“Saving Mr. Banks” Erases P.L. Travers’ Queer Identity, Misses Amazing Opportunity for Representation

I love Emma Thompson. She’s beautiful, an ardent feminist, a longtime ally of the LGBT community, and even, some would say, something of a gay icon. Practically perfect in every way. She’s been popping up in the news a lot lately for starring in movies, winning awards, making amazing speeches and perpetuating an enthralling bromance with Meryl Streep. So I was a bit taken aback to hear what she had to say on the subject of queer erasure in her latest film, Saving Mr. Banks.

Here’s the movie trailer:

Widely released at the end of December, Saving Mr. Banks is based on the true story of author P.L. Travers‘ experiences while working with the Disney team on the adaptation of her novel, Mary Poppins.

P.L. Travers as a young actress, 1924.

P.L. Travers as a young working actress, 1924. Here she was dressed for the role of Titania in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

In real life — and in the film — Pamela Travers was an unconventional woman. But unlike the onscreen depiction of an uptight English homebody who seemingly turned her nose up at America, the real Travers was actually an adventurous, widely traveled woman who had previously lived in New York and in New Mexico. She did not despise children, and in fact she had an adopted son and would invite child fans into her house for lemonade. Most importantly, she did not live as a solitary, sexless spinster; over her lifetime she had romantic relationships with both men and women. Sometimes, she even wrote saucy erotica inviting readers to imagine taking off her undergarments.

Travers was a member of The Rope, a group of mostly lesbian writers who studied under a guru. She wrote in her diary about her off and on tempestuous relationship with Jessie Orage, known for wearing trousers and smoking in public. And Travers actually wrote Mary Poppins while she was living together with Madge Burnand, in a decade long relationship that Travers’ hyper-discreet biographer begrudgingly described as “intense.”

Aside from the quick flash of an obscure book in Travers’ library, there’s no hint of any of this in the film.

Movie Travers had some silver feather charms on her bracelet links and a vaguely southwestern ring featuring a black sunburst — a subtle but nice touch. Real life Travers reportedly was fond of wearing Native American turquoise and silver bracelets "stacked up each forearm like gauntlets."

Movie Travers had some silver feather charms on her bracelet links and a vaguely southwestern ring featuring a black sunburst — a subtle but nice touch. Real life Travers reportedly was fond of wearing Native American turquoise and silver bracelets “stacked up each forearm like gauntlets.”

Instead, Saving Mr. Banks ruminates over Travers’ troubled childhood in Australia and her battle to maintain her (rigid) sense of dignity and artistic vision during a two week trip to Walt Disney Studios. The movie is charming and Emma Thompson, per usual, makes for an utterly endearing misanthrope. However, I have to question the decision to gloss over Travers’ queer identity.

In an interview published in The Advocate on Thursday, Thompson reasoned,

You can’t fit everything about a person’s life into two hours. Like when we made Carrington, which did address homosexuality, we didn’t include stuff about Dora Carrington’s relationships with women because it would’ve looked like she’d literally gone bed-hopping her entire life. Besides, Saving Mr. Banks is about a woman’s creative, artistic life. It’s a relief, quite frankly, because when is a movie about a woman not about her love life?

In the film, Travers fights to keep Bert from being portrayed as a romantic interest. In the books, Bert is a groupie and Mary Poppins is characterized as strident and plain looking, which some read as butch.

In the film, Travers fights to keep Bert from being portrayed as a romantic interest. In the books, Bert is a groupie and Mary Poppins is characterized as strident and plain looking, which some read as butch.

Thompson makes an interesting point. And to some extent, I agree — it is refreshing to see a woman on screen who isn’t an object of desire… if they’re straight. The thing is, we live in a heteronormative world where everyone is assumed to be straight until proven otherwise. Choosing not to represent queer women (and especially their love lives) isn’t new, and it isn’t a relief.

