Mr. Banks Was Not the Only One Who Needed Saving

a bowler hatI just watched the movie “Saving Mr. Banks.”  (Yeah, I’m behind in my movie watching.).  The movie is loosely based on the life of P. L. Travers, (author of the Mary Poppins books) and her thorny, combative struggle with Walt Disney over the movie rights to her book.

I say “loosely based” because the life of Ms. Travers, as well as the dynamic between her and Mr. Disney, were somewhat toned down and sanitized for the sake of the movie and the Disney image.

Still, in typical Disney fashion, “Saving Mr. Banks” is a great example of story telling.  Two different storylines are woven together in such a way that the past story explains the present story, and the present story redeems the past story.  This is classic, (and might I say biblical?)

One of the most intriguing things to me was Disney’s and Travers’ differing views about the purpose of the main character…Mary Poppins.

SPOILER ALERT… If you’ve not yet seen the movie, save the rest of this post until after you have seen the movie.

At one point in the movie, Disney refers to Mary Poppins as having come to save the children from their difficult parent…Mr. Banks.  To which Travers replies, “You think Mary Poppins has come to save the kids?”  She then walks out of the room in frustration.  At that point, you begin to discover that the ultimate twist to the story is that Mary Poppins was there to save Mr. Banks as much as she was to save the children.  You begin to understand that Mary Poppins was Travers’ artistic attempt to somehow redeem her alcoholic father.  The problem is it didn’t really work.  Travers remained stuck in bitterness and isolation most of her life.

Towards the end of the movie, after a heartfelt visit from Disney, we see Travers at her kitchen table preparing to sign over the movie rights.  Just before signing the papers, she takes a deep breath and says, “Let it go.”  She then signs the papers and the movie goes on to show her reengaging in life.  She goes to the movie’s premiere, though she wasn’t invited. She begins writing again, though she had stopped writing years before.  Something changed.  The implication is that she not only let go of the movie rights, but also the hurt and conflict related to her past.

But as I said before, the Disney studios have taken license with this story. By the end of the movie, Travers seems to have been redeemed some what, but the real story is that Tavers changed very little. In fact, she may have become more difficult and combative after her experience with Disney.  Yet despite the creative license, at least two major truths ring out in this movie.

  • Both abused and abuser have been hurt and are in need of redemption.  Sometimes, the abused and the abuser are one and the same person.  Travers was hurt deeply as a child, but as an adult, she often responded to others in hurtful ways.  Both she and her father were in need of redemption.
  • Both abused and abuser adopt an approach to life…for better or worse.  That approach to life will eventually have more to do with current reactions to abuse than the abuse itself.  Though Disney, like Travers, had a difficult childhood and a difficult parent, his approach to life focused more on what life could be than on what life had been.

These important truths that can remind us that:

  • How we view life has as much to do with our current focus as our past experiences.
  • Both those who have been hurt and those who hurt others are in need of redemption.

The movie is called “Saving Mr. Banks,” but it points out that most everyone is in need of redemption.

If you want to take this to another level…

Scripture tells us that whether a victim or a victimizer…we’re all in need of redemption.  (Rom. 3:23).  Scripture also tells us that God desires to take the bad we’ve experienced and redeem it.  (Gen. 50:20) (Joel 2:25)  And Scripture tells us that there is One who has entered our story to redeem both us and our past, and that One is Jesus.  (John 10:10)

Is there a part of your life that needs redemption?  

Copyright © 2014 Bret Legg

2 thoughts on “Mr. Banks Was Not the Only One Who Needed Saving”

  1. Great article….”Both abused and abuser adopt an approach to life…for better or worse” is such a true statement! It runs along side with insanity..doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. We tend to succumb to an approach to life that is sometimes not healthy but easier for us to operate within than facing change. It’s hard and, hard for ‘more emotional healthy’ folks to remember when trying to help that homeless by choice guy who chooses his perceived freedom over what we believe as normal living. Yes, that homeless by choice guy needs help with change for a healthier lifestyle but all of us do, but many fail to recognize it. That’s why redemption for all is powerful!

  2. I watched the movie and wrote out my own views before reading yours. I missed the redemption part for her father. Oops. The movie was almost like taking a bullet, but worth it. Thank you for suggesting it.


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