Mary Poppins Racist for Looking like a Chimmey Sweeper, Says US Professor

[Cydney Henderson | USA TODAY] A U.S. professor is deeming the classic 1964 film “Mary Poppins” racist, accusing Julie Andrews of “blacking up” her face with soot while dancing with chimney sweeps.

In a New York Times op-ed called “‘Mary Poppins,’ and a Nanny’s Shameful Flirting With Blackface,” Professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner slammed the iconic dance scene where Poppins joins Dick Van Dyke’s Bert on a rooftop for the song “Step In Time.”

“When the magical nanny … accompanies her young charges, Michael and Jane Banks, up their chimney, her face gets covered in soot, but instead of wiping it off, she gamely powders her nose and cheeks even blacker,” Pollack-Pelzner wrote.

Dick Van Dyke (Bert), Julie (Mary Poppins), Karen Dotrice (Jane Banks) and Matthew Garber (Michael Banks).WALT DISNEY ENTERPRISES

The Linfield College literature professor linked the scene to racism in P.L. Travers’ novels, which he claims “associate chimney sweeps’ blackened faces with racial caricatures.”

Pollack-Pelzner also took aim at naval officer Admiral Boom, who ordered his cannons fired at the “cheeky devils” on the roof after mistaking the dark figures of the chimney sweeps for “Hottentots,” a racial slur. 

“These aren’t really black Africans; they’re grinning white dancers in blackface,” he wrote. “It’s a parody of black menace; it’s even posted on a white nationalist website as evidence of the film’s racial hierarchy.”

Pollack-Pelzner’s observations didn’t sit well with many fans of the classic family film.

@Sherri_Garver questioned: “Ummm Seriously? #MaryPoppins is now in the Cross hair? THEY WERE CHIMNEY SWEEPERS!!! NOT “BLACK FACE IMPERSONATORS.”

“Mary Poppins wasn’t flirting with black face! It was soot in their faces from being a chimney!” user @Jencon1978 added. “Stopped spreading racism claims on non racist things like this!”

Pollack-Pelzner’s observations didn’t sit well with many fans of the classic family film.

@Sherri_Garver questioned: “Ummm Seriously? #MaryPoppins is now in the Cross hair? THEY WERE CHIMNEY SWEEPERS!!! NOT “BLACK FACE IMPERSONATORS.”

“Mary Poppins wasn’t flirting with black face! It was soot in their faces from being a chimney!” user @Jencon1978 added. “Stopped spreading racism claims on non racist things like this!”

[Editor’s Note: This was written by Cydney Henderson and originally published at USA Today.]

[Editor’s Note: Title changed by P&P.]



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