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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Archetypal Aspects at Play in the Movie

In the movie Mary Poppins, these different planetary archetypal complexes play out in the following ways.  Together Mary and Bert represent the Uranus-Pluto conjunction while George represents Saturn.  Mary is thoroughly Uranian and in trickster fashion upsets George’s established order.  She introduces self-organizing chaos into the Banks's home through the imaginal adventures on which she takes the children.  The children have been rebelling against the established order through playing tricks themselves and now have a new nanny.  Mary uses originality, surprise, disruption, reframing, change, and flying as part of her bag of tricks.  Mary is also rather aloof, another Uranian quality, and is a fierce individual.  Bert represents the more chthonic Plutonic part of the pair, being a chimneysweep bricoleur and all.  Bert brings his sweep friends into the Banks's home where they chaotically self-organize in song and dance.  Always ready with a reframe, Bert is a liminal figure, most often attired in black and he introduces the children to many different liminal worlds, such as the pavement pictures and the rooftops of London.  Bert is comfortable in darkness, and his healing is clandestine, and chaotic.  As previously mentioned, we can see some of Mary’s magic reflecting the Neptune in Scorpio dynamic, which is discussed further in the upcoming “Tricks of the Trade” excursion, in the ongoing themes section.  Winifred, as a suffragette also has a strong Uranian quality. 

Although specifically speaking about the Saturn-Uranus planetary archetypal complex, but applicable to others as well, Tarnas (1995) notes that this planetary archetypal complex can express itself in many ways, both internally and externally, physically or psychologically:

Archetypes cut across all experiential boundaries; they know no arbitrary limit such as those defined by the Cartesian-Newtonian universe.  If one is unconscious of an archetypal complex, it can emerge unannounced from within, as in disturbing psychological symptoms that upset the ego’s sense of control and equilibrium.  But equally likely is the tendency to project the complex’s energy outward and thus attract events or persons that fulfill the archetype’s character in the case of a denial of Prometheus, for example, accidents of various kinds, rebellious children who do not turn out the way one wants, spouses seeking greater independence, divorces, firings, upsets of all sorts.  In general, one feels constantly prey to unpredictable events which serve to make life unstable, chaotic, and continually challenging in uncomfortable ways.  [emphasis added] (pp. 108-109)

This is exactly what happens to George Banks.  His rebellious children are constantly "running off" their nannies and his wife is a suffragette.  George is so polarized on the Saturn end of the spectrum that he projects out the Promethean part, which he then encounters in world around himself. In doing this, he attracts the ultimate awakener, Mary Poppins, into in his life.  Until George integrates this Promethean principle he will be at the mercy of this tricksterish Uranian energy.  In the end, George does integrate these archetypal energies; he learns all of the Promethean lessons that Mary has been teaching the children, which we see when George has an epiphany at the bank after he has been fired.  When the Promethean impulse is consciously integrated, it can “engender what is often experienced as a revolution in consciousness, a sense of extraordinary existential liberation, mental and intuitive brilliance, enlightenment: Prometheus Unbound.  Prometheus is the channel for the creative impulse within in every psyche” (Tarnas, 1995, p. 113).  Mary Poppins represents this revolutionary consciousness, this Prometheus Unbound energy.

The Saturn versus Uranus-Pluto theme was also at play in other contemporaneous cultural pieces in the 1960s, where a Uranian trickster character comes to awaken a Saturnian situation and liberate others, causing chaos in the process.  The Sound of Music (Wise, 1965) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Hughes, 1968) are examples from the big screen, and Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie on the small screen, have an archetypally similar flavor.

In Mary Poppins, we see how little events can mushroom into chaos, when Michael wants to feed the birds with his tuppence, and his father refuses.  This fateful decision eventually brings about a bank run and almost costs George Banks his job.  During the 1960s chaos theory began when a similar small event blew up into large changes. Meteorologist Edward Lorenz was using a computer program to predict atmospheric changes in the weather. He was rerunning some of the data from the program, and as the computer was processing, he took a coffee break. When he came back, the changes in the results were so large that Lorenz thought that the machine must have blown a vacuum tube. In actuality, what had occurred was a small rounding error. The initial run had been calculated out to six decimal places but only reported back to three decimal places. So, when Lorenz input the shorter numbers into the program it led to very different results. The small rounding error caused a very significant change in the data, leading to chaos theory and the idea of SDIC, or sensitive dependence on initial conditions, otherwise known as the "butterfly effect."  [This was also discussed in the "Cosmic Game" chapter in the "Crash Course on Chaos" section.].  During the 1960s, similar occurrences happened in Watts and Detroit.  The riots in both of these cities initially began over small traffic violations, a real world example of the volatile nature of chaos. 

So now, let us turn briefly to the 1960s and see a few examples of these planetary archetypal complexes at play during that chaotic time.


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