As GLAAD explained in its 2013 Studio Responsibility Index report,

When minority characters are marginalized or made invisible within these films, it not only reminds those being underrepresented that their social position is less than, but also makes it more difficult for the majority to see them as part of that film’s reality as well as a valid part of our own. … Movies reflect the world we live in, while also showing us where we came from and the endless possibilities for where we could end up. It’s important that Hollywood acknowledges that LGBT people are an important part of our society’s past, present, and future through the stories that they tell.

In Thompson’s remarks, she alluded to the fact that the film is not about Travers-the-person, but about Travers-the-artist, and the very specific period of time in which she was working with Walt Disney Studios on the film adaptation. Which is fine. But surely they could have found a way to tell this story without erasing Travers’ queerness.

In 2012, Walt Disney Pictures released 14 films. Only one had any detectable queer representation (out MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts playing himself while reporting on an alien invasion in The Avengers). Via GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index.

In 2012, Walt Disney Pictures released 14 films. Only one had any detectable queer representation (out MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts playing himself while reporting on an alien invasion in The Avengers). Via GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index.

Just off the top of my head, I can think of multiple ways Travers’ queer identity could have been represented without derailing the existing plot. They wouldn’t even need to hire another actor. For example:

  • When the lawyer is trying to convince Travers to take action to bring in some money, have him mention that she should think of her partner’s needs.
  • When she fires the maid, have her reply that she’s going to appeal to Travers’ partner.
  • When she sets up the trinkets that she brought from home, include a photo of Madge Burnand or Jessie Orage.
  • During one of the scenes where Travers stares longingly at the hotel bar, have a woman catch her eye and send her a drink (which I imagine Travers would refuse, but still — that would read totally queer).
  • When Disney visits Travers’ home in the end, show evidence that she lives with another woman.

I could probably think of five more without breaking a sweat, and I bet you could too. (Ooh, could we gender flip Screenwriter Don to Screenwriter Dawn? So much tension there!) I mean, maybe they aren’t all great ideas, but I’m sure those genius screenwriters at Disney could have come up with something if queer representation — or at least, avoidance of queer erasure — had been a priority. But it wasn’t.

Movie poster for Saving Mr. Banks

In my mind, to fail at LGBT inclusion in fiction is to have a failure of imagination, a lazy lack of understanding concerning the world outside of one’s self. To intentionally choose to tell a story about a real LGBT person and then exclude their queer identity is a failure on an entirely different level. It’s perverse. It doesn’t matter whether the intent was malicious or not; the damage is still done.

While I don’t think that Emma Thompson meant any ill will to LGBT people by her remarks or participation in the film, the end result is yet another piece of work upholding heteronormativity and contributing to queer erasure. It may be too late to fix this one (as Disney told Travers at the Mary Poppins premiere: “the ship has sailed”), but it’s never too late to get the message out for next time.

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Laura Mandanas is a Filipina American living in Brooklyn. By day, she works as an industrial engineer. By night, she is beautiful and terrible as the morn, treacherous as the seas, stronger than the foundations of the Earth. All shall love her and despair.

Laura has written 82 articles for us.

33 Comments

  1. Thumb up 11

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    I’m torn on this one. I agree in that I think it’s important to show non-heteronormative configurations. My disagreement falls when I begin to think about how that might change the way that certain viewers see the film. Putting an emphasis on sexuality tends to place an emphasis on sex as opposed to the person. Unfortunately, a significant portion of the population of America hasn’t gotten over that jump. I think it almost has more of an impact if the audience finds out later as opposed to it being put in their laps. Then again, that promotes the idea that those of non-heteronormative sexualities should hide. It’s a very complicated issue and I imagine was a difficult decision to make if it was really thought out.

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      I agree with you, Katy. I’m also torn. There’s a part of me that thinks a person’s sexuality should be a non-factor. However, there is so few realistic depictions of those who are not heteronormative. I think several Laura’s suggestions that hint at Travers’ sexuality would have been sufficient. Her sexuality doesn’t need to be the at the forefront of the plot, but it is an important detail.

