**Spoiler Alert!** This post interacts with the movie Saving Mr. Banks and gives a brief summary of the story and it’s plot. If you haven’t seen the movie, I recommend seeing it and revisiting this post. Thanks for visiting!**
That is how I would describe the character P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks, the movie documenting the story behind Walt Disney’s relationship with P.L. Travers while filming the classic movie Mary Poppins.
Ms. Travers, the author of the book Mary Poppins, was so negative, self-centered, and tight-fisted with the movie’s script that she would give the Grinch and Ebenezer Scrooge a run for their money.
On the surface, it appeared that Travers’ main issue was creative ownership over the movie and control of her beloved story. But that surface issue had deep roots in a painful past, which was unfolded in the rest of the movie.
Saving Mr. Banks starts out by showing the special relationship with her father Ms. Travers enjoyed as a girl. Her loving and charismatic father stoked her imagination by entering into imaginative worlds with a young P.L. Travers (or more accurately, her real name Helen Goff).
P.L. Travers’ Problem
It was clear that young Travers thought the world of her father and was traumatized by his tragic demise into alcoholism and his alcohol-related death. Even up to his death, he tried to assure Travers that everything would be alright and that he would be with her always–a promise P.L. Travers desperately wanted to be kept.
She never had the relationship with her father that she desperately wanted.
The movie cuts back and forth between the present events with Walt Disney and the Mary Poppins crew and the past events that shape P.L. Travers’ view of the world. The scars from her painful past, the inability to forgive herself, and the longing for everything to be made right again are the driving forces behind the harsh and critical spirit she showed in nearly every detail of the production.
When young P.L. Travers and her family face her father’s death, she eagerly awaits someone to come and make everything right, save her family from their problems, restore her relationship with her parents, and provide the “spoonful of sugar” that will make her bitter life easier to swallow.
The person who attempts that is Travers’ aunt; a determined woman with a large hat, mysterious bag, and magical umbrella; who promises to fulfill Travers’ hopes and make everything right again.
Initially for Travers, her aunt was her family’s savior.
Who wouldn’t want to believe someone who promises to fix all of your problems? As time went on, however, Travers realized her aunt could also never do what she promised.
Enter Mary Poppins
Travers created the character Mary Poppins to do what her aunt could never do: restore a right relationship with her parents and make things right again.
P.L. Travers treasured the idea of Mary Poppins because Mary stood for something greater. Mary was the one shining light in this world, one who could come and make everything right again, one who, unlike her father, would never leave her.
As nice as this sounds, constructing a fictitious savior to redeem from life’s problems only leads to disappointment.
Who P.L. Travers Really Longed for
From start to finish, I was riveted by Saving Mr. Banks for a number of reasons: the well-crafted story, the stunning visuals, a peek behind the scenes of a beloved Disney movie, but most of all how it made me think of Jesus Christ.
Several elements in the story made clear to me that if Travers knew Jesus Christ, the pain and bitterness of her life would have looked very different.
I doubt the makers of Saving Mr. Banks had Christianity in mind when making this movie. What they had in mind were the real and deep issues in life — issues that Christianity addresses in Jesus Christ.
- P.L. Travers’ childhood was ravaged by the destructiveness of sin: her broken family on account of her father’s drunkenness plagued much of her life.
- Travers longed for her father to always be with her as he had promised.
- Travers longed for a relationship with her father, to be able to look up to him, be loved by him, and live as she was meant to live.
- Travers longed for restoration for her broken family, for someone to make everything right again.
- Travers longed to be able to forgive herself for what she had done to contribute to her father’s demise.
- Travers longed for a savior.
All of these deep longings could have been satisfied in Jesus.
In His death and resurrection, Jesus addressed both our deepest hurts and humanity’s deepest problem (sin). While Jesus doesn’t promise to fix all of our earthly problems, He is able to give us hope for our deepest longings and pain and promise us restoration.
Jesus didn’t bring Travers’ earthly father back from the grave. Jesus went to the grave and rose again to give us the ability to call God our Father and to enjoy a relationship with Him.
Jesus alone can keep the promise to always be with us (Matthew 28:20).
Jesus is the one who can bind up the broken-hearted and set the captives free (Isaiah 61:1).
Jesus gives us all the chance to be forgiven of our sins, move on from a painful past, and look forward to restoration and a life free from pain, suffering, tears, and death (Revelation 21:4).
Jesus didn’t come in with a large hat, mysterious bag, and magical umbrella to save the world, He took nails in His hands and feet and suffered death on the cross so we could be forgiven, walk in newness of life, and await a future hope of glory, restoration, and perfection that are found only in Him.
I don’t know what ultimately happened to P.L. Travers or if she ever turned to Christ, but I do know that if she did, she would have found the true healing and restoration that she longed for so deeply.