'Mary Poppins' censored in Britain: now banned for unaccompanied minors


By John

The famous Disney film “Mary Poppins” from 1964 underwent a change in classification in Great Britain following the controversy that arose due to the “presence of discriminatory expressions”.

The film, which had an initial “U” classification which indicated it was suitable for everyone, was redefined as “PG”, a code which suggests viewing by minors accompanied by an adult.

The decision was made after the UK body found the use of “an obsolete and offensive term, previously accepted, now deemed inappropriate” for children without an adult.

The change reflects updated discrimination guidelines from the British Board of Film Classification, which has reconsidered the film for a theatrical re-release in 2024, emphasizing growing sensitivity towards discriminatory language and its impact on young viewers.

The offending scenes:

The song “Jolly Holiday”: During the song, chimney sweeps are depicted with their faces painted black and with a caricatured accent. The BBFC considered this depiction to be an offensive racial stereotype.

The scene of the red Indians: In one scene, Mary Poppins and the children visit a fantasy world where they meet some Native American Indians. The BBFC regarded this portrayal as an offensive and patronizing cliché.

The suffragette scene: In one scene, Jane and Michael Banks' mother attends a suffragette rally. The BBFC considered this scene to be an example of sexism, as the mother is portrayed as an angry and irrational woman.

Criticisms of censorship:

The BBFC's decision to censor Mary Poppins has attracted much criticism. Some people have argued that the censorship is an act of hypocrisy, as the film is set in a different era and reflects the attitudes of that time. Others have argued that censorship is a way to deprive children of the chance to learn and discuss important issues such as racism and sexism.

The BBFC's response:

The BBFC has defended its decision to censor Mary Poppins, saying the film contains content that may be offensive to children. The BBFC also said its decision was made in line with its film rating guidelines, which require films containing “discriminatory language” to be rated “PG”.