Disney’s classic movie has been branded racist by an academic, who accuses the film of “flirting with blackface” — but not everyone agrees.
Julie Andrews’ famous chimney sweep scene in Disney’s Mary Poppins has bizarrely been branded racist by a US academic.
Professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner accuses the much-loved movie dame of “blacking up” when her face is already covered with soot as she dances alongside Dick Van Dyke.
The iconic scene — accompanied to the tune of Step In Time — is one of the best-loved moments in the 1964 Oscar-winning classic, The Sun reports.
However, writing in the New York Times under the headline ‘Mary Poppins, and a Nanny’s Shameful Flirting With Blackface’ the professor reveals he is not a fan.
He writes: “Her face gets covered with soot, but instead of wiping it off, she gamely powders her nose and cheeks and gets even blacker.”
The English and gender studies professor at Oregon’s Linfield College also refers to passages in P.L. Travers’ original books that he believes are clearly racist.
He singles out a line where a housemaid says: “Don’t touch me, you black heathen,” to a chimney sweep.
And he argues when Admiral Boom shouts orders to fire on the chimney sweeps by yelling: “We’re being attacked by Hottentots!” it is also racist.
“The 1964 film replays this racial panic in a farcical key,” he writes.
“When the dark figures of the chimney sweeps Step in Time on a roof and a naval buffoon, Admiral Boom shouts, 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.”
Not surprisingly, fans of the film have taken to social media to hit back at the claims.
One Twitter user posted: “People who are so ignorant as to be offended by such scenes should never watch TV or movies. They are obviously incapable of rational thought or discernment.”
Another said: “Mary Poppins wasn’t flirting with black face! It was soot in their faces from being up a chimney!!!!
“Stop spreading racism claims on non-racist things like this.’ A third wrote: ‘Come on now, leave Mary Poppins out of this!
“Chimney sweeps in London DID have coal dust on their faces. Didn’t make them, or Mary for that matter, racist.”
The film remains one of the most successful ever made and picked up five Oscars, including Best Actress for Dame Julie.