The return of Mary Poppins to the big screen is being news these days, although the truth is that the mysterious governess never left. We could ask ourselves rather where it came from and why, still today, in the 21st century, it continues to be one of the favorite icons of our culture. As his last name suggests, it is literally an apparition ("she pops-in") And, if we join its name, it could be said that we are facing an authentic mariofanía.
However, despite descending directly from heaven to land in the home of a troubled London family, his strange behavior does not resemble what one would expect in a sacred figure to use. In that sense, we know nothing about its origin. From a factual point of view, Mary Poppins is a literary character invented by the writer P. L. Travers, who was giving life to him throughout a series of eight books published between 1934 and 1988.
Travers was an expert in folklore dedicated to the study of religion, popular legends and fairy tales, which helps to understand the mythical magnitude of a nanny who is not only a teacher, but above all a muse.
Like all great masters, Poppins is paradoxical and apparently contradictory. Sometimes, it acts illogically or even absurdly, if not frivolously. But if their adventures prove anything, the opposites are not such and that, beyond the true and the false, or good and evil, there exists or can be invented an unexpected dimension capable of integrating the extremes.
Unlike other characters in children's literature such as Peter Pan or Alice (Travers did not believe in this concept, because for her we all remain children until the end), Mary Poppins did not become famous until in 1964 she was taken to the movies by Walt Disney. In spite of not being strictly faithful to the books, the film, directed by Briton Robert Stevenson (who, perhaps not by chance, had brought the life of another peculiar governess 20 years earlier: none other than Jane Eyre), kept to a large extent the magical spirit and the liberating power of the nanny.
Now, 54 years later, a technically flawless film sequel directed by another Robert (the American Rob Marshall, author of other acclaimed Broadway-style musicals) is released, which will undoubtedly be a great commercial success. A quarter of a century has passed since the last time Mary Poppins left the children she was in charge of: Michael and Jane in the previous version, although there were four brothers in the books. Now, of course, they are two adults and in principle they should not need it, but, due to their problems -on this occasion, economic-, the nanny decides to go down again from the heights to help them.
This time it is tied to a kite, just as Travers made it appear in the second book of the series, Mary Poppins returns. It is assumed that all have changed over the years and that the only one that remains the same – more than young, timeless – is the governess. And yet, from my point of view, what is most unlikely and disappointing in this film is that Mary Poppins is not Julie Andrews. His unforgettable and mythical interpretation of the character, despite the criticism of certain academics more papist than the same lady (Travers was not convinced by the film, but always defended the actress), was as natural as extraordinary, as sweet and fun as energetic , and still miss it more after seeing this new version.
This does not mean that Emily Blunt does not do perfectly what she has been asked to do: to speak in an assertive but distant tone, to move with elegance, to sing and dance with self-confidence, often at great speed, like almost everything that happens in this vertiginous spectacle. But one thing is to say a script certainly interesting (which is inspired by both the books of Travers as in the previous film) and another, convey the charisma of an unclassifiable figure.
In the midst of the Me Too era, the question that floats in the air is: Can Mary Poppins be considered a feminist? Was it in the original books? And in the two film versions? The answer is a resounding yes. The character of Travers not only takes for granted the equality of rights between men and women, acting in an extraordinarily free way and without depending on any male, but, taking a step even further, against speciesism, is able to communicate with animals and plants, and even with stones and stars, teaching children that everything in the world is made of the same material.
One day when the governess celebrates her birthday with the inhabitants of the zoo, a royal cobra which, according to Mary Poppins, is her "second cousin on the mother's side" exclaims: "The same substance is present in everything … in the trees … and in the stones … in the birds, in the beasts, in the stars: we are all one. "[[
María Tausiet is the author of Mary Poppins. Magic, legend, myth (Abada, 2018).