News

Actions

Is Mary Poppins racist? A Linfield College literature professor thinks so

Posted: 12:07 PM, Feb 05, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-05 16:32:23-05

Social media has been percolating after a top academic has branded Walt Disney’s classic 1964 film “Mary Poppins” as racist because it promotes “blackface” in the famous chimney sweeping scene.

In a commentary that first appeared in the New York Times ,   Linfield College literature professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner writes that Mary Poppins “blacks up” when her face is covered in soot. And rather than wiping it off, she proceeds to cover her face with even more and dances with Bert and his children on the rooftop.

Pollack-Pelzer says that the scene involving Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke may appear harmless. But he says it actually contains dark, racially-motivated undertones.

“We’re in on the joke, such as it is: These aren’t really black Africans; they’re grinning white dancers in blackface,” Pelzner writes. He calls the scene a “parody of black menace.”

Pollack-Pelzner doesn’t stop there:

“One of the more indelible images from the 1964 film is of Mary Poppins blacking up. 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. Then she leads the children on a dancing exploration of London rooftops with Dick Van Dyke’s sooty chimney sweep, Bert.”

The response on social media was quick and unsparing.

What do you think? Is Mary Poppins racist?

Or not?