I might have mentioned before that growing up, I was not a voracious reader, and I regret that. I did, however, develop an early love of fantastical worlds and deep narratives.
You know how little kids tend to watch movies over and over and over again, which when I was growing up meant you eventually shredded the tape? I was no different. I’m told I did this with The Teddy Bear Picnic. I’m sure there are some lingering psychological effects from this, but I honestly couldn’t tell you any more than the title gives you about the plot.
If you’ve read our last blog post, you may remember that my plan for this year was to reflect on some of my strongest influences from film, television and books, and while I’m not at all capable of doing this chronologically, I can tell you where, I think, this person known as Aiden really started to form his ideas.
Mary Poppins was the movie that I played until there was more static than image on the screen. While I can’t say for certain what it was then that drew me to it, having watched the film recently I can tell you what I adore about it now.
Let’s get this one out of the way – I’m just a Disney fan through and through, and honestly wish breaking into song spontaneously was acceptable behavior. The songs are fun, and in several cases very moving.
Nostalgia also plays a big role. I hadn’t watched the film in several years, and then, back in early 2016, I decided to, not long after my Grandmother had passed. The flood of memories and emotions that watching Mary Poppins created in me left me sobbing on our couch – but in that way that’s necessary a lot of times to process deep pain.
Putting those two pieces aside, it’s really the concepts and characters that make the greatest impression on me. After that viewing following the death of my Grandmother, I recall saying to Katie that “I think just about every life lesson worth learning can be found in Mary Poppins.” Just think about it: find pleasure in your work; family comes first; take care of animals and the less fortunate.
Mary is a fascinating character, and this is because she’s a fusion of my two favorite archetypes – The Wise Old Mentor (she’s got to be older than 30-something, right?) and the Trickster. She even tricks the audience, as illustrated in that line from the Disney Biopic from a couple years ago about the making of the film. “You think she’s come to save the children?” asks Emma Thompson’s P. L. Travers to Tom Hanks’ Walt Disney. It wasn’t until much later in life I came to understand that she wasn’t just a magical nanny taking the kids on adventures. Mary teaches everyone in the Banks family, but does so primarily through guile and a certain level of controlled chaos, and I think it’s brilliant.
In the course of writing this, I’ve actually come to realize that I’ve always written my mentor characters with (admittedly more traditionally comedic) trickster qualities. They’re full of humor and lightheartedness, but incredibly capable when the need arises. Verity, for certain, if you’ve been listening to Lulach Beryl: Magical Intern, is a prime example.
I could probably go on for quite a bit longer, but I think I’ll leave it at that.
Mary Poppins: My bedrock.
Please let me know if you’ve enjoyed this blog on what I consider to be one of my largest influences and if you think you’d like to read more like it.
And, as always, thanks for reading.