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Great news! To make this podcast more accessible, I will be linking a transcript to each episode in the show notes starting with today’s episode. Special thanks to next week’s guest Elizabeth Knox
for the suggestion.
This week’s essay is my ode to Mary Poppins, a character I’ve loved for many years. I explore what makes her so weird and wonderful and why she’s the exact opposite of a Disney princess.
Then I sit down with the founder of Travelhers Collective
Olivia Wickstrom. Olivia has had the travel bug since she was 3 years old and has spent time in the UK, Norway, and South Africa to name a few. Together we discuss how travel changes you and the lessons she’s learned from her time abroad. We also talk a bit about how to incorporate the feelings of freedom and awe that we experience while traveling into our day-to-day life in our own towns.
Connect with Olivia:
Transcript for today’s episode available here
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An Ode to Mary Poppins
I can’t recall the first time I saw Mary Poppins but it feels like she’s always been there. And in a way she has. The film debuted in 1964 but P.L. Travers’ books have been around since 1934.
Growing up, Disney princesses were just taking off. My first movie at the theatre was The Little Mermaid. But despite coming of age in the height of Belle, Jasmine, and Mulan, I felt a draw to the weird and wonderful live action film from the 60s. Maybe it was my love of The Dick Van Dyke Show on Nick at Night, but I like to think it was the budding feminist in me who recognized the empowered magic of the Banks children’s quirky nanny.
In my first year of college, I struggled with insomnia and most nights would fall asleep with a movie playing. That year was the 40th anniversary of the Mary Poppins film so I splurged on the special edition DVD. For weeks, I let Julie Andrews lull me to sleep, just as she did her charges with the tune “Stay Awake.”
With the new film on the horizon (starring my brain-crush Lin-Manuel Miranda), I’ve been thinking a lot about the character Mary Poppins. I’ve come to the conclusion that she defies traditional archetypes for women in storytelling. Not quite heroine and not quite manic pixie dream girl, Poppins is a self-assured young woman who knows her place in the world and isn’t afraid to stand in it. For a nanny, she’s not very maternal but treats everyone as equals, even the children. Her character is defined by respect, dignity, and whimsical responsibility. Mary Poppins knows she’s practically perfect in every way and unlike women characters today, she doesn’t downplay it or make excuses for it or apologize for this fundamental truth. The film itself isn’t a traditional romantic love story but it is a story about love — loving others exactly as they are.
I came across a theory recently that posited Mary Poppins and Harry Potter come from the same fictional universe. It makes sense, really. I see in Hermione elements of Mary Poppins — smart and precocious, unwavering yet kind. And Poppins’ umbrella could very well be a disguise for her wand. But I’m not quite ready to accept Mary Poppins as a Hogwarts-trained witch. I prefer the mystery of her magic. I love that her powers are unexplained, adding to the overall air of mystique in her arrival. She doesn’t owe anyone an explanation of what she does, where she comes from, or why she’s here. When Mary Poppins floats into your life, ask no questions. You’re in for a wild ride shaking hands and feeding birds with the working class, traipsing through cartoon countrysides and dining with dancing penguins, and laughing until you float with board members of the Financial Fiduciary Bank. You never know what lies ahead when Poppins enters your life (always on her terms) but it’s bound to be magical.
There’s so much we can learn from this character. I’m cautiously optimistic about the upcoming continuation of her film persona. I hope Emily Blunt’s Mary Poppins is just as cheeky and unapologetic as the original. I hope she cuts through the noise of Disney princess culture to inspire a new generation of weird and wonderful budding feminists. I hope she reminds us all to know our worth and to refuse to compromise, just like Julie Andrews inspired me.