by WorldTribune Staff, February 4, 2019
In Disney’s Mary Poppins, character Bert/Mr. Dawes Sr. says: “Winds in the east, there’s a mist coming in, like something is brewing, about to begin.”
What’s brewing, according to Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, a professor of English/Gender Studies/Shakespeare at Linfield College in Oregon, is that Mary Poppins, played by Dame Julie Andrews, is racist.
In a piece for The New York Times, Pollack-Pelzner takes Andrews to task for “blacking up” with soot while dancing with chimney sweeps in the iconic scene which features the classic song Step in Time.
The professors writes: “When the magical nanny (played by Julie Andrews) accompanies her young charges, Michael and Jane Banks, up their chimney, her face gets covered in soot, but instead of wiping it off, she gamely powders her nose and cheeks even blacker.
“This might seem like an innocuous comic scene if Travers’s novels didn’t associate chimney sweeps’ blackened faces with racial caricature. ‘Don’t touch me, you black heathen,’ a housemaid screams in ‘Mary Poppins Opens the Door’ (1943).
“When the dark figures of the chimney sweeps Step in Time on a roof, a naval buffoon, Admiral Boom shouts, ‘We’re being attacked by Hottentots!’ and orders his cannon to be fired at the ‘cheeky devils’.
“We’re in on the joke, such as it is: These aren’t really black Africans; they’re grinning white dancers in blackface. It’s a parody of black menace; it’s even posted on a white nationalist website as evidence of the film’s racial hierarchy.”
Poppins fans suggested the professor may need a spoonful of sugar.
One wrote online: “I think this is a reach. She was friends with a chimney sweep. When she went out and danced with him she got soot on her face if I recall this correctly.”
Another wrote: “Mary Poppins wasn’t flirting with blackface! It was soot in their faces from being a chimney!!!”
A third said: “This is a candidate for the stupidest New York Times article of all time.”
Pollack-Pelzner posted online after his article was published: “The chief reason I wrote this article was the hope that a Disney exec would read it, take another look at the forthcoming Dumbo remake, and ask if there was anything just a little bit racist they might want to rethink before it hits the big screen. Here’s one thing I’ve learned about the alt-right, after I wrote this article and received a zillion hate messages in response: they sure like Mary Poppins!”
As the Manny Delgado character on the sitcom Modern Family (which is not known to be alt-right) once said: “You got a problem with Poppins, you got a problem with me.”