Why Did Mary Poppins Give Mrs. Banks A Free Pass?
You know you can watch a movie forever and then a basic home truth finally hits you smack between the eyes. I’ve watched Mary Poppins since I was a child, and I was just sitting there and started wondering why no one called her to task for being a lousy mother, since in a lot of ways she was just as bad or even worse than George Banks was as a father.
It was the scene when Bert, who is basically a street bum doing odds jobs to make a buck, delivers her kids home to Mrs. Banks. What does she do? Is she horrified some strange man was hanging around her two kids? Nope, she leaves him alone in her home to look after them since going to her suffragette meeting is more important and there’s no one else around to look after them for her. That’s just such a hideous moment when you stop and think about it. This is a dirty bum who showed up at her door that she’s never met before, and instead of being horrified this man has been around her kids, she pawns her kids off on him. Granted, the audience knows Bert is a good sort, but she doesn’t. For all she knows he could be a predator who preys on little children and will kill them as soon as she walks out the door, but she doesn’t care. She can’t be late for her suffragette meeting. What kind of mother does stuff like that? And why the heck didn't The Poppins call her on it and show her the error of her ways? Why was just Mr. Banks held accountable?
If you think about it was there one scene in the movie of Mrs. Banks showing any kind of motherly love to her kids? So she was just as much as a problem as George Banks was. If she had given some love and attention to her kids there wouldn’t have been a problem. In short, George Banks wasn’t the only bad parent, but he was the only one who got a singing lecture from Bert about not having time for his kids. That little ditty could have just as easily been sung to Mrs. Banks. George Banks even got the kids foisted on him for the day, while a similar situation wasn’t foisted on Mrs. Banks. And Mrs. Banks didn’t have to work for a living. She was just more interested in getting the right to vote for women than she was in acting like any kind of a mother to her children.
When Mary Poppins opened her umbrella and floated away satisfied George Banks had learned his lessons and would be a good father, was there any proof Mrs. Banks would suddenly be a caring and attentive mother? There was absolutely no evidence that just because George Banks was suddenly a better father that would inspire his wife to be a better mother or for her to even have a moment where she realized what a lousy mother she truly was. In short, Poppins work wasn't done. Once she got George Banks up to snuff, she needed to start working on Mrs. Banks next, then she could open her umbrella and fly away.
Logically, I get why a nanny wouldn’t take on a mother to be a better mother. It kind of undermines the whole need for a nanny. It might take away the necessity to have a nanny in your employ. So the nanny acts like the father is the only problem in the Banks family and thus keeps the nanny institution alive and well.
However, just because George Banks went out a flew a kite with his kids and became a better father, that doesn’t guarantee things would get better for Jane and Michael. The reason why is George Banks wasn’t the only problem and he wasn’t the only neglectful parent. There was no evidence that Mrs. Banks would change her ways, since no one called her to task for putting her suffragette cause over taking care of her kids. Both parents should have been called to task.
At least when Nanny McPhee came to fix a family there was only one parent in the household which was why she neglected the other parent and wasn’t trying to teach them both a lesson. If they ever do a remake of Mary Poppins they need to have Poppins go after Mrs. Banks just as much as she went after George Banks. Then she can fly away with the safe knowledge Jane and Michael’s home life will truly be better with a better mother and father.
And the thing is with Mrs. Banks is some of her choices was putting her children in jeopardy. The same can't be said for George Banks. As lousy of a father as he was, I really don't see him leaving his kids with a bum off the street he'd never met and knew absolutely nothing about. Look at the beginning of the film when Mrs. Banks was prancing around singing about her suffragette movement and Katie Nana was trying to tell her that her children were missing. After finally getting what the woman had said, she just sat there and did nothing. It was George Banks who went to the phone and reported them missing. Which basically demonstrates that of the two parents George Banks was also a better parent than his wife was.