An exposition of how “The Greatest Showman” touched our hearts and gave us a vision for our lives.
I’ve been watching this movie for a month straight with my kids and listening to the soundtrack since Christmas. I saw, along with most of social media, the audition tape where the cast performed in front of movie executives to green light the project. “From Now On,” was the first that I saw, where actor Hugh Jackamn wasn’t supposed to sing because of a medical procedure on his sinuses, or nose…or something. He was so inspired by the casts performance, he ends up giving the vocals his full strength. If you didn’t know Hugh could sing, you know now. This is just one song of many that carries an accessible tone to any viewer with heartfelt lyrics that inspire you to make a change. Even if that change is a change only in perspective.
I love watching movies and asking the questions about why the movie makers made the movie the way they did. Why did the writers tell their story in the specific way they did? Why did the director share their vision with the chosen shots they filmed? Everything placed in a movie is very intentional, hardly ever an accident. With that premise in mind, everything has meaning and purpose in a film. I love hearing from the writer’s words or from the directors vision, what they think the purpose of their masterpiece is when it is embedded in the film. There is one line in this movie where the writers make it loud and clear their purpose of why they have labored over the words and descriptions of each and every scene from beginning to end.
When P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) is talking with one of the many antagonists within the movie, the newspaper critique James Gordon Bennett (Paul Sparks), tells Barnum that his show was ultimately about “the celebration of humanity.” Of course he himself passively says that only “some” critiques might say, true to his firm stance that he did not see the show worth his stamp of approval as a critique. However, as a person, in his humanity and conversation with Barnum, he lifts him up with three specific and meaningful words. We find the writers carefully placed these words after the climax of the story and became our first move towards a resolution. Barnum’s visionary masterpiece that burned to the ground had accomplished something, celebrating what makes us human.
At this point in the movie, Barnum has lost everything, his dream, his investment and his family. Mr. Bennett, the one man Barnum has been trying to impress, a father replacement so to speak, admits that he doesn’t care for the actual act itself but did find meaning and value in what it meant for others. The character of the critique, I think, really plays the part of our culture. Our culture should be able to see past differences and find what unites us. We can disagree on what we consider to be of quality or worthy of our time or enjoyment but we can always find a greater purpose that it serves. Finding a transcendent truth within any story is what makes the best stories resound within all of us. The irony for those who dislike this movie is the exact point the writers are making. You are the critique, the reporter or journalist of this movie. If you fail to see the overarching message than you have failed to grasp what the writers and creators were trying to express. You don’t have to like it, but can you see it for what it is, a celebration of humanity?
Now let’s apply this to our culture and society. When we come across a critique, can we take the things they do not like, have their dislike of something simply be seen as a preference or difference of opinion without hate in response? Hugh Jackman’s character took his critique as a challenge to do better, to be better and work harder. Can you do that with your critiques, or do you just get angry and yell back? Words are simply words, it is action that reveals the character. Which is why I ultimately find the work ethic in this movie to be commendable and a direct reflection of what the American dream is supposed to be. Something you work for, something that starts off in your imagination but by your sheer willpower, you work hard and start to put shape and form to your vision.
The movie itself, accomplishes the very mission given to the characters. Can you make something out of nothing? Can it be different yet accepted, careful yet risk taking, funny yet emotionally strong and lastly personable yet a grand spectacle of human imagination. It quit literally was the “stuff dreams are made of.”
To wrap up the movie, the Greatest Showman taught us that:
- It’s okay to dream
- You must take risks
- Singing along the way helps
- Other people will judge you
- We should not respond with hate
- We are allowed to defend ourselves
- Tragedy is inevitable
- How you respond is what matters
- Forgiveness is a necessity
- Everyone needs family
You don’t have to like musicals, but if you don’t enjoy the art of a musical I would challenge you to find your art. If anything else, learn to stop and allow your imagination to drive around every once in a while.
Philippians 4:8 (ESV)
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.“
In Truth & Love