I know. “Mary Poppins.”

I haven’t blown a gasket. Just hear me out.

Without drilling too much into childhood nostalgia, or the feminist overtones, the original film has a great deal of good in it for dads.

With the help of actor David Tomilson (1917-2000), the P.L. Travers/Disney film was more about fatherhood, than a ‘magical nanny.’

George Banks (Tomilson) ‘was the Poppins’ protagonist,’ explained Nathan Morley in his Tomilson biography, ‘Disney’s British Gentleman.’

Tomilson was, said an often-hostile Travers, ‘absolutely right for the part.’

He took Banks from pompous arse to lovable father with tons of potential.

For me, few memories from my childhood offer peace or any sense of stability.

One area that does is film.

The 1964 original of Mary Poppins was a household favourite.

Because my mother is a fan, particularly of the soundtrack, and specifically the song “Feed the Birds”, connecting with the film’s characters was inevitable.

Years later, reflecting on the ’64 film version, George Banks, and Bert, the film’s male counterpart to Mary Poppins, some classical points about manhood pop out.

7. ‘Daddy Poppins’

While dads don’t have the ability to pull a hat stand from a carpet bag, we men can aim at being ready to jump into service.

It’s generally considered a good idea to carry a handkerchief and a utility knife everywhere.

As well as to keep a torch, map, and fresh water in the car.

Poppins is always prepared.

6. The Value of Forgiveness

The P.L. Travers/Walt Disney collaboration was, and still is, a testimony to the power of forgiveness: “It’s not the children Mary Poppins saves, it’s their dad.”

Travers, born Helen Goff, was an Australian writer born in Queensland.

The story goes that George Banks was a representation of Travers’ relationship with her father.

Banks’ redemption is related to a sense of powerlessness Travers felt when it came to saving her own loving father, who had spiralled into an ‘alcoholic abyss’.

5. The Importance of Chivalry

Bert, the Chimney Sweep, is the dad everyone watching the movie wants Banks to be.

We cheer on the former and sneer at the latter.

Played by Dick Van Dyke, the Poppins counterpart becomes an encouraging male role model for George’s children.

The model of masculinity rescues them from the sinister fog of the industrial Edwardian concrete jungle.

He then guides them home, offers sound advice, and eventually does the same for George.

Additionally, Bert’s affection for Mary Poppins is chivalrous. Jovial, never inappropriate. Always respectful.

4. Being Present

Mr and Mrs Banks are striking examples of disengaged parents who have abandoned their kids to the world.

Money, power, and virtue signalling top the list of their priorities. This, in turn, topples their relationship with Jane and Michael.

Mary Poppins’ sabbatical is strategic and well-placed.

The family who funds time well spent together, stays together.

3. Jack of All Trades

Bert isn’t just a healthy role model; his identity isn’t in what he does. It rests in who he is, what he’s learned, and who he needs to be.

The Chimney Sweep can appreciate art, and hold the line — if not always toe the line — when he’s called upon.

In sum, he’s a quiet observer, who goes from spectator to caregiver.

2. Work/Life Balance

So stands the Bank of England, so stands George Banks!

Banks is a confident king at home. Yet, a timid, people-pleasing “yes man” at work.

Consumed by the “grindstone”, he pays more attention to “being esteemed by his peers” than he does his own children.

While chasing a dollar is as important as making every dollar count, it is every bit as important to find peace in the pace.

Banks finds out that he can be replaced at work. He cannot be replaced at home.

1. Train Yourself Into a Job

You can teach an old dog new tricks. He just has to be willing to listen.

While Mary Poppins trained herself out of a job, Banks was willing to train himself into the kind of dad he should have been.

By the end of the film, Banks isn’t the same man he once was. Contempt for his children was replaced with him defending them.

Kite and kids in hand, the redemption of George Banks is complete.

Mary Poppins isn’t about a woman teaching a man to be a dad.

It’s about a man discovering that the most important job a dad has in this world is being a good one.

As Nathan Morley recalls,

‘[George Banks] the father, who learns to put his values in proper perspective by the promptings of Mary Poppins, and an assortment of other rich characters, help to make this film a success.’


Image: Disney/Wikimedia Commons

About the Author: Rod Lampard

Rod, his wife Jonda, and their five kids are homeschooling veterans. Rod spent 12 years in management at Koorong, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry & Theology, and is a writer for the theological, politically edgy news site Caldron Pool. Rod also writes for the Spectator. Find his personal blog here.

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