Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mary Poppins (Part 2) - It's a Wonderful Life?

Recap of Part 1:

Revisiting the Disney version of Mary Poppins as an adult, I see the real story is about the father, George Banks, whose struggles in 1910 are not different than for many of us in 2010.

Now, let me explain ...

Back in 1910:

For starters, George Banks enjoys a comfortable life as a banker in the London at the twilight of the Victorian age. England is a superpower at the turn of the 20th century. With Queen Victoria's passing in 1901, King Edward is on the throne - "The Age of Men."

In 1910 Mr. Banks sees himself as the benevolent dictator of his household, laced in the straight jacket of order and patterns. He seems to be at the top of this game with the life he leads, as shown in this video clip.

Mrs. Banks, involved in the women's suffrage movement, comes across as more engaged in throwing eggs at the prime minister than paying any attention to the serious business at home. She sloughs off the responsibility of raising her children to nannies, servants, and later even the local chimney sweep, Bert.

At the start of the movie, one of a long string of nannies quits in a huff after losing track of the children in the park. Clearly, Jane and Michael Banks have been acting out, though they hardly seem like hellions by today's standards.

It's a Wonderful Life?

The Banks are one dysfunctional family, disconnected from each other. For the bigger picture from history, World War One will soon arise from the horizon, bringing with its ugly devastation much disillusion, shaking and shrinking the British empire.

Fast forward to 2010:

Like England of a 100 years ago, America has risen to superpower status and has become the envy of the world in affluence and achievement.

Productivity is king. As a result, many Americans have become embroiled in work at the daily grindstone, putting in long hours during weekends and evenings, striving to climb the ladder of success or at least keep jobs in a troubling economy. Meanwhile, needs of spouses, significant others, children may be neglected as well as the workers own needs.

In 2010 with the barrage of 24/7 news coverage, there is an uneasy feeling as to what may be looming on the horizon. Another terrorist attack? A nuclear war? A Great Depression II? The situation in 2010 may not be that much different than that of George Banks' family back in 1910.

Rewind to 1910:

As the movie unfolds, Mary Poppins answers the desires of the children as their nanny of choice. Once hired on, she transports Jane and Michael from their stifling structured environs to magical adventures. As well as expanding their imagination, she administers the children a tender dose of humanity.

With her snowglobe of St. Paul's Cathedral, Mary gives the children a vision of the underclass, the working poor, living in the shadows of the affluent. Self-absorbed, consumed by the busy-ness of life, many seem to ignore the politically powerless, like the Bird Woman sitting at the cathedral steps selling her wares.

"Feed the Birds" is one of the loveliest, if not most poignant songs, in the movie. And Mary has a way of showing her employer, Mr. Banks, that he crosses paths with the Bird Woman on his way to work each day. Does he notice her?

Fast forward to 2010, again:

The poor, the underclass, the politically powerless in the shadows are still with us as Jesus had said some 2000 years ago:

"The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want...."
Mark 14:7 (New International Version)

Today, people are still hurting as houses are foreclosed, jobs are lost, wages reduced though cost of living is rising. The want of the underclass, the underemployed, the unemployed is more keenly felt especially during tough times. In the whirlwind of busy-ness, do we see them?

Part 3, the next post, George Banks journey continues as the man who seems to have had everything, suddenly faces losing everything ...

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