  2. Thumb up 10

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    This reminds me of the BBC three episode mini series on the life of Lord Byron. The only hint the viewer ever gets of Bryon’s bisexuality is in the 1st episode where Byron is seen kissing a random man(this before the viewer even knows it’s Byron). The rest of the mini series then follows all his “great loves” all of which are female. It’s incredibly depressing considering that the man he loved, John Edleson inspired a huge chunk of his poetry. Edleson’s death inspired an entire Canto Childe Harolde, one of his most famous poems. Getting rid of a persons sexuality in order to cater to an audience is wrong and offensive.

  3. Thumb up 14

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    i think they took the easy way out. mary poppins for me is tied intensely with memories of my childhood, i remember movies like bed knobs and broomsticks. i mean movies that i could watch with my age mates as well as my too cool for school older brother and sister. I feel like they thought if any queer content were to be included, a whole bunch of nostalgic homophobes would get all up in arms. Arguing that even this innocent hollywood treasure had to be corrupted by the “gay agenda.” everybody wants to act like all of sudden being gay is a new phenomenon, a fad that people are getting into because society is falling by the way side. the whole point of the movie was to talk about the extraordinary talents of those involved but apparently that otherness is up to a point. if i wasn’t a reader of autostraddle i wouldn’t know this queer history and thats makes me mad and sad……and also thankful that you wrote the article.i mean if asking for awesomely written gay characters and stories in movies and tv is too much then surely the least we can get is the truth about lives.

  4. Thumb up 9

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    As I was reading this, I was thinking, “But how could they subtly represent her queerness without derai–” AND THEN YOU ANSWERED THAT. I’m liking that we were on the same wavelength there, and that you had super clever suggestions.

  5. Thumb up 3

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    I would have to agree with Thompson on this one. However, I feel I am a bit biased. As a screenwriter it is very difficult to pick and choose which bits and pieces of a person you are going to represent, especially if depicting a real person. Although I agree that we are much too deep in a heteronormative society, I don’t think this particular film was the time to touch on her queer habits. I don’t think it would have ruined the film, but I also don’t think it would have necessarily added to it either. The film was about what prompted Ms. Travers to write Mary Poppins and that happened to be her childhood, specifically her relationship with her father and his death. The idea of saving Mr. Banks at the end of the film is a tribute to her father whom she couldn’t save in real life. The idea and theme behind this particular story didn’t much lend itself to representing her queer identity. Hope I don’t get my queer card taken away for this one.

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      Bearing in mind that I haven’t yet seen the film, I agree with your sentiment. From what I have seen/read, they’ve not hetero-washed the character, just not included any of her romantic life, as it presumably was seen to be superfluous information…I think that the problem is with society’s heteronormative stance rather than the portrayal of Travers in the film.

  6. Thumb up 18

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    What strikes me about Emma Thompson’s quote is that it really cements the idea that queer identity is solely about sex. It’s basically, “We can’t talk about her life with another woman, because then the whole movie would be about her romance, and people would think about all the lesbian sex she was having instead of how she was a funny misanthrope.”

    And while some people do view being gay solely as having same-sex sexual partners, for many of us it holds significance in a million ways having relatively little to do with sex. When we erase Travers’ sexuality, we aren’t allowing her to become a more fully realized woman, unburdened by a preoccupation with her sex life. We’re stripping what was clearly (based on the biographical details Laura wrote above) a huge part of her identity. Hell, even her love for Native American jewelry got a slight nod. Were the producers not worried that suddenly all we’d have was a movie about a woman who was crazy about turquoise and silver? A photo of a woman she shared much of her life with wouldn’t have disrupted the plot any more than did the ring and the bracelet.

    • Thumb up 12

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      Yes, yes, yes. I get the point that our society is still so caught up in what queer people do with their genitals that it might have “distracted” from the main point of the film, but that’s not good justification for their choice to erase Travers’ sexuality, ESPECIALLY if she had a son and a female partner at the time the story takes place.

      The filmmakers were not required to give Travers a sex scene or a kiss or even, like, a romantic scene at all. They could’ve just showed her as being MORE than a spinster with a maid; they could’ve showed a short scene, without needing to overly explain it, which showed that Travers lived with a woman who wasn’t her maid, and raised a child with her. (I might be wrong on this timeline, feel free to correct me if I am.) Some people would’ve connected the dots, others might have thought “is that her sister?”, and still others might have gotten curious enough to Google it later and find out that P.L. Travers was actually queer.

