2024, this actually led to the British Board of Film Classification reclassifying the film as PG rather than U (suitable for all).
    • In one verse of "It's a Jolly Holiday", Mary Poppins appears to praise Bert for being a perfect gentleman—because he's not likely to get inappropriately intimate with her. Needless to say, attitudes about consent were very different in 1964 than they are today. Nowadays, most people would consider that to be a mark of basic decency, and not the sort of thing that would warrant praising a person in song.
      "You'd never think of pressing your advantage,
      Forbearance is the hallmark of your creed,
      A lady needn't fear when you are near,
      Your sweet gentility is crystal clear!"
      • Of course, if you watch Bert's face, it becomes obvious that she's shutting him down as gently as she can. Like the old gag of a woman telling a man she feels so very safe when she's with him, Mary has just landed him squarely in the Friend Zone, and doing anything to try and get out of it would be (and feel) horrible.
  • Values Resonance: Bert's speech to the children about Mr. Banks having no one to turn to for help with his own troubles rings even truer in modern times where men's mental health is given greater consideration and the idea that the man must be the calm steady rock that must support the others in a household is seen as increasingly toxic.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: Mary Poppins was one of the most visually stunning films of its time. Of particular note was its use of the sodium vapor process, whereby a powerful light produces a shade with a characteristic wavelength near 589 nm. The sodium lamp is cast onto a white background, producing a specific shade which could be split onto a special prism allowing for a more accurate and cleanly isolated matte. This accounts for why the animated park sequence lacked the ugly fringing common with blue and/or green screen techniques (which required a LOT of manual tweaking to fix in post-production; ironically enough, the 2018 sequel used a lot of blue and green screen though to be fair visual effects technology has advanced by that time) and allowed for complex elements such as the see-through veil in Mary's fancy dress to show up seamlessly as well as the blue stripes in Bert's suit.
    • A retroactive example, as the makeup used to make Dick Van Dyke's character look like an old man ended up being accurate to how he looks when he's actually an old man in Mary Poppins Returns.
  • Wangst: Really, Uncle Albert, feeling upset about your guests having to leave soon is one thing, but having a crying fit about it is another thing altogether. Then again, it's not like he's entirely right in the head.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Didactic?: Some critics and academics have argued that the film encapsulates the societal shift of its time, with Mr. Banks representing the passing of the stuffy 1950s and Mary Poppins representing the arrival of the carefree 1960s.

The stage musical