On the Greatest Showman

Hello, beautiful people! 
Last Friday, I finally went to see The Greatest Showman – it only came out on Wednesday in France – because I was curious: I had first been very excited to see the movie, then heard about problematic elements, but as I have an unlimited movie card, I decided to go and make my own opinion about this movie and oh my, did I have a lot of thoughts in my head when I left the theatre. I’ve been debating whether or not I should write a blog post about it, because it came out more than a month ago in the rest of the world and most people have already seen it, but well, that’s what blogging is for: sharing your opinions, the good, the bad, and to write about what you want. Let’s just address the elephant in the room right away: I have a very mixed opinion about this movie. 

What is The Greatest Showman about? 
Inspired by the imagination of P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business & tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation. [Synopsis taken from the video below] 

What I liked 
I’m going to ramble a lot during the second half of this blog post, but I have to confess that there were elements I liked in The Greatest ShowmanI totally understand why so many people are obsessed with it, so let’s start with the positive. 
The songs are absolutely amazing – I’ve been listening to the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman ever since it was released at the beginning of December and I’ve loved the songs from the first times I’ve listened to them. They were written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who also worked on the songs of Dear Evan Hansen (one of my favourite musicals) and wrote the lyrics for the songs from La La Land (and we all know that it’s one of my favourite movies). I think that the songs and most importantly, the musical numbers, are the best part of the movie and if it could have been made exclusively of them, I would have taken that. From the moment A Million Dreams started (and that’s the second song), I cried during every musical number, because the songs are THAT good. (Also, I really love Rewrite the Stars and I’ll be crying about it for a long time) 
The movie is so aesthetically pleasing – The musical numbers, the costumes, the production design, the cinematography… My eyes really loved watching this movie. Despite the problems I had with it, I have to confess that it was absolutely stunning and I didn’t know where to look, because I wanted to look everywhere. Like I already said, I loved the musical numbers, but they did such a fantastic job. Wow. 
The casting was on point – Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson and so many other amazing actors were in The Greatest Showman and they did a fantastic job (I only mentioned fivenames because those are the actors I already knew prior to this movie). It’s quite funny, because as I adore Hugh Jackman and would want to trust him, I was always torn between my hate for Barnum’s character and the fact that he tried to make him more relatable, which almost made me want to like him.  
*Daisy Ridley’s voice* I feel the conflict in you. It’s tearing you apart.  
The messages they tried to get through – This movie celebrates diversity, embracing who you are despite what society would want you to be. Those are great messages and This Is Me was quite an empowering song in that sense. I would have loved for them to go even farther into this, but sadly, there wasn’t enough time in the movie for that. 

Philip Carlyle and Anne Wheeler – It’s interesting, when you do some research on this movie, to discover that these two didn’t exist and yet, they had one of the best storylines. It is already established that I hated Barnum for many reasons that I will explain after, but Philip had such an amazing character development. He was a privileged, white able-bodied man who had everything and decided to invest in Barnum’s show. He truly found who he really was during the movie and he was so much more of a redeemable character than Barnum could have been. If we have to see the movie from the point of view of a privileged white man, I would rather have it from Philip’s than Barnum’s. 
He also had a romance with Anne, a trapezist from the show, and they used quite a few of my favourite romance tropes for them, so I was 100% there for it (highlight if you want to see the small /spoiler/ they touched hands and I almost fell off my chair). I have a little reservation though: they showed that their romance was frowned upon, but it felt more like they were saying it was because Anne performed in the circus, when it also was because she was bla
ck when Philip was white. They never said that clearly and I think that some of the audience might have missed the point with that (but I might be wrong). I wish that aspect of their storyline had been explored further, but other than that, I really loved them and 
Rewrite the Stars is perfect. 