      Because here’s the problem with thinking it’s not relevant: there’s a lot of articles being written NOW about how Travers is misrepresented, which is great. But ten years from now, when someone catches this movie on TV and are presented with this sanitized story, they’re not going to see and read anything else which contradicts the idea that Travers was this cold loveless spinster who despised children. Not knowing she was queer utterly reduces this person. There are a lot of fascinating things to be read into Mary Poppins (female solidarity, flouting convention) when you know it’s by a bisexual woman who was in a group with other female writers.

  7. Thumb up 7

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    Loved this! Well-written. Also, what Natalie (above me) said. Yes yes to all of this. I had no idea that the real-life person based on the character was (or could have been) queer and man, I really feel like I would’ve connected with her better had they hinted at that. It was a great story but I wanted a stronger personal connection to something emotional in that film and it just wasn’t there for me.

  8. Thumb up 13

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    Disclaimer that I love Emma Thompson deeply and I get where she’s coming from when she talks about how refreshing it is to see a story about a woman who’s neither a wife or a mother, but… all I see (from reading reviews, not watching the film, admittedly) is that they’re replaced WIFE AND MOTHER with daddy issues. How is that any more progressive?

    I see this a lot, this utterly misguided idea that a representation is feminist if (and only if) the female character is not a love interest or has any interest in babies. (This usually ignores intersectionality too — sorry, but it’s not progressive to erase a real-life bisexual woman’s queerness. Ever.) So there’s a lot of praise heaped on female characters who are neither mothers or love interests, but instead I notice that a lot of these same characters end up being heavily characterized in relation to their father or a father figure. It’s the SAME THING in the end — it’s all about her relationship to a man.

    And if we’re going to go there and claim that this movie is about Travers-the-artist and not Travers-the-person, then doesn’t it seem like a travesty that they’re rewritten her crying in the theater to be about her daddy issues, versus her crying because her intellectual property has been basically taken from her and misconstrued?

  9. Thumb up 3

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    Haven’t seen the movie yet but you make very valid points about the erasure of her queerness and while I agree with Emma Thompson that it’s refreshing that the movie doesn’t focus on her love life but rather on her artistic achievements, all your subtle suggestions about how to allude to her queerness without derailing from the main plot, are spot-on.
    But I mean, are we actually surprised the movie didn’t make any references to her being queer? This is produced by Disney after all. I’m sure they’ve whitewashed the unsavoury bits about Walt Disney’s character as well.

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      Personally I am somewhat surprised there weren’t even any subtle references, because Disney is a pretty queer-friendly company in a lot of ways. I mean, in a few days they’re airing a new episode of Good Luck Charlie with a lesbian mom, so that’s pretty cool. I think with Disney we’re kind of taking one thing they’re giving us and expecting they’ll continue on that route, and when they don’t it’s pretty disappointing. I know they’re a huge company with tons of producers for all their different media, but it sucks to be excited about one thing and disappointed about another. :(

  10. Thumb up 0

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    I honestly cannot believe I just read this, not only on this site, but several others which are spewing the same sickening garbage. This is not a biographical film detailing the life of the author. This is a story of how the author begrudgingly sold rights of her CHILDREN’S book to be made into a film by a CHILDREN’s film creator. Eight-year olds are seeing this film with their families, as they saw Mary Poppins in the 60’s, also with their families. So between 1963 and 2014, when the hell did it become important and necessary to disclose adult sexuality in children’s literature and film? If Travers was alive today, I’m pretty damn sure she would say the same. Kids today don’t stand a chance with parents who support the garbage that this article promotes. It is sad and sickening. Thanks for ruining a beautiful film.

