P.T. Barnum: The Hero of The Greatest Showman

Released on December 20, 2017 and directed by Michael Gracey, The Greatest Showman received a Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie: Drama. Family-friendly and rated PG, children and adults may enjoy this movie.

The musical film tells the story of P. T. Barnum who rose from poverty to create the worldwide sensation of the circus. The story aims to celebrate the creation of show business and the importance of outcasts. Hugh Jackman plays the role of P. T. Barnum the founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. The film highlights that anyone can easily create happiness through determination and confidence. Barnum himself explores the issue of overcoming times of financial difficulties and unhappiness. He loses his job as a clerk after the company goes bankrupt. Barnum perfectly exemplifies that when he puts his best foot forward, one reaches great success. As he becomes successful with the birth of show business, he was able to have a great career and a happy family.

The imaginative and colorful musical brings together a star-cast of Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Zac Efron, and Michelle Williams, among others. The purpose of the film is to demonstrate that all humans have a meaningful place in the world regardless of any quirks or flaws. The director attempts to encourage the audience to conquer today’s society that tells people to meet certain beauty standards, social norms, and a high economic status. By disregarding the negativity, we can stand up for ourselves and acknowledge everyone’s differences. Barnum’s dream is to give a wonderful life to his wife, Charity Barnum, and his two daughters. As P.T. Barnum fights to grow out of poverty, he created the American Museum, which showcased that traditional morals can be changed through imagination.

Barnum presented bizarre live animals with hoaxes such as a conserved monkey’s head attached to the preserved tail of a fish. He ultimately transformed this museum into a circus. Some critics dislike the film because they believe Barnum exaggerates the circus outcasts’ afflictions. Haters of the film also believe it is a wrongdoing for characters to criticize the relationship of Zendaya, African-American star, and Zac Efron, who is white. While other reviews condemn the film’s purpose, I believe the message is appropriately presented. I hummed along to the songs during this film. Further, I resisted the desire to dance to the empowering songs during the show. I felt impacted to dream big and plan goals for the new year.

After seeing this show in December 2017, I wrote New Year’s Resolutions to work for success. I now always work for success rather than dreaming. In 2019, the main message of the musical is still prevalent because many people still hide their flaws rather than embracing them. It is key to create an open dialogue, so all outsiders can comfortable with their oddities. When turning the museum into a fantasy circus, Barnum gathers multiple outcasts and “freaks” in society, to attract a huge audience. By bringing together a bearded lady, tattoo man and dog boy as some of the characters, the musical movie portrays how everyone is an independent, unique person and anyone is good enough to belong in the world.

However, critic for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers, writes “Review: ‘The Greatest Showman’ Is ‘a Shrill Blast of Nothing.’” Peters denounces the film and says Barnum is credited with the expression, “There’s a sucker born every minute” (Barnum 1). Even though Travers finds fault with the film’s message and disregards Barnum as a hero, I have opposing views. When Barnum asserts, “No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else,” I feel inspired to continue going out of my comfort zone. After a successful show, Rebecca Ferguson tells Barnum, “A man’s station is only limited by his imagination.” I now always remember that my imagination can take me far in life, and I believe most children may share similar feelings from his empowering words.

Charity Barnum speaks to her husband as he continued to receive praise for the show. While Barnum started to lose track of the importance in life, Charity says, “You don’t need everyone to love you, just a few good people.” I connect to this message because no one goes through life with being loved by everyone. As Barnum takes out a large loan to buy a museum in downtown Manhattan, his children suggest making the museum come alive. The song “Come Alive,” delivered by Jackman and Williams, conveys an exhilarating chorus. I felt my toes tap dancing. I felt majestic and in an imaginative world when they sing “And you know you can’t go back again, /To the world that you were livin in,/ ‘Cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open.” I enjoyed this chorus because of its sheer joy.

The musical showcases its subject is about wanting to feel welcomed and accepted. The freakish characters spent a great deal of time hiding because of their physical abnormalities. Most people feel like an outcast in their life at some point. The film also revolves around major prejudices between the wealthy and the poor. Barnum separates the characters from the wealthy people in the circus. He tells the bearded lady, played by Keala Settle, she isn’t good enough to be with wealthy people. Many people believe Barnum is not the hero in the movie because his path to fame started by misusing an enslaved woman.

So, Settle gloriously leads the song, “This Is Me.” The lines “I am not a stranger to the dark” encourages the audience to know regardless of how the world may perceive someone, everyone’s quirks bring importance to the table. The line “I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be. This is me!” encourages the audience to be their authentic selves. Embracing differences and facing obstacles are integral aspects of humanity. Regardless of race, economic status, religion, or sexuality, embracing differences is crucial to creating an inclusive society. While other critics do not see Barnum as the hero, I perceive him as a great leader who created the circus. Moreover, I give credit to Barnum for inspiring numerous children to chase their dreams and for encouraging outcasts to embrace themselves.

The Greatest Showman teaches me I am enough and to dream big because the film celebrates outsiders. In today’s day and age, many people struggle to be their true selves and feel they are “not enough”. My personal favorite song, “A Million Dreams”, is sung by Barnum to his future wife Charity Barnum. Barnum explains that with his confidence and hard work, all of his dreams will come true. This particular song impacted me, especially the lines “Every night I lie in bed,/ The brightest colors fill my head,/ A million dreams are keeping me awake.” Whether I have ever felt not smart enough, tough enough, or skinny enough, I learned to turn my insecurities into my strengths.

Everyone can thrive as much as all other humans regardless of their flaws. I also learned that with strong confidence, not only can I accomplish my dreams, but I can make smart decisions. As I strive to serve as a confident leader, I observe what others can do and encourage them to be their best selves.

The musical was an effective and enjoyable experience because of the inspiring true story portrayed by an exuberant cast, upbeat songs, and heartwarming message. When the abnormal people come together to perform in the circus, I felt empowered to make a significant difference in the world. The tightrope that Zendaya flies on made me feel I could turn all of my goals into achievements. I saw this movie when I was 17-years-old and felt triumphant exiting the theatre. At the end of the movie, my friends and I clapped and stood up; the experience was almost as if we were in Broadway. Shortly after, I listened to The Greatest Showman soundtrack on repeat for several months. This movie teaches self-love, and every song shares a positive message. Moviegoers of all ages may feel the urge to dance in the rows of the theatre.