By Jay Dyer | Jay’s Analysis
I don’t often asked children’s films, though I’m often asked (my quiver is presently barren). Also, this analysis is full on mansplaining and I’m man-spreading as I type it. Most requests come from parents wanting an analysis of Pixar films, but I decided to go back to the beginning, to something I hadn’t seen since I was child, Mary Poppins. Before Jessica Rabbit flashed her cartoon cooch in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and even before Brad Pitt was gallivanting with cartoon babes in the now-forgotten Cool World, there was Mary Poppins. A technical achievement for the time, Mary Poppins featured Julie Andrews as the wistful Nanny who reforms a dysfunctional wealthy family with Dick van Dyke playing the role of the charismatic free spirit narrator who, for some reason, works every possible wage slave job throughout the film (with a crappy British accent).
What most people do not know (that I picked up on immediately because of my attuned JaysAnalysis senses) is the film is deeply influenced by the occult. Regular readers will also find no surprise in the fact Poppins author P.L. Travers was – you got it – an avid occultist. Not only that, you’ll also find even less surprise in learning Travers worked for British Intelligence at the Ministry of Information, the chief source of government propaganda (as did Hitchcock). Like the rest of the Korda Circle of British Intelligence operatives I wrote about in Esoteric Hollywood, Travers met with Walt Disney (supposedly to discuss the film adaptation of Mary Poppins). Of course, the real mission of these characters (Dahl, Fleming, Coward) was to influence U.S. Foreign Policy to enter World War II and aid in the establishment of the OSS, as we have seen:
“And for the icing on the cake, consider Phillip Knightley’s admission of this as nothing more than a British move to further manipulate U.S. policy in favor of the U.K., in his The Second Oldest Profession: Spies and Spying in the Twentieth Century:
“Donovan was helped to prepare his submissions to Roosevelt by Stephenson and the SIS officers attached to his staff. Two senior British Intelligence officers, Admiral John Godfrey and his personal assistant, Lieutenant Commander Ian Fleming (later of James Bond fame), crossed the Atlantic to work on the campaign…There is no doubt what the British were hoping to achieve, as the reports that Stephenson sent to Menzies make clear. He wrote that, at first, Donovan was not at all certain he wanted the job of directing ‘the new agency we envisage’ (emphasis added). When Donovan’s appointment was announced, Stephenson wrote that Donovan was accusing him of having intrigued and driven him into the job. Stephenson then expressed his relief that ‘our’ man was in a position of such importance to ‘our’ efforts. Major Desmond Morton of the Industrial Intelligence Center was even blunter: ‘…to all intents and purposes US security is being run for them at the president’s request by the British. It is of course essential that this fact should not be known in view of the furious uproar it would cause if known to the isolationists.” (pg. 217-8)
As a result of her works, Travers was awarded the Order of the British Empire, showing she was no simple children’s author and, like the rest the operatives, was deeply involved in esoteric studies and practices. For Travers, this meant Theosophy, the teachings of Gurdjieff and eventually Zen meditation. Author S. Brinkman comments:
“[In London] she met the Irish intellectual, George William Russell, known as A. E. Russell, who was a follower of Madam Blavatsky and theosophy. (Theosophy, which has been condemned by the Church, is a modern version of gnosticism that blends pantheistic and occult beliefs.). Apparently, Russell believed he and Travers had met in a former life, and formed a friendship with her, helping her to expand her circle of friends to include occultists such as G. I. Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky. He also introduced her to esoteric eastern religions and folklore, encouraging her to use her powers of fantasy to create stories.”
The Theosophical Society explains she also frequented the company of Golden Dawn Member Yeats and Satanist George Bernard Shaw:
“She became an intimate part of a literary circle composed of W. B. Yeats, Padraic Colum, James Stephens, Lady Gregory, George Bernard Shaw, and others. Later she moved to England and wrote for the New English Weekly. There her circle of friends expanded to include A. R. Orage, P. D. Ouspensky and G. I. Gurdjieff. Meanwhile, W. B. Yeats translated the Upanishads, which was to have a profound influence on Travers, as did Hindu mythology and Buddhism, the lore of the Navajo Indians, and Jungian psychology.”
“The zoo scene in the book is also filled with occultic imagery. In this episode, the animals run the zoo and all the people are in cages. The king of the animals is a huge hooded snake that Poppins calls “cousin.”
As usual, the book is very different from the film version, which led to vehement anger on the part of Travers at Disney’s version (also the subject of a recent movie, Saving Mr. Banks). Travers wrote of a bitter, unwilling to be touched hag nanny, while Disney opted for never-farting prime primness of Julie Andrews. The bizarre does not stop here, however. The film opens with a dysfunctional mother obsessed with ridiculous suffragette-feminist causes, neglected children and a stuffy, dour bankster father intent on regulating his family like a well-oiled machine. As a result, the family opts for a prim hard ass nanny who literally blows in from a cloud on a gust of wind. In Travers’ mind, this was supposed to represent a siddhi, or some kind of reincarnated, evolved feminine avatar archetype, which is confirmed by the Theosophical Society’s Journal:
“Mary Poppins, one could say, resembles a guardian angel, daimon, or cosmic being who comes from time to time to visit Earth. She never settles with the Banks family for very long, but while she is there, she teaches the family, primarily the children, about the deeper meaning of life. She does this through magical outings with the children during the day or at night when the children dream or wake up and seem to leave their room….
