Mary Poppins branded racist by academic in 'blackface' row over ‘Step in Time’ scene
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Mary Poppins branded racist by academic in 'blackface' row over ‘Step in Time’ scene

MARY POPPINS has been branded racist by a leading academic in the US.

The Disney classic came in for criticism from Professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner over one of the film’s most iconic moments.

It comes when Mary Poppin’s decides to join Dick Van Dyke’s chimney sweep Bert on the rooftop of the Banks’ family home for the legendary musical number Step in Time.

One of the most enduring images of the 1964 original, the scene has been branded racist by Professor Pollack-Pelzner in the New York Times, who accuses Dame Julie Andrews of 'blacking up' with soot for the dance with the 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,” he writes.

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"This might seem like an innocuous comic scene if [Pamela Lyndon] Travers’s novels [which the films are based on] didn’t associate chimney sweeps’ blackened faces with racial caricature.

"'Don’t touch me, you black heathen,' a housemaid screams in Mary Poppins Opens the Door (1943)."

"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."

Born Helen Lyndon Goff in Queensland, Australia, Travers' father was of Irish descent and grew up in London.

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The American academic’s argument prompted similar criticism from New Yorker writer Michael Schulman who hit out at Mary Poppins for its portrait of class boundaries.

"This made me think about class, too - how Mary Poppins, a posh domestic, scrambles the class divide and introduces Jane & Michael to the much more fun world of pleb chimney sweeps.

"Further scrambled in the sequel when the Bankses are also in the poorhouse."

Professor Pollack-Pelzner has also responded to the original article.

"The chief reason I wrote this article was the hope that a Disney exec would read it, take another look at the forthcoming Dumbo remake, and ask if there was anything just a little bit racist they might want to rethink before it hits the big screen,” he said.

"Here’s one thing I’ve learned about the alt-right, after I wrote this article and received a zillion hate messages in response: they sure like Mary Poppins!"