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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Laughter Excursion

Laughter is an important element in Mary Poppins, it occurs at three specific places during the movie, and its appearances signal the different stages of van Gennep’s (1908/1960) rites of passage—separation / liminality / incorporation.  George himself, surprisingly enough, is the first person in the Banks household to laugh.  Just after he hires Mary Poppins, Winifred asks George whether Mary will be everything that they hoped for. Replying that he does think that Mary will work out, George surprises himself, and laughs, while joyfully grabbing both of his wife’s hands—most uncharacteristically.   This represents a break or separation from George’s old routine way of being. 

Although Michael does chuckle when Bert mimics a tightrope walker at the park entrance, the next time of actual laughter is during the visit with Uncle Albert, and the “I Love to Laugh” song.  This song shows laughter’s liminal side, and the song appropriately takes place in mid-air. 

The next time we hear laughter, it is again George who laughs.  After being dressed down and "sacked" George begins to laugh; he is “cracking up,” literally and figuratively, his old way of being is no more, it has become brittle and broken, and dies, releasing him to a new way of being.  Still laughing, George tells a joke to the bankers on his way out.  The elder Mr. Dawes, in a delayed reaction, gets the joke and laughs wheezingly, and then floats up to the ceiling.  We later find out that he died laughing.  This last laughter at the bank is liberatory.  Now let us take a longer look at laughter and see what it is all about.


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