Monday, November 5, 2007

Fictional Role Models, Part Four: MARY POPPINS

I'm going to stick to movies for the fourth in my series of fictional role models for young girls. Today's entry is the inimitable Mary Poppins. Unlike Dorothy, Mary was older, wiser, and very mysterious. Who was she? Where did she get her powers? Where did she come from when she swooped down from the sky with her umbrella?

I adored this film as a child and memorized all the songs (again, we had the album), accents and all. I was born able to do a variety of accents, dialects, and impersonations, so I loved singing in Julie Andrew's 'voice' whenever I sang the songs. To this day I can't sing them without the accent.

Mary Poppins was an authority figure who was kind, fun, adventuresome, yet with a hint of sternness that engendered respect. She didn't let the kids get away with too much nonsense or go wild. They had so much respect and love for their new nanny that they wanted to behave well. Then again, I dreamed of having someone teach me how to get my stuff to put itself away when I was ordered to clean my room. That's not even mentioning the ability to jump into chalk drawings, fly because of laughter, or transform medicine into something delicious. It's easy to see why Mary Poppins was a kid's dream. She was, after all, practically perfect in every way.

Julie Andrews' portrayal of Mary was wonderfully warm and likeable. Though always prim and proper, she helped the viewer see the woman beneath the rather strict exterior. This dichotomy is one of the things that made the character intriguing. Even without the magic, it would be difficult to resist Mary Poppins.

A side note: My mother went to school with Dick Van Dyke in Danville, Illinois, and knew him well. As a kid it was a thrill to know my Mommy knew a movie star – and not just any star, but one who was in one of the best movies ever. For me, that added to the magic of the film.

So what can Mary Poppins teach little girls? She was strong, independent, respected by everyone who knew her, adventuresome, fun, and magical. She showed me that a little kindness goes a long way, that there's adventure and fun in the simplest of tasks, and that no matter who else in your life is wonderful, your parents are never to be taken for granted. In the end, Mary Poppins left the Banks children as she had come. But the family was forever changed because of her brief visit in their lives. Mary Poppins is a powerful role model and easy to admire for little girls.


Glamorous Redneck said...

Mary Poppins was my absolute favorite when I was little. I STILL love watching that movie! And I love how she taught good lessons in everyday ways. I try to do that with my kids too.


Joanna Sandsmark said...

It's a fabulous film. I need to watch it again. Been too long. However, I can still sing every song. Those lyrics are indelibly imprinted on my brain.

Mridu said...

What a great series, Joanna. I grew up reading the same books and watching the same movies. It's funny to see how much we have in common and how similar our role models were even though we live on the opposite ends of the world.

These really are timeless and borderless role models. They certainly helped form the personality of this Indian woman when there was no one else she could look up to.

Joanna Sandsmark said...

It's wonderful, isn't it? That's one of the fantastic thinigs about exceptional fictional characters -- they can be universal in their appeal. "Timeless and borderless" -- beautifully put. That's who they are. Thank you so much reading and commenting.