    • Thumb up 20

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      Eight-year-olds are seeing this film with their families, who may be the heteronormative “traditional” family or who may be a family of two mothers or two fathers or a single mother or a single father. Never was there a tasteless suggestion of “adult sexuality” in this article. No one asked for woman-on-woman sex, or even kissing. Just the acknowledgement of Travers’ real life, actual, historical involvement with women. Disney cartoons from the 1960s onward have more “adult” sexuality than was being requested with most of the films ending with a heterosexual kiss.

      I don’t expect someone who stumbles on a girl-on-girl culture site to immediately realize that what you’re saying is actually way more harmful to children than what the author of this article is requesting, and maybe you’re so “traditionally” minded that nothing can change your mind. But please read the article over if you must, and realize that at no point was the author requesting anything dirty on-screen. If you think that acknowledging an actual person’s sexuality is a problem, maybe you should take that up with Disney who a.) made Mary Poppins into a film to begin with and b.) made this film with the knowledge that Travers was not heterosexual. If that’s the problem you have (which seems pretty likely given the tone of your comment) that’s something you need to take up with yourself.

    • Thumb up 21

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      Finally, someone who understands why Disney films are such a travesty for our children! If we let them watch The Little Mermaid, we’re going to have to explain to them exactly where Prince Eric is probably going to stick his you-know-what after the wedding, now that Ariel’s got legs.

    • Thumb up 17

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      You created an account on here to troll?

      If not, here’s my reply. Having hints of Traver’s bisexuality is thinking of the kids. It is thinking of the queer kids who might be afraid to be who they are because of the pressures in society to be cishet-normative, it is thinking of the kids who have two mothers or two fathers or non-conforming parent(s), it is thinking of the kids growing up in cis-het families in order to teach them about homosexuality so they don’t grow up to become homophobic bullies.

      If Traver’s was alive today & says the same thing you are saying, then she is erasing her own sexuality, which I highly doubt she would.

  11. Thumb up 3

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    Like most of the other commentors here I’m torn, because I definitely think there should have been at least an allusion to Travers’ sexuality. However… I don’t know if there’s *anything* that would have satisfied me to be quite honest. Being so involved in fandoms of varying media has kind of exhausted me for the moment on allusions to sexuality. On one hand, I don’t want there to have been a huge to-do about Travers’ involvement with women because I’m so tired of queerness = what we do with our downstairs bits, but on the other hand if it’s too subtle then I’m sitting there at a holiday dinner arguing with my family about the allusions and what they mean and everything dissolves into tears because “you can’t trust Google for everything, dear.”

  12. Thumb up 12

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    My problem wasn’t so much that queer relationships or love were missing from a film where they could’ve easily been included; it was the absence of queer domesticity, I guess? I think that the pointed neglect they showed to her orientation, partners, and child is telling. Mr. Disney got to mention his wife, the Sherman Brothers mentioned their kids, but Travers, whose house we actually went inside, was made to be a cold, single woman – a spinster. It’s especially telling in a story in which Disney tries to get her on his side by constantly invoking the will of his children and the promise he made them – basically leveraging his identity as a father and a family man. To make Travers into the prim, haughty, sexless spinster is to do her a disservice, to turn her into a caricature for the purpose of the story (and perhaps the glorification of Walt Disney) when in fact it’s not true; if they posit, in a way, that she’s simply missing the joys of family, of whimsy, of childhood, of love, but the film does so by way of willfully abstracting from the story the people in her life that she did love at that period in time, it becomes wholly inaccurate and unfair, and I’d say diminishes the story so that it can become pro-Disney propaganda. And knowing Disney and their willingness to kowtow to the wishes of the Bible Belt, or to be as inoffensive as possible, I’d say that even if Travers’ female partner or adopted son did play an enormous role in the story, they’d find some way to sanitize it. That’s on them, whatever, but it certainly strengthens the aura of propaganda surrounding the whole thing, and I think we, as a society, have a predilection to excuse beloved entities like Disney when they neglect the presence of queer people, because, “People aren’t ready for it,” “It’s for kids/families,” “they NEVER do that,” “it had nothing to do with sex/love.” Which we should definitely STOP DOING ENTIRELY, but also I think we’re kind of falling into the trap of thinking that queerness is all sexual and that its only entry point into a story is through a romantic entanglement. But regardless, that film made me so angry on multiple levels, I can’t even begin to single out one issue.

