Newt’s Suitcase, TARDIS, and Mary Poppins’ Purse

What do tase three objects have in common? Well, three things. They’re iconic fantastical objects, they contain more room than they appear to, and they are very British.

I have a theory about that. Why the British love characters who can hold a large world in such a small thing. You see, it’s a reflection on England itself.

Mary Poppins has a carpet bag that could fit anything inside it. Doctor Who has a police box that held a command center you can walk around in. Newt Scamander has a suitcase he can store large animals in.

All three are representations of the British anxiety of being a small island nation with a once vast, global empire.

Mary Poppins arrives to save the children, but really to save mr. Banks. With all the problems of Edwardian Britain, from child neglect to labor issues to women’s suffrage, Poppin’s purse is a satchel from which any solution can appear. England’s vast empire has, on the one hand, serious issues, but on the other hand, simple solutions, all because she can reach any corner of the globe and produce a product that is hers. Everything English arrives with gifts from afar, yet somehow feels like home. Mary Poppins is the reform of looking for magic from within.

tardis_bbc_television_centerDoctor Who possesses a powerful craft that can travel anywhere and contain infinite. Appearing as a police box, the TARDIS relates to the cultural feeling of security and control. The British navy used to own all the seas, and the British police used to have cute little boxes in the streets that made them seem omnipresent. They were what police cars are now, without wheels. England is a small country, but is “bigger on the inside” by containing the crown jewel of the world. And like the doctor, it never really dies. The British still like feeling that their little world contains multitudes, and remains mostly in charge of things.

Newt Scamander the beast-loving wizard who carries a suit with a small zoo within it. He keeps it safe from muggles in disguise of a regular suitcase. Again, the British like to contain the wildness of the rest of the world within their plainness, to access it and return immediately to the ordinary in time for tea. We like to have a country magically expanded. The British like to know where to find the fantastic, but at a safe distance. And of course, magic. The British ability to be common and produce such wonder is in itself magic.

These objects, which all seem small and common and contain an expansive and limitless world, are distinctly British. This paradox is a trait of English culture: we are small, yet hold a large world; we may have a large world, and yet are a small village.

This any many more interpretations we could pull out of the bag.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s