The beloved original Mary Poppins film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke has recently been branded racist for a scene that is essentially blackface.
An American academic discusses an iconic scene where Andrews’ character joins in with Bert, played by Dick Van Dyke, along with his fellow chimney sweeps on a rooftop for the song Step In Time.
In an attempt to venture up to the rooftop, the nanny moves through a chimney along with Michael and Jane Banks — her charges.
And after appearing on top of the roof — the characters were covered in soot, and understandably so.
That being said, Professor Pollack-Pelzner criticized the particular scene for what happened next.
In a New York Times article, the professor pens how “one of the more indelible images from the 1964 film is of Mary Poppins blacking up.”
“Her face gets covered with soot, but instead of wiping it off, she gamely powders her nose and cheeks and gets even blacker.”
The professor goes on to say how the film is linked with racism in the 1943 novel Mary Poppins Opens The Door — where a housemaid screams “Don’t touch me, you black heathen” to a chimney sweep.
Pollack-Pelzner continues, saying:
“The 1964 film replays this racial panic in a farcical key. 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.”
But the professor’s observations of the film were quickly commented on, with folks flocking to social media, saying:
“So some so-called academic had branded the Mary Poppins movie racist, over a scene where they get covered in soot (implying they’re blacking up?!). For crying out loud! You call yourself an academic? Not much education has gone on with you has there? Enjoy your 5 seconds of fame.”
“It was soot from the chimney she’d just flown up, you nitwit.”
“This looks like an article from The Onion.”
“This iconic movie is so popular with parents and kids, my girls are in their 20’s and they love it. A spectacular movie that had nothing whatsoever to do with race. The soot from the chimney was funny and made them look just that. Definitely not racist, reporters are boobs.”
Professor Pollack-Pelzner spoke to MailOnline about his opinions and the reaction he had, saying:
“I don’t like hearing that something I loved and that something that was important to me in my childhood might be more troubling than I assumed. So I appreciate the strength of the reaction.
I just hope some of that energy can go to Disney as well and ask them to think a little bit more about how their new movies connect with the past.”
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