What I didn’t like 
Before I start ranting about what I didn’t like: we’re all different and that’s just my opinion. I’m not saying that everything I write is the truth and no one should question it, I’m just talking about what I felt watching the movie and when I did a little bit of research on Barnum. Many people loved this movie and I’m so happy for them, really. If I sound a bit harsh, it’s because I really dislike Barnum and all my hate is directed towards him. 
The movie was too short for the plot to go in-depth – The thing is, this movie is 105-minute long. I should have been happy about that, because it meant I wouldn’t be bored, but in The Greatest Showman‘s case, I believed that it would have been way better for it to be longer. I needed more backstory on the characters to understand them more and it was filled with plot holes. Everything was rushed, because there were the musical numbers to consider and they’d be three to five minutes long (which I didn’t mind, considering they were my favourite part of the movie), but because of that, the plot was put to the side, in my opinion. It was all over the place and they couldn’t go in-depth.  
I would have loved to see Charles or Lettie’s points of view more. I would have loved for them to go in-depth about the racial issues when it came to Philip and Anne’s romance. We didn’t know Anne or W.D.’s stories and it bothered me, because Anne was such an important character in the movie. They tried to do so much with this movie, which is a good thing, because the idea behind it was great, but they couldn’t talk about everything and we stayed on the surface for most topics. I just needed more.

Once again, it’s just the story of a white able-bodied male saviour, when this movie was supposed to be about people who were different. – I am sorry, but this movie is just about Barnum creating the show, messing everything up, to be forgiven everything at the end of the day, because he gave them a family*. It’s the story of a man who thinks he’s different, when he truly wasn’t and just uses people who are different to get as much money as he can. The movie is told through his eyes, tries to present him as a man who helped people finding their places in the world and embracing who they really were, and that’s about it. I don’t care about him, I care about the secondary characters and they were the ones I wanted to hear the most.
If you want to make a movie about people who are different, why do you have to make it through the perspective of the white able-bodied man? WHY? Granted, This is me was an empowering song and I adore it, but even then… It’s just in reaction to Barnum’s behaviour. it truly made me sad, I so wish this movie had included more of the characters’ points of views and hadn’t been so much about Barnum ‘saving’ them, when he didn’t do such a thing. While we’re at it, I’d also like to point out that of course (I’m being sarcastic, I’m sadly not surprised by this), except for Sam Humphrey who portrays Charles Stratton (known on the stage as General Tom Thumb), none of the actors have the conditions of their characters. 
*Now, I realise that they weren’t accepted by society, that their families hid them away and that for the first time in their lives, they felt like they belonged and I’m very happy about that aspect of the movie. But it’s not because someone helps you at a moment in your life when you have nothing (especially to exploit you) that they should be forgiven everything. 
The portrayal of P.T. Barnum – Okay, I know what you’re about to say: ‘but this movie wasn’t historically accurate! They just used his name because he invented the circus!’ The thing is, that’s what I thought, at first. However, they used one of his quotes at the very end of the movie, right before the credits, so yes, it was about the real Barnum anyway. They also used quite a few details from his life (except that he didn’t come from nothing, they just wanted us to have empathy for him), so I’m sorry, but they didn’t just use his name: they romanticized P.T. Barnum’s life to make him sound much nicer than he actually was* 
Barnum bought some of the people he put in the stage, some of the performers were given by their parents at nine months old or four years old. Barnum mistreated animals, made people pay to see an autopsy on a slave he claimed to have been the George Washington’s slave (she was supposedly 161 years old), he was a conman and not the nice man the movie made him to be. I wasn’t completely sure I would ever end up posting this, until I had an argument with someone at uni who said: “but I don’t mind if they were enslaved/exploited, at least they got to perform” and I was completely shocked. True, the performers didn’t have a lot of options in their lives, but they weren’t treated well anyway and you can’t just igno
re that they didn’t completely come from their own free will.
In the movie, you see some moments where Barnum was ashamed of them and how he just wanted to use them to gain as much money as he could and didn’t actually care about them. In my opinion, the movie manipulates us into liking Barnum, because Hugh Jackman seems like such a nice guy and you want to trust him. I understand that The Greatest Showman is a musical, we want characters to be nice, to be redeemed, but I feel like I’ve been manipulated and I do not like that at all. I rewatched the trailer while I was writing this post and the way Barnum is presented is so misleading, it got on my nerves even more.  
*I am very aware that The Greatest Showman is fiction, but if it’s to romanticise the life of an awful man and make people like him, I can’t be there for it. 
Overall, I don’t think that The Greatest Showman was a bad movie