Rob Marshall, the openly gay director of the recent Disney sequel “Mary Poppins Returns,” says a third installment should focus on the fight for LGBT rights.
Speaking with LGBT news publication The Advocate, Marshall said the Mary Poppins movies have been an outlet for social movements. The first showed the mother, Winifred Banks, as an advocate for women’s suffrage; the second featured Winifred’s daughter, Jane, as a labor organizer; the third, Marshall says, should focus on the battle for LGBT rights in the ’60s.
“I wanted to root it in a real place,” said Marshall in the sequel. “That’s why Jane works for the rights of workers. This is the ’30s, the Depression era when it was the great slump. There was a sadness in the world and [Mary Poppins] needs to come back.”
Should Mary Poppins return again, according to Marshall, she would be returning at a time of another great social movement: LGBTQ rights.
“Our movie takes place in the ’30s. But if it were to take place now, that’s exactly what it should be,” Marshall said. “I understand so deeply what it’s like to be on the outskirts and not feel like you are worthy. And I will say that kind of passion to explore acceptance in life is something that’s so important.”
Later in the interview, Marshall said that Mary Poppins is a great character because she makes people confront harder truths, arguing that she is more important for adults than children.
“I think it’s for the child in all of us, not kids,” said Marshall. “I honestly feel it’s almost more important for adults, this film. Because I think adults forget, as Angela Lansbury says at the end of the film, when she comes to Mary Poppins and everyone’s up on balloons, and she says, well, the adults will forget by tomorrow. And then Mary Poppins says, they always do. That to me is a crime in life to forget all of those things. And I think adults need to be reminded. I couldn’t have been happier when adults would come out of the [film and say], ‘I felt like I was a child again.’ That’s the whole point of the film. So I think for me, this isn’t just light fare.”
Rob Marshall’s expressed hope that a future Mary Poppins sequel would explore LGBT rights follows a statement made by “Beauty and the Beast” director Bill Condon in 2017 about how he specifically chose to create the first exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.
“LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston,” director Bill Condon told Attitude magazine. “He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings.”
Attitude magazine Editor-in-Chief Matt Cain called it a “watershed moment” for Disney.
“By representing same-sex attraction in this short but explicitly gay scene, the studio is sending out a message that this is normal and natural — and this is a message that will be heard in every country of the world, even countries where it’s still socially unacceptable or even illegal to be gay,” wrote Cain. “It’s only a first step towards creating a cinematic world that reflects the world in which many of us are now proud to live.”