Critic accuses 'Mary Poppins' film of promoting blackface


An op-ed in the New York Times is calling the classic 1964 film "Mary Poppins" racist.

In the op-ed titled "‘Mary Poppins,’ and a Nanny’s Shameful Flirting With Blackface," Daniel Pollack-Pelzner accuses Julie Andrews of "blacking up" her face with soot while dancing with chimney sweeps.

"When the magical nanny (played by Julie Andrews) 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. Then she leads the children on a dancing exploration of London rooftops with Dick Van Dyke’s sooty chimney sweep, Bert."

Pelzner, who is a professor of literature at Linfield College, links the scene to P.L. Travers' novels, which he claims "associate chimney sweeps’ blackened faces with racial caricatures."

"The 1964 film replays this racial panic in a farcical key.​ When the dark figures of the chimney sweeps step in time on a roof, a naval buffoon, Admiral Boom, shouts, “We’re being attacked by Hottentots!” and orders his cannon to be fired at the “cheeky devils.” We’re in on the joke, such as it is: These aren’t really black Africans; they’re grinning white dancers in blackface. It’s a parody of black menace; it’s even posted on a white nationalist website as evidence of the film’s racial hierarchy."