The magic wisdom of Mary Poppins

Drawing by the blogauthor

We have a wonderful custom in our family. Every year at Christmastime we watch the film “Mary Poppins”.

It’s a lovely musical fantasy comedy, produced by Disney in 1964. The main character, Mary Poppins, is a magical woman who descends from the clouds after having received an advertisement from the family Banks searching for a nanny to look after the two children Jane and Michael.

The wonderful messages in the dialogues and songs of the film are timeless:

  • having time with your loved ones
  • being the master of your own dreams
  • having fun
  • finding fulfillment in life

It’s interesting how differently you view a film over the years. This time I was particularily impressed by the scenes in which Mr. Banks, father of Jane and Michael, is discharged by his employer. Being a father of two children myself it’s no wonder I identify with that character.

George works at a  bank in London in a leading position and as a “prototype” of a career person he is

  • hard working and ambitious
  • disciplined, consequent and serious,
  • rational and reasonable
  • playing according to the rules of the company and society

Mr. Banks climbed the corporate ladder, he has an important job, became wealthy and lives with his family in a very nice house in a good area in London.

He seems to lead the perfect life.

But there are downsides. Mr. Banks has neither time for his family nor to enjoy life. He sees his children in the morning  and in the evening. All day long he works at the bank  and when he comes home late, he is too tired to have a real conversation with his children.

Being very strict and sometimes even a bit harsh to his children, the film leaves not the slightest doubt that Mr. Banks is a loving father who just wants the best for his children.

George Banks being discharged

Taking education of his children very seriously, he takes his children Jane and Michael to the bank where he works all day. He wants to show them “the serious side in life” and “what really matters”.

They meet Mr. Banks’ employer who wants Michael to put his pocket money into a savings account with the bank. He snatches the money from Michael who demands it back. This causes customers of the bank to misinterpret, they all demand their money back which finally causes a bank run.

In the evening Mr. Banks is ordered to the bank.

Mr. Banks’ lonely walk through London is very striking. It’s a dark and cold atmosphere. At the bank – a massive and monumental looking building – he is already awaited. Two bank clerks bring him to the boardroom. The scene is particularily strong as Mr. Banks is treated like a prisoner; one of the bank clerks walks in front of him, the other behind him. When the door to the boardroom is opened, the scene gets even more unpleasant. Everybody who has ever lost his or her job can feel the emotions Mr. Banks must have when he is confronted with the intimidating setup of several old mighty men sitting at a long table in a dark room and all staring at him with a cold eye. They don’t even greet him, he is just given the order to put off his bowler hat. Being blamed for the “shameful behaviour” of his son Michael, Mr. Banks proudly takes the responsibility for his son’s actions (remember: neither Mr. Banks nor his son Michael have done anything wrong). Mr. Banks is fired in a symbolic act in which his umbrella and his bowler hat are destroyed.

Building a bridge to a voluntary life

The scene shows the ironic side of the working world especially when someone is fired. Mr. Banks is treated in a very rude and disrespectful way and it is also very obvious that his boss takes some diabolic pleasure in trying to take away Mr. Banks pride and  dignity.

Mr. Banks is not only losing his job, they are symbolically taking away his social standing, his reputation, everything he has been working for decades.

And then something unexpected happens: Mr. Banks bounces back. He laughes at the situation. He cracks a joke and says good bye to his boss and the bank Managers. He wishes them all the best and leaves the boardroom dancing, jumping and singing.

At home, Mr. Banks takes his children to fly kites. This is also when it comes to the end of the story. Being fired turns out to be the best thing that could have happened to the family. Surprisingly, the next day Mr. Banks is even offered the job as director of the bank. But that is not of particular interest anymore.

Mr. Banks has now a clear focus and a different mindset which enables him to integrate his career into a wonderful and voluntary life with his loved ones.


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