Things only adults notice in Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins is one of the most beloved movies of all time. The iconic classic was released around Christmas in 1964, and it's the gift that just keeps on giving. The film won five Academy Awards, and has entertained generations of viewers with its charming characters and catchy musical numbers.

A favorite with both fans and critics alike, Mary Poppins is a film many remember from their childhoods. Because of this, when you watch it as an adult, it can be easy to get caught up in the nostalgia and overlook some of the stranger parts of the film. It turns out that there are a lot of moments in this movie that go over your head as a kid. If you re-watch it closely as an adult, though, you might be surprised to see that the movie is actually a little bit darker than you remember. 

Here are some of the things you'll only notice in Mary Poppins as an adult.

Bert can't hold down a job

Bert seems to be everywhere throughout the movie. We see him at the beginning of the film, performing as a one man band for spare change. This seems to be a pretty meager way of making a living, because Bert also has side jobs as a chimney sweep, sidewalk chalk artist, and kite seller. Is he just a free spirit who can't be shackled to a traditional job? Is he unqualified for a full-time position? Or is he taking on all these extra jobs because he's having trouble making ends meet?

When you watch this movie as a kid, you might envy Bert's nomadic lifestyle. But if you watch as an adult, suddenly Bert becomes an all-too relatable character. Plenty of adults know the struggle of living paycheck to paycheck and the hardship of trying to find gainful employment in a troubled economy. Whatever Bert's reasons for having so many jobs, you definitely have to admire they guy's work ethic.

The neighbors' house is a safety hazard

It's pretty clear that homeowners' associations weren't a thing in early 20th century London. How else can you explain the fact that the Banks family lives next to a delusional man who thinks his house his a ship? Turning the roof into a boat deck is more than just an eyesore, though. The captain actually regularly fires cannons, which causes the neighboring houses to shake.

Why has no one reported this guy to the police? And how much damage have these cannonballs caused? They have to be landing somewhere! And considering that they're being fired in what appears to be a fairly densely populated area, it's safe to assume that there have at least been injuries — if not deaths — resulting from being hit by cannon fire. Surely there has to be at least one nosy neighbor who would have put a stop to this, right? It's hard to believe that the neighborhood is okay with their walls shaking everyday because of a cannon-happy neighbor.

Mrs. Banks is not the best suffragette

One of the more disappointing aspects of Mary Poppins that you notice when you're an adult is the lack of strong, female characters aside from Mary herself. When the movie came out in 1964, the Women's Liberation movement was just getting its start, but society's gradual acceptance of feminism isn't really reflected in the film. Mrs. Banks is a suffragette fighting for votes for women, but her activism seems more like a source of comedy rather than an empowering stance.

Mrs. Banks could have been a strong character, but instead she always defers to her husband. At times, it seems like she's downplaying her own intelligence in order to appease him. It's admirable that she marches for women's rights, but she doesn't follow through on her beliefs when she's at home. She doesn't even seem to take an active role in raising her children, leaving Mr. Banks in charge of hiring nannies for Jane and Michael.

Bert has the worst accent ever

This one is probably noticeable to English children who grew up watching the movie, but most American kids were likely fooled. When you're a kid, Bert seems like a fun and totally believable Englishman with a cockney accent. When you're an adult who's learned more about other cultures and countries, you realize that no one in real life talks like Bert.

Bert's horrendous accent has been criticized in the decades since Mary Poppins was released, and even the actor who played him, Dick Van Dyke, acknowledges how awful it was. In 2017, Van Dyke received Bafta's Brittania award for excellence in television and used his acceptance speech to try to make up for his garbled accent. "I appreciate this opportunity to apologize to the members of Bafta for inflicting on them the most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema," he said.

It's not all his fault, though. While Van Dyke is American, he said that none of the British people working on the film said anything about his accent, so he never realized just how terrible it was.

Why doesn't anyone question Mary Poppins?

It's well established throughout the film that Jane and Michael are full of mischief. They're not really bad kids, though. They're just acting out because they need love and attention. It's understandable, then, that they quickly become enamored with Mary Poppins, who guides them with a firm, gentle hand. What's not so understandable to adults in the audience is why they don't seem to question Mary's actual magic powers.

Mr. Banks doesn't seem the sort to encourage his kids to believe in fairy tales. His no-nonsense attitude makes him seem more like the kind of dad who tells his kids the truth about Santa Claus when they're barely out of diapers. So it seems a bit strange that Jane and Michael aren't more skeptical when a woman literally flies in from the sky.

Even Mr. Banks is weirdly mesmerized and doesn't question Mary Poppins when presented with evidence that she's wielding some otherworldly powers. Did the supernatural nanny cast a spell over the entire family? Did she slip something into their food? Or is the Banks family just so bored with their humdrum lives that they welcome any bit of excitement without blinking an eye?

Where does Mary Poppins get her powers?

You might not think of it when you're a kid, but when you watch Mary Poppins as an adult, it seems strange that the movie does nothing to explain where she gets her powers from. She hasn't been bitten by a radioactive nanny (that we know of), and doesn't have a magic wand that she casts spells with. In fact, she doesn't really acknowledge that what she can do is anything out of the ordinary, but instead acts like it's totally normal to be able to clean up a room by snapping your fingers. 

Are magical nannies just a common thing in the world of the movie? And where does Mary get her enchanted items, like her seemingly bottomless carpetbag and her magical tape measure? Is… is Mary Poppins a witch?

It's actually a little frightening when you think about it. Mary worked her way into the Banks household by blowing away all the other applicants with a gust of wind. Just think of how much damage she could cause if she ever decided to use her powers for evil.

Who is Uncle Albert?

