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Mary Poppins -- Who Really Made George Banks Change?

Updated on April 17, 2013
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I had another one of my aha moments while watching Mary Poppins again. Every time I have one of them, I feel like a dunce for not thinking about it before. You really need to rewatch a movie over and over a few times to really get all the nuances of it. Last time it was that Poppins gave the mother a free pass. This time it’s that Mary Poppins didn’t really have much to do with George Banks turning into a better father, although she gets all the credit for it.

Mary Poppins arrives and teaches the children to pick up after themselves. That if they make a game out of it, it can be fun. After that we see the nursery remains pristine, so lesson learned. Then she takes them for an outing in the park, but going through the chalk pavement picture wasn’t really Poppins idea. Bert cajoled her into doing it when he said if she wouldn’t do it, he could. During the outing the children learned of the world supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

It’s the children who introduce the word to George Banks and when George can’t repeat it, Mary Poppins repeats it for him. Then Mary Poppins takes the children on another outing, but it’s interrupted when Andrew the dog informs her about Uncle Albert. So she didn’t really plan that, either. That’s where the children learn the joke about a wooden leg named Smith. I think it was actually Bert who told that joke.

Then Poppins manipulates Banks into taking the kids on an outing to the bank when he’s about to sack for taking his children out on inappropriate outings. She also manipulates the children to a degree by showing them the bird woman and singing her sad song about the birds starving so they’ll want to feed the birds. She also makes a remark about George not noticing the Bird Woman when he goes to work every day. Okay, the song makes me cry, but really what is the big deal about the Bird Woman and George not noticing her. Not stopping to buy a bag of bread to feed to the birds. Why does she make it seem like such a big deal to the kids? The fact is the Bird Woman could easily use her bread to feed the birds, but she sells it to make a living. Maybe Poppins is concerned about the Bird Woman making a living, yet she doesn’t seem to feel the same concern for George Banks. What she sets into motion costs George his job.

Anyway, George walks the kids to the bank, Michael wants to feed the birds and George won’t let them, and then the fiasco had the bank happens. The kids run away and luckily run into Bert. Unlike Poppins, Bert makes the kids see their father’s side of things and why he acts the way he does. He makes them feel sympathy and understanding for their father, which is what Poppins should have done. He makes them see their father takes care of them, but no one looks after him and when he has problem he has no one he can tell his problems to.

Then Bert takes the kids home and Mrs. Bank pawns them off on him and what follows is George coming home to a house full of chimney sweeps. I think anyone would be appalled if they came home and found what George did. George demands Poppins explain what goes on and all he gets from her is a snippy, “I never explain anything.” That’s pretty disrespectful to treat her employer and does little to teach the kids to treat their father with any respect.

Then enter Bert who sings his Cats In The Cradle song. What Bert says it pretty much similar to the words in that song about not having time for your kids and them growing up and being gone before you know it. George feels shamed after Bert holds a mirror up to him to look in and sees what a horrible father he’s been. He feels even worse when the children give him their tuppence and that’s also due to what Bert said to them. And that’s the moment George Banks changed and Mary Poppins had nothing to do with it. It was all because of the talks Bert had with George and the children.

Maybe you could credit Poppins as the catalyst that led to Bert talking to Banks and the children. She’s the one who manipulated Banks into taking the kids to the bank and put the idea in the kids head about buying bread from the Bird Woman. But otherwise she had nothing to do with George Bank changing and becoming a better father.

Poppins didn’t even have anything to do with George getting his job back. Dawes Sr. died laughing because of that joke I’m pretty sure Bert told the kids. That allowed the bank not to only hire George back but to promote him.

It’s pretty bad when you compare what Bert and Poppins said to the kids about their father. Even though she put it in a nice way, Poppins was actually putting George down to his kids. “Through no fault of their own sometimes people can’t see the end of the nose on their face.” Compare that to Bert humanizing George Banks to his kids. That’s what Poppins should have been doing.

So, even though Mary Poppins gets all the credit for changing George Bank, it was really Bert the chimney sweep. Without Bert talking to Banks and the children and making them see the other’s side of things, nothing would have changed. But Poppins gave Bert and the kids some grand adventures so alls well that ends well.


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