I’ve talked this thought through with a few friends probably a dozen times, but this is the place where it all congeals, so here is a (hopefully) brief overview of a psycho-cultural phenomenon that I have not-so-lovingly dubbed the Mary Poppins Syndrome. The Mary Poppins Syndrome is probably one of the most ubiquitous psychoses in history, and is certainly the predominant insanities in the west. To understand just what goes on in the mind of a victim of MPS, it will help to understand its name.
In 1964, Warner Brothers dished out the film, which was initially a total flop, but eventually gained massive popularity with young crowds because of its fantastic and congenial tone. Under a literary analysis, the movie, to me, turns out to be pretty unique. One uniqueness is that, unlike most movies (even most children’s movies), as far as I remember, the children face no real conflict, save for the excessive frugality and emotional unavailability of their father, there is no interesting tragedy or antagony going on in the film. The children are, at worst, bored and feeling a little distanced from their father, and certainly a bit confused by their asymmetrical family unit (though it’s not all that asymmetrical since Mary functions as a mother figure). Either way, the plight of the protagonists is certainly not the element of the film that grips the viewer. What endears the viewer to the story seems to be the totally unexplained, vertigo-inducing surrealism of the film that pops up when Mary, using whatever mysterious, reality-warping powers she has, pulls off the incredible, or transports the characters to a (to me, hellish) world of cartoonery where the characters react with euphoric delight instead of the mind-fracturing horror that any normal person would react to.
Needless to say, I don’t at all find the film endearing, or interesting as anything other than an instance of egregous art, and a paradigm for understanding the effect modern film has on us. It’s this second point that is important to me so, before I spell out just what I think is going on with MPS, I will foreshadow it with a simple consideration: following the release of the film, there was a significant increace in hospital visits involving children attempting to fly off their rooftops using umbrellas, a’ la Mary Poppins.