Emily Blunt as stars as the perfect nanny in Mary Poppins Returns. Picture: AP
Emily Blunt as stars as the perfect nanny in Mary Poppins Returns. Picture: AP

The secret message of Mary Poppins Returns

WHAT do you get when you cross a homage, a sequel and a remake?

Why Mary Poppins Returns of course. And it's practically perfect in every way.

When Mary Poppins descended from the clouds with feet perfectly turned out, I got goosebumps, any cynicism fell away and I enjoyed myself for the next two hours.

I watched Mary Poppins Returns through the nostalgic lens of childhood, a childhood shaped by the original Mary Poppins.

As a child I discovered the original movie soundtrack in my parents' record collection. It was the early 1980s and I sat and listened to it over and over, perhaps driving my poor mother round the twist. It seemed extremely important that I memorise the lyrics. Not only did this LP instil a love of movie musicals into my DNA it also meant I still know every word to all the songs including my two favourites The Perfect Nanny and Let's Go Fly a Kite.

If having the LP in the house wasn't enough Poppins, my family bought a video player. This magical device hooked up to the telly. Then you went to the one video shop in town and hired a movie TO WATCH AT HOME. My brother and I devoured Annie, Inspector Gadget, the Danger Mouse collection and, you guessed it, Mary Poppins.

The original Mary Poppins film, starring Julie Andrews, was a childhood favourite.
The original Mary Poppins film, starring Julie Andrews, was a childhood favourite.

Did we come to know the songs inside out? We did.

Did we sometimes fast forward through the extended animation sequence? We did. Did we wonder what the hoo-ha was about with Dick Van Dyke's Cockney accent? Not really.

Then, like the Banks children, I grew up. If Mary Poppins was on the television I'd inwardly groan. Feed the birds yourself. I ain't got time to worry where tuppence goes. I've got a mortgage. Put it in the bank Michael and stop whining. I'm working. Fly a kite? I'm adulting! OK, occasionally I referred to my handbag as Mary Poppins-like because, like her carpetbag, it had unknown depths. But that was the only trace of MP remaining from childhood.

Until she returned. Uninvited. Without warning. Or were we not paying attention? For the winds have changed of late and we find ourselves in increasingly volatile times. Governments are in shutdown, other governments are violating human rights all over the place, presidents use social media with an excess of exclamation marks and I've got an ache which might be arthritis in my right hand index finger.

The new Mary Poppins Returns, starring Emily Blunt, is more than just a nostalgia trip. Picture: Jay Maidment
The new Mary Poppins Returns, starring Emily Blunt, is more than just a nostalgia trip. Picture: Jay Maidment

It's at times like this that we bloody well need Mary Poppins. She's not the Barnum-esque epitome of Trumpian bluster that we didn't need in a musical this time last year. She's the antidote. She helps us see what we need to do. She's our Michelle Obama, our Malala Yousafzai, our Hannah Gadsby.

Yes, we should trip the light fantastic and take risks. Let's look at life from upside down and use our imaginations. Make the impossible possible. Yes, we must jump into the Royal Doulton bowl, the priceless memory of ages past, which we carelessly broke through our desperate selfishness. Let's work together with the lamplighters and find our way out of the fog. Bridge divides like Jane and Jack.

Don't build acrimonious, expensive walls. Choose a balloon that will lift us up together. Our salvation might appear torn and hard to see, but if we hold our childhood kite up to the sun, there's an answer for our troubles. Even in the darkest of times, a hint of optimism, an element of fun, might be found. In the most delightful way.

Nostalgia infused with hope for the future returned with Mary Poppins. That's why I got goosebumps. And that is why I applauded at the end of the film.

Wendy Davis is a Bundaberg teacher librarian and writer.



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