Mary Poppins Author P.L. Travers Was Actually Kind of a Badass

There's been some debate over whether Disney's new film, "Saving Mr. Banks," is borderline sexist or fairly accurate, mostly in regards to the portrayal of P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins (played by Emma Thompson). In a review of the film for LA Weekly, writer Amy Nicholson explains that Travers is portrayed as uptight and, well, bitchy, while Walt Disney, (Tom Hanks) comes off as a hero. Nicholson's reader's were pretty up in arms about these allegations. One such reader commented:

 "Oh, yes, turn this delightful film into an anti-feminist tirade. Tell me, MS. Nicholson — what if said female author was a cantankerous, disturbed, unreasonable, corrosive and poisonous bitch, as the real Ms. Travers has been characterized by everyone who knew her, including her own family? Does she get a pass just the same because she's a woman? If so, you're the sexist, kiddo [sic]." 

 While I doubt that the popular opinion of Travers is that she was a "poisonous bitch," it's not necessarily bad to portray a woman as "cantankerous" onscreen, unless that is her sole characteristic. The biggest problem with female characters, especially in popular, mainstream film, is that they are made to only have one or two dimensions. It's a slap in the face that the story of  Travers selling the rights to her book, (note: only after 26 YEARS of pressure from Walt Disney) is as sugar-coated as the film version of Mary Poppins. Another issue is that P.L. Travers's life was not "Disney-friendly," and an accurate look into her past would have been a completely different movie. In her article, Nicholson describes the real Travers as: 

 "a feisty, stereotype-breaking bisexual—a single mom who adopted a baby in her 40s, studied Zen meditation in Kyoto, and was publishing erotica about her silky underwear 10 years before Walt had sketched his mouse." That sounds like a way more interesting story. 

 

Thanks to LA Weekly

Image via LA Weekly 

 
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