Monday, February 18, 2013

Sister Shut-the-Fuck-Up

Feminist rant time! Gather ‘round kids, and watch me destroy your childhood.

Today on the Book of Face, I was greeted by my good buddy* and indiscriminate sharer, George Takei. He posted the following image:

At first, all I thought, was “Hey, Mary Poppins didn’t say that line!” In a random fit of good-humor (don’t worry, these are few and far between), I decided to give the internet the benefit of the doubt (ha) by assuming that “Mary Poppins” referred to the title of the film and not the character. A few hours later, I find myself avoiding work again, and what do I see? An entire feed of this obnoxious little…is it a meme? I’m still not clear on how that works. Anyway, this ambiguously attributed quotation is making the rounds, being picked up by would-be Carrie Bradshaws everywhere and reposted with a “Tee-hee, so true!”

Now, if you weren’t blessed (cursed?) with a preternatural talent for memorizing musicals, you’re probably thinking “Big deal, another misattributed quotation on the interwebz. I care not.” But if, like me, you remember who actually says the quoted line in the film, as well as the entire rest of the song and all relevant facts about the character in question, you realize that the up gets a little more fucked in this case.

The lyric in question is sung not by perpetual-heroine Julie Andrews as the prototype Supernanny, but by Glynis Johns as Mrs. Banks, the mother of the children under Ms. Poppins’ care. Remember her at all? Probably not, because, other than that one song, she pretty much isn’t there. The entire impetus for the plot, including Supernanny’s arrival, is that Jane and Michael Banks are being neglected and ignored by their parents. And what, pray tell, is keeping Mrs. Banks from her motherly duties? Why, politics of course! The woman is a Suffragette, and her efforts to advance the vote for women tragically interfere with the well-being of her children.

Just to be clear, this isn’t even a full-scale career, unlike what the equally neglectful Mr. Banks has. Mr. Banks can’t play with his kids, because he needs to work his ass off at a time in history when most people died in poverty. No, Mrs. Banks merely has a hobby, a cause, and yet that is just too much time away from the children for her to qualify as a Disney-approved mother. Little Jane and Michael suffer so greatly at the hands (or lack-thereof) of their parents that only a proper woman, dedicated full-time to their care, can rectify the situation.

And not just any woman, mind. A woman with superpowers. CHILD-CARE SUPERPOWERS. Yeah, think about that the next time you want to complain about Black Widow’s pose in The Avengers posters or Superwoman’s general lack of pants.

By the way, the entire musical was written by men, and of course the film was directed and produced by men; it was 1964, after all. The books on which the musical was based, however, were written by a woman. A woman who very much disliked the Disney film. P. L. Travers was her name and writing books about extremely bitchy nannies was her game. No, seriously, the original Mary Poppins would have shoved that spoonful of sugar up your ass sooner than sing you to sleep. And she would have done all of this is during the mid-19th century.

But wait! Doesn’t the film take place in 1910, said no one because even I had to Google that just now? Why, yes, hypothetical audience, you are absolutely right. The setting of the film was deliberately changed to Edwardian times, conveniently allowing us to enjoy the adorable antics of those pesky Suffragettes. Never mind that the decades-spanning struggle resulted in death for a number of Suffragettes. Maybe if the Sherman brothers had known their history a little better, they could have worked more of it into the film. The horse race would have been the perfect opportunity to reference Emily Wilding Davison, who was trampled beneath the King’s steed in 1913. Or maybe the chimney sweeps could have come across one of the militant suffragettes who climbed down a chimney in an effort to attend a men-only speech by Winston Churchill (rumored to have died in there). The options are without limit.

"This never would have happened if you'd stayed home with the kids."

So, once again, the moral of the day is: try to know what you’re talking about when you try to promote some “cause.” If this is the best you can do, we’d really be better off without you.

Well done, Sister Suffragette!

S. Misanthrope

*Note: I do not actually personally know George Takei, but I would love to. If you’re reading this, George, let’s hang out. Seriously.