I enjoyed reading Katy Brand’s other book I Carried a Watermelon on the film Dirty Dancing, and as day follows night – when I saw Practically Perfect in my local library, I could not resist borrowing it. Practically Perfect is about the joy Katy Brand finds in the film Mary Poppins, and she reflects on what lessons the film can teach us, and what remains relevant about Mary Poppins. As with I Carried a Watermelon, I was expecting a light and fluffy read, but Practically Perfect actually delves into some to important topics. Topics I hadn’t considered because I don’t think that I have seen Mary Poppins since I watched it a million times over as a kid. For example, toxic masculinity and how that must have affected the character George Banks’. He who works at the bank all day, comes home for his tea and does not want to be involved in the running of his home. Reminded me of the poem early grave by Matthew J. Hall.
Although I did spit out my mouthful of drink at the line, ‘anyone who likes their men a bit buttoned up could imagine helping Mr Banks relax a little,’ when Katy Brand was writing about how sexy a lot of the people are in Mary Poppins, because there was a time when I had a crush on David Tomlinson, the actor who played Mr Banks. As well as the fact I had never appreciated that Mary Poppins opens with cries of Votes for Women, and the interesting female characters in Mary Poppins.
‘In the past, in a more male-dominated industry, witches were more often portrayed as frightening, bitter, jealous, ugly old hags who only have it in for the pretty ingenue. Walt Disney was as guilty of this as anyone – his succession of ‘evil old step-mothers with magical powers’ pretty much single-handedly gave us the visual reference for a wicked old crone. But in 1964, he did something new. He brought us a kind, pretty witch who only wants what is best for the children and seems able to charm any man she meets into submission.’Practically Perfect by Katy Brand
Katy Brand also writes about the writer of the books, P. L. Travers and the driving force behind the film, Walt Disney. That was an insightful part of the book. I thought the chapter on work, social media (‘I shudder at the thought of explaining Instagram to Mary Poppins’) boundaries and Katy Brand saying that Mary Poppins is one big boundary was fascinating, I went back and read it again. I am hopeless with boundaries and a new word that I discovered not that long ago, that Katy Brand uses here, is non negotiables.
‘It sometimes feels like a lot of things that should be simple and fun have turned into work by the creep of social media. For example, hobbies are turned into commercial opportunities in the modern world in less time than it takes to learn to knit.’Practically Perfect by Katy Brand
Fantastically nostalgic, Practically Perfect was a great quick read and gave me something to think about.
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