    • Thumb up 10

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      Yes. Absolutely. When they’re saying that Travers’ love life isn’t relevant to the plot, they’ve already shot themselves in the foot because partners and children were TOTALLY relevant to the heterosexual male characters.

      Like, it would be one thing if they just did not bother to portray Travers’ personal life at all and focused on her creative war with Disney. But to portray her as a miserable spinster??? That is active erasure, not just “focusing on different aspects of her life” or whatever.

  13. Thumb up 2

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    This is a tough dilemma. All I can add is that I remember finding the original books an enthralling combination of entertaining and scary (I’m a big fan of the “Alice in Wonderland” books for the same reason.) I’m thrilled to find out that Travers was queer– perhaps the best way to honor that is to read her books and forget the sugary Disney crap.

  14. Thumb up 4

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    I am going to be in the minority here. I loved this movie, I am excited to hear P.L. Travers was Bi and had long term relationships with women and an adopted son. I also completely agree with Emma Thompson’s comments and feel her sexuality had no place in this movie and to add any mention of it would have taken away the beautiful story.

    It’s a story about fathers and daughters. It’s a story about healing the past, it’s a story about accepting and integrating what happens to one as a kid. It’s about using art to share the most intimate and deepest parts of us and then being brave enough to let them go and let others interpret them as they see fit. It was not a movie about sexuality, it was not a time period where people of either gender openly talked about and discussed such things. (Walt talked about his kids, not his wife) And if this movie accurately portrayed her childhood and her motivations of using her childhood in part or whole within Mary Poppins to heal her childhood and what she felt was a major failure of her life, she was not a woman who viewed her sexuality as the more important thing about her, at least not in this time of her life.

    To allude to her sexuality in this movie would have turned me off and I’m part of this community. It simply would have been out of context. We are all complex beings more than any one thing in our lives, this was a movie about two weeks in P.L. Travers life, not the whole.

    I’m saddened that instead of celebrating a movie written about a strong woman standing up to the most powerful man in entertainment in the 1960’s no less, it’s become about the exclusion of her sexuality which had no bearing on the story whatsoever.

    But then again maybe that’s just me. I would rather celebrate how empowering this movie was than focus on something it wasn’t and never should have been.

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      You’re right in that the movie shouldn’t have been all about her sexuality because that’s not what the story was about. But the problem isn’t that they just hid her attraction to/domestic partnership with women, but that they actually took a real person and changed their personality and attributes to avoid losing their core audience. Disney makes movies for the “all american family” type viewers so to include mention of any of their characters as homosexual would cause them to lose money. Disney has always been this way. I am not surprised at all that they would use their power to retell history in a twisted and inaccurate fairy tale. Take a look at all the disney classics and you’ll notice a pattern. But it is sad because it just reinforces the idea that gay people aren’t in need of representation in mainstream media.

  15. Thumb up 2

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    The plot thickens: Apparently Focus on the Family has been running trailers before the film in Texas. And a friend says a lot of similar trailers came on when she saw it.

    I wonder if that’s related. If either Focus on the Family et al. bought ad space in anticipation of a coming fight over P.L. Travers’ sexuality that never materialized, or, conversely, if that sexuality was toned down specifically to appeal to people who might appreciate Focus on the Family trailers.

    Also, if the sexuality was cut to market it to anti-gay audiences, would that change your opinion of the film?

    • Thumb up 1

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      There are so many reasons why movies in Hollywood are made the way they are, with the number of influences myriad, so I’m not sure one can sort out why this or that decision was made. To try to figure those things out are often, unbelievably, beyond even the makers themselves (MPAA ratings decisions being one such mystery). I think that when one is dealing with anything but Indie films, there’s really nothing to do except try to bring as few expectations as possible and hope that what you see is at least entertaining. That’s what I’ve come to, anyway. I don’t get my history, nor my emotional support, from Hollywood movies.