To kids, Uncle Albert is a fun character. As an adult, however, he raises a lot of questions. He seems to be well-known to Mary and to Bert, but it's not clear if he's actually anyone's uncle, or if "Uncle Albert" is just an affectionate nickname. While he doesn't seem to have any magical powers, he suffers from an affliction that causes him to float to the ceiling when he laughs too much (something Mary does not approve of). Even stranger is that he appears able to pass this "illness" on to other people laughing in his presence.

While his ailment is probably pretty comical to kids, who of course would want to be able to float themselves, adults can obviously see that Uncle Albert is actually a tragic character. He's very lonely, and the only thing that seems to be able to make him stop laughing is being told that it's time for Mary and the kids to leave. This not only makes him stop laughing and brings him back to the ground, but completely crushes him and reduces him to tears. Talk about over-dramatic…

Mary Poppins is gaslighting the kids

There are a few scenes where we see that Mary Poppins isn't exactly the good-natured nanny she appears to be. She makes Uncle Albert cry, and instead of comforting him, she leaves him depressed and sobbing on the floor. She also gaslights the kids when they attempt to reminisce over the wonderful day they had with Bert in his sidewalk picture. She acts like the adventure never took place, and gets a bit aggressive when Jane tries to jar her memory. What?

When the kids continue to insist that they did, indeed, venture into a magical world where they participated in a horse race on carousel animals, Mary threatens to call the police if they don't stop talking about it. She's using her position of authority to make the children second-guess what they know is true! She's probably doing it to prevent the kids from telling anyone about her magic powers, but it's actually kind of cruel to expose them to her powers if she's only going to act like they're delusional any time they try to talk about it. That's messed up, Mary.

Will they or won't they?

Mary and Bert are both mysterious characters. We know very little about their backgrounds or their lives before they met the Banks family. It's evident they've known each for quite a while, but just how well do they know each other?

Kids might not pick up on the romantic tension between Bert and Mary, but to adults it's all too obvious. While it's a little difficult to tell whether or not Mary reciprocates his feelings, Bert's affection for Mary is apparent. Are Bert and Mary secretly a couple but hiding it from the children? Are they in love, but unable to be together for some reason? Or is Mary really just a heartless person who's toying with Bert's emotions and stringing him along just for fun? Maybe the real reason that Bert doesn't have a steady job is because he spends so much of his time pining over Mary. Get your priorities straight, Bert!

The world's worst bank

Mr. Banks tries to show his children the world by bringing them to work with him at the bank, but he gets a little bit more than he bargained for. To call the bank's practices shady would be an understatement. Poor little Michael has a little bit of money set aside that he wants to give to the woman who feeds birds on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral. Mr. Banks doesn't think his son should waste his money caring for less fortunate people, and insists that he instead invest his money by opening a bank account.

Michael, being a child, doesn't want to do this, especially when he meets his father's boss, the chairman of the bank. The chairman demands that Michael invest his money, and tries to grab it from his hands, not stopping even when Michael starts screaming. It goes without saying that this is a pretty terrible bank! The customers who are present when Michael is practically mugged agree. They all demand to withdraw their money, sending the bank into a full-on riot and leading to Mr. Banks being fired. How many kids watching this movie grew up thinking that banks were terrifying creep-factories, out to steal all their cash? Probably about all of them.

London is incredibly grim

To children, Mary Poppins is a film full of whimsical delights. There's singing, dancing, magic, and bright, colorful characters. It's easy to overlook the grim setting when you're a kid, but as an adult, you realize that the London the Banks family lives in is actually pretty dismal. Everything there is dark and drab, and it frankly looks like a terrifying place to raise a child. The glimpses we get of London look like a post-apocalyptic wasteland, rather than a bustling city.

It's no surprise that Jane and Michael often seem so unhappy. It looks like the only thing that brings joy to their world is Mary Poppins. But what's going to happen to to the kids once Mary is gone? How long can their happiness last without her? Will their dreary surroundings plunge them into an existential crisis without their magical nanny to lift their spirits? Probably. Time to get those kids into therapy.

Bert is the real hero of the movie

While it might seem like Mary Poppins is the star of the film (after all, it's named after her), Bert is the real MVP.  He's the one who encourages Mary to take the kids on an adventure into a sidewalk chalk picture. He's also the person who drew the picture, creating the very playground Jane and Michael jump into. Bert is also there when Jane and Michael meet Uncle Albert and laugh themselves into the air. He also brings the kids to the rooftops of London, and even gets his fellow chimney sweeps to put on a show for them.

Mary often seems reluctant to use her powers to entertain the children, but Bert encourages her to use them. Later in the film, it's Bert who talks to Mr. Banks and makes him realize that he has emotionally neglected his children for years. Thanks to their conversation, Mr. Banks becomes a better father and husband. Mary should take some notes from Bert. He's the real star. 

Then again, the movie probably wouldn't have been as memorable if it were just called Bert

Mr. Banks killed his boss!

By the end of the movie, Mary Poppins has left, but it turns out to not be such a tragedy because Mr. Banks has been fired. Some people in this situation might worry about practical things, like how they'll support their family, but Mr. Banks instead decides to finally spend time with his family. It's a heartwarming moment, seeing Jane and Michael happy to be with their dad, but as an adult, you're likely to worry about the future of the family now that its breadwinner is unemployed.

That fear is soon alleviated, though, because we soon find out that Mr. Banks' boss is actually dead! Now Mr. Banks is being re-hired to take his place. The family's future is secured, but it's a bit disturbing when you realize that Mr. Banks actually killed his boss, who died while laughing at a joke Mr. Banks told him. While he's assured that it's a good thing the man died happy, it's still a pretty morbid way to end a children's film. 

Think of the lesson it teaches! Just remember, kids: don't laugh too hard… you might literally die.