Mary Poppins screengrab

A US academic has accused the classic feel-good film Mary Poppins of "blacking up" the face of Julie Andrews with soot in a scene in which she dances with chimney sweeps.

Professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner penned a piece for the New York Times called Mary Poppins and a nanny's shameful flirting with blackface in which he criticises a famous scene in the film, when Mary Poppins dances with Dick Van Dyke's Bert on the rooftop to the song Step in Time.

He writes:

When the magical nanny (played by Julie Andrews) accompanies her young charges, Michael and Jane Banks, up their chimney, her face gets covered in soot, but instead of wiping it off, she gamely powders her nose and cheeks even blacker.

This might seem like an innucous comic scene if Travers' novels didn't associate chimney sweeps' blackened faces with racial caricature. "Don't touch me, you black heathen," a hosuemaid screems in "Mary Poppins Opens the Door." (1943)>" 

When the dark figures of the chimney sweeps Step in Time on a roof, a naval baffoon, Admiral Boom shouts, "We're being attacked by Hottentots!" and orders his cannon to be fired at the "cheeky devils." 

We're in the 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.

His words have been met with a mixture of agreement and vehement denial.

There are those who agree that the scene has racist elements

Others think the academic is reaching

What do you think?

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