For the sake of the children?
When I was in college I had a professor who taught us Film Studies. He would start every class by telling us “You’ll are idiots! You know nothing about films and you will never know anything about films!!!” He ended every class along the same lines. I won’t lie. Our Film Studies professor was enigmatic, highly dramatic and borderline eccentric. His main issue with us was that we never analyzed movies or read between the lines. We merely watched movies for the sake of entertainment, for the sake of escapism. To be honest he was right. None of us wanted to watch movies with the eye of a critic. We still don’t. We adopt this pattern because we look to movies to save us. Save us from boredom, monotony and sometimes to save us from ourselves. It’s the same with books. What we don’t think about is that sometimes these movies and books save not only their audiences and readers but sometimes the storytellers or creators of such works as well.
If you were a 90s kid you probably grew up watching Mary Poppins on repeat. You fell in love with the strict odd nanny who came with the change of winds to service and save the Banks children.
But what if she wasn’t saving the children? What if she was actually saving someone else?
Saving P. L. Travers/ Helen Goff/ Ginty
“Travers Goff: Don’t you ever stop dreaming. You can be anyone you want to be.”
“Pamela: I don’t need to forgive my father. He was a wonderful man.
Walt: No, you need to forgive Helen Goff. Life is a harsh sentence to lay down for yourself.”
Ginty who later grows up to pen down Mary Poppins under the name of P.L. Travers shared a special bond with her father Travers Goff. He was her role model. She wanted to be just like him when she grew up. Since she worshiped the sun off his back, when her father died, she blamed herself for his death and believed that she had failed him. Writing Mary Poppins was P.L. Traver’s/ Ginty’s way of trying to cope with the fact that she could not save her own father from himself. She rewrites her own life story, as a tribute to her father, basing her story characters on her family members. In doing so she provides her characters the redemption that she could not provide for her own family members in real life. Event though she gives the children in Mary Poppins a happy ending, the only person she is still trying to find redemption for is herself.
Saving Mary Poppins/ Aunt Ellie
“Ellie: Do stop babbling nonsense! I’m here now and I shall fix everything.
Ginty: You promised you would fix everything.”
Ginty’s aunt Ellie is portrayed as the antagonist in the life story of the Goff family, with Ginty’s father often calling her a foul fowl. It is inferred that Margaret Goff was from a wealthy family and her marriage to Travers Goff was probably looked down upon by her family. It is for this reason that Travers Goff wants nothing to do with her family and refuses help of any sort from his wife’s sister. Mary Poppin’s character draws inspiration from the aunt who comes to the Goff family when the father is dying and promises to fix everything. With her formal strict clothing, tight lipped, no-nonsense mannerisms, huge-ass umbrella and a carpet bag that seemed to hold practically everything, when she made an appearance to a 7 year old Ginty it seemed that she had dropped down from the skies. Ginty takes her for her word on her promise and realizes after her father dies that there are some things that can’t be fixed. Rewriting her aunt as Mary Poppins shows us that grown up Ginty does not blame her aunt, has forgiven her and still regards her as a saviour of sorts. Portraying Poppins as a person who can fix everything is Ginty’s way of redeeming her aunt’s limitations in saving her father.
Saving Mrs. Banks/ Margaret Goff
“Margaret: Sometimes a person we love, through no fault of his own, can’t see past the end of his nose.
Ginty: It’s time to go home, ma.”
A very famous quote in Mary Poppins which Mary Poppins uses in reference to the children’s father which they don’t understand at that moment. She means to tell them that sometimes their father is so engrossed in his work that he misses out on the lives of his children. What most people don’t know is that these same words were uttered by Ginty’s mother when Ginty manages to sway her from drowning herself. Ginty’s mother used it with reference to Ginty’s father stressing that he allowed his work problems and alcoholic tendencies to overrule him and didn’t think of what that was doing to his family. P.L. Travers writes her mother into the Mary Poppins as Mrs. Banks- the sole member of the family struggling to keep it all together and often worrying over her husband. Margaret Goff’s struggle in reality was relieved when her sister, the children’s aunt Ellie steps in to aid with the care of Ginty’s father when he is on his deathbed.
That P.L. Travers keeps Mrs. Banks character as close as possible to her mother’s and gives Mrs. Banks a happy ending with her husband and the children, highlights Ginty forgiving her mother for her attempted suicide and giving her the happy ending she could not have through the character of Mrs. Banks.
Saving Mr. Banks /Travers Goff
“Walt Disney: It’s not the children she comes to save. It’s their father. It’s YOUR father, Travers Goff. George Banks and all that he stands for will be saved. Maybe not in life, but in imagination. Because that’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.”
The child that Ginty was and the woman she would grow up to be would be influenced by her father, Travers Goff. He was the inspiration for her profession as an author. He constantly pushed her to dream, to create imaginary worlds of her own, to be whoever she chose to be, a view often not supported by Ginty’s mother who wanted her to take on grown-up responsibilities. Travers Goff didn’t want Ginty to get stuck in the ordinary way of life, (a life that he was struggling with and a reason for his addiction to alcohol) but to be extra-ordinary. His alcoholic addiction and death affected her in ways that would leave deep scars. She becomes serious in her later life and hates animated cartoons, probably because happiness and childishness were painful memories of her father. She has an aversion to pears because she failed to bring the same to her father (on his request to her) before he passed away. She supports the clean-shaven look because that was the look her father sported. Finally she took on his name as the author of Mary Poppins denoting her undying love for her father and rewrote his story as a struggling banker, who overcomes his struggles, and is given a happy ending with his wife and children. P.L. Travers literally begs the world to remember Travers Goff as the loving father she remembered, as a man capable yet of redemption. Since the child Ginty felt she failed to save Travers Goff from death and unhappiness, the adult P.L. Travers saves Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins and redeems Travers Goff.
“Walt: You see, I have my own Mr. Banks. Mine had a moustache.”
“Walt about pain in his past: I’m tired of remembering it that way. Don’t you want to let it all go? Don’t you want to rewrite the tale and let it all go? Forgiveness, Mrs. Travers, is what I learned from those books.“
Walt Disney is always shown in sharp contrast with P.L. Travers. The audience through Travers and Disney is shown two very different outcomes of two very difficult childhoods, where father-figures occupy the role of primary influencers. While Travers believes that children should be made to face reality which is painful, harsh and cold, Walt believes that painful realities can be re-made if one keeps his imagination alive.
Disney had a less-than-perfect childhood which was one filled with hardships and child-abuse as a result of a stern, hot tempered father, who according to Walt was his personal “Mr. Banks”. It was animation, cartoons and the world of fantasy that saved him. But more importantly it was Walt who saved himself. Choosing to let go off his past, Walt swore that all his movies would spread hope and happiness to children everywhere, the same hope that he clung onto as a child and the same hope he encourages P.L. Travers to find again. As ever an optimist, he imbibes a life of positivism, looking at the bright side of everything, keeping the child in him alive and instilling hope, a sense of imagination and happy endings in all his movies. Because just as he saved himself, he now looked to saving others.
Bottom-line is you have it in you to save yourself.
If you’re in need of saving however you can always hail Mary (Poppins).
Walt Disney & P.L. Travers (http://i1.cdnds.net/13/30/300×225/movies_saving-mr-banks-poster.jpg)
Saving Mr. Banks Banner (https://bittenbythefantasybug.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/fce9a-saving_mr-_banks_logo.jpg)
Helen Goff/ Ginty and Travers Goff (http://cdn.screenrant.com/wp-content/uploads/Saving-Mr-Banks-Still-Photo-Colin-Farrell-Daughter.jpg)