  16. Thumb up 0

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    I’m no more upset that they didn’t include details of her sexuality any more than I am they left out details of her role as a mother.

    That they make no mention of either aspect of her life, should just make what Thompson said even more clear–that they were focusing on the creative struggle between this woman and the juggernaut that was Walt Disney. Not telling the P.L. Travers biography, but more specifically the behind-the-scenes story of how a particular film came to be made, and including some details of the author’s early childhood that might have informed that particular work.

    This film is more about Mary Poppins and how the character & Disney movie came to be than it is about P.L. Travers.

  17. Thumb up 3

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    I read somewhere (don’t remember where so can’t link, sorry…) that Travers was extremely private in nature, and didn’t like to disclose much about herself. So it wouldn’t be in keeping with her character to have someone mention a partner. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they couldn’t have worked in some other subtle clue.

    I wouldn’t feel bothered by this if I agreed with Ms. Thompson about why they chose to leave out her sexual orientation, but I kinda suspect it had less to do with that and more with the usual straightwashing.

  18. Thumb up 3

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    Honestly, the film fails Travers in a lot of ways. While as a bi viewer, I dislike the missed opportunity for bi representation in a major film like this one, they also whitewashed a lot of the events on which the film actually focuses. More or less, they took a story of a woman who fought for her artistic integrity against a large corporation that wanted to distort her work into something she didn’t like, and ended up caving only because she desperately needed the money, and turned it into a story about a curmudgeonly old woman who just wasn’t feeling the *throws sparkles* Disney magic. It almost makes selling-out into a morally-superior thing and it’s really kind of gross, in a world where huge corporate conglomerates rule everything, and where women are still underrepresented in the movie-making business.

    That said, Emma Thompson’s quote reminds me of this post: http://kuunakullanvalkeana.tumblr.com/post/69744164666/straight-women-who-keep-derailing-discussions floating around my Tumblr dash. I know Thompson herself, from other things she said, seems to have a commitment to avoiding roles where the woman is oriented around her relationships with men, which is part of why I respect her so much – so I think her comments here are just cluelessness, not hypocrisy. But in general I wish that straight feminists wouldn’t always turn on the “we want less women who are all about relationships and romance!” complaint when we’re specifically talking about queer female representation, when we’re talking about a group that is in fact, UNDERrepresented. In fact, relationships between female characters in general, regardless of the nature, are underrepresented! That’s why the Bechdel Test makes no mention of a woman being in love with a man, just only interacting with men in general.

    And that shows how, apart from how heterosexist the complaint is, it’s missing the point because the romance isn’t the problem. It’s the patriarchal power structures that are the problem. As that post says: “So what if your well-developed female character has some of her storyline centered around… another female character? You probably end up with two strong female characters instead of just one. Again, the problem is not that women are seen as dependent on their love interests. The problem is that women are portrayed as inferior to and dependent on men.”

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    I’m a bisexual woman, and I feel we are the orphans of the queer community–no one wants to represent us, and if they do it’s usually in a very hyper-sexualized way, as though all we do is leap into bed with anyone at any time (a point of view I’ve even seen expressed in these very pages, along with “I don’t really believe in bisexuality”), but in the case of Travers, I actually do agree with Emma (and not just because I absolutely would jump into bed with her, anytime, anywhere!). But she brought up Carrington, which is about Carrington’s devotion to Lytton Strachey as well as the many loves and lovers she had, and it annoyed me that in that case, the women she bedded were ignored entirely.

    That said, it would have been nice to see, as you suggested, a photograph of her partner at home, which would have meant nothing to anyone but those of us in the know. It would have been a subtle, non-threatening way to include what was a huge part of her life. I get that Disney is not necessarily the studio to go to when you want inclusiveness, at least not yet, but there is no such excuse with Carrington. Sigh. At least there are, currently, two bisexual characters on mainstream TV (that I know of); Kalinda on The Good Wife, and Nolan Ross on Revenge. And in both cases, their bisexuality isn’t a big deal–they just live their lives without anyone going, “Who is s/he sleeping with this week?” in an outraged tone. This is a small gift, but I’ll take it.

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