And commenting from the writings of Blavatsky,
“In fragment forty, the text says, “’Tis only then thou canst become a ‘Walker of the Sky’ who treads the winds above the waves, whose step touches not the waters”(p. 9). The glossary excerpt for this fragment refers to this siddhi, or spiritual power, as being a “sky-walker” wherein “the body of the yogi becomes as one formed of the wind; as a cloud from which limbs have sprouted out,” after which the yogi “beholds the things beyond the seas and stars; he hears the language of the devas and comprehends it and perceives what is passing in the mind of the ant” (p. 77). Known as the Great Exception, this aptly describes the powers of Mary Poppins, meaning in this context that she has gone beyond the evolution of humanity and her life now stands in contrast to those who have not yet reached this stage.”
So Mary Poppins is a demonic fart – a toot from another dimension – sent back to us primitive neanderthals, still believing in thinks like reason, commerce, social hierarchy, etc. Mary is beyond all of this because she is (supposedly) the perfectly evolved being, which of course is female. Thus the constant film refrain about feminism and suffragettes, which are admittedly toned down in Walt’s version, when at the end of the film the feminized mother abandons her activism to return to her husband and children.
Overall Walt’s version has a good message – familial human relations are natural, healthy and organic, and even the rapacious London bankers are shown to be fools. The wholesome ending obscures more bizarre aspects, however, such as the constant references to “revolution” and “winds of change.” Though Mary appears traditional, she is actually a revolutionary force, with Mr. Banks informing his bankster bosses of their “dislike” of revolutions. Nothing could be further from the truth in the real world, as banksters and billionaires are always the hidden forces behind the Guy Fawkes masks of revolutionary forces – from Marxism to anarchy-capitalism to femitransgenderblobacalafragilisticexpaladocious (see My Tragedy and Hope lecture series for more on this).
Happy-go-lucky Bert (Van Dyke) represents the workers as we see him full numerous low-wage positions, including the artist and chimney sweep, throughout the storyline. Bert and Mary are a weird team that in some esoteric whimsical way incarnate the cartoon world of imagination into the real world, which is the wind of change Mary was sent to create. While the surface level of the film entertains with an innocuous family friendly ending, the deeper message relates to Travers’ apparent bisexuality and “women’s rights.” The film is about the true role of womanhood, and whether the “perfect” woman is a radical ideologue or a stay-at-home mother? The “feminist” issue surrounding the film has garnered much useless, boring debate, but at the time, it did represent a “feminist icon.” Time Magazine explains:
“[T]he movie had a strong message for its 1964 audiences. That year, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act banned employment discrimination on the basis of sex; Roe v. Wade was still nine years away. “We’re clearly soldiers in petticoats,” [Mrs. Banks] sings in the first song of the movie. “And dauntless crusaders for women’s votes…Our daughters’ daughters will adore us, and they’ll sing in grateful chorus, ‘Well done, Sister Suffragette!”
If Mrs. Banks is the voice of progress, her husband Mr. Banks is the voice of tradition. A straight-laced banker, he expresses his own worldview in the movie’s second song, “The Life I Lead:”
It’s grand to be an Englishman in 1910
King Edward’s on the throne, it’s the age of men
I’m the lord of my castle, the sovereign, the liege
I treat my subjects, servants, children, wife, with a firm but gentle hand—noblesse oblige
This patriarchal perspective can’t stand up to the organized mayhem Ms. Poppins brings into his home. Young Michael Banks wants to buy birdseed from the bird woman his nanny has told him about, but his father wants him to invest his tuppence in the bank. The boy tries to get his money bank, confusing other customers and causing a run on the bank—a sign of social upheaval if ever there was one! All this challenge to the status quo (plus his newfound unemployment) causes Mr. Banks to reconsider his narrow stance on power and order.”
Mary starts a revolution through an indirect run on the banks. While the family may bond at the end, it is only through Mr. Banks’ caving in and swallowing the blue pill of his evil patriarchy. Indeed, all the men in the film are fools, from the idiotic street worker Bert, to the senile old naval captains that live atop the Banks’ house, the message of Mary Poppins is simple – men, it’s time to surrender. Man, the perennial enemy of whimsy and fun, O dark patriarchy, cause of wars, famines, plagues and pestilence! Begone! Men also fart, but prim and proper Mary, who breaks the wind, explains herself to be utterly “perfect.” If the film were redone in a geopolitically accurate version, Mr. Banks and his banksters would be seen at the close of the film filling the Mary’s carpet-bag with gold for her well-done work of revolutionary subversion.