Mary Poppins

The Massacre of Mary Poppins

An amazed personal comment on some people's misguided, modern thinking.


I wrote the following as a foreword to my new book which is called Dick Van Bike.

This book’s title pays oblique homage to Dick Van Dyke and a golden age.

In my mind, nothing will ever eclipse the magic of films such as Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I was 4 and 8 years of age, respectively, when the films were released. As a little lad, I was spellbound by these fantasy worlds where both nannies and cars flew to the timeless soundtracks of crazy, wonderful songs sung by angels.

As I write, at 98 Dick Van Dyke is described as the oldest living Disney legend. I mean no disrespect with my title - quite the opposite.

To you all, from those far-off days of pure delight, thank you.

So, what are the words or phrases that spring to mind with a film like Mary Poppins?

Fun, beauty, fun, enchanting music, iconic film stars, a golden age?

How about racist? I have to be honest, that never crossed my mind.


However, I wasn’t aware that in 2019, fifty-five years after the film’s release, Mary was taken to task by New York Times writer Daniel Pollack-Pelzner for blacking her face during the tune ‘Step in Time’ when she got covered in soot. The scene is sung by a chimney sweep (Dick Van Dyke) for the benft of Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) in the company of the boys sent down chimneys to sweep them. ‘Shamefully flirting with blackface’ as the writer put it. It’s overtly racist he implied.


If that wasn’t ridiculous enough, it gets worse…..


The BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) recently changed Mary Poppins from U (unclassified) to PG (Parental Guidance) due to its discriminatory language. What??? The word Hottentot is what. It's uttered, one time, by a senile man in the film and the BBFC's feeling is that children could be unduly upset or influenced. How many people know what Hottentot means? Without looking it up that is. I certainly didn’t.


It’s an archaic description used by Europeans to describe native South Africans as Barbarians. As insulting (?) as the 'fruity' language the Aussies (and Kiwis and Hottentots) use describe Brits. Poms, is a derisory term thought to be short for pomegranate, see, fruity eh? Alternative we’re called Jimmigrants or Jimmys – which I’m sure someone will find offensive. My mate Jimmy for example, who has bever been to Australia. For him to lumped together with the likes of me, who has, must be mortifying.


How many children would know what Hottentot means. Zero I bet. I wonder whether it enters their discussions as they inhale nitrous oxide in the playground. I feel sorry for the youngsters of today; there are so many new codes to follow and so many nasty distractions to circumnavigate, just enjoying life as a child must be a dispiriting affair.


Incidentally, it is universally acknowledged that Hadrian’s Wall was built to separate the Roman Empire from - The Barbarians. Oh dear, there’s that awful, racist word again! Here Barbarians represents the Caledonian Picts and locally the great local tribe called the Brigantes, in other words the Jocks, sorry Scots. No doubt any time soon those north of the border will complain bitterly and demand historic reparations. But watch out - there are already moves afoot regarding Hadrian’s wall – seems it has been dubbed a gay icon - by English Heritage, no less! This follows news that Hadrian himself had a couple of man on man dalliances a couple of centuries ago. Yes, Hadrian's Wall has been 'linked to England's queer history'. It takes a particularly desperate and confused mind to come up with his lot!


What The Massacre of Mary Poppins does is reflect the ‘woke’ desire to find racism in the most unlikely corners, not apparently as a way to improve race relations, but rather to draw attention to those who dig deep into our culture to root things out and misinterpret them for their own journalistic benefit. Or to enhance their (social) media presence.


Come on, if Mary Poppins is racist, I’m a Hottentot.

The world has gone (further) mad.


Some child said recently that my generation was stealing her childhood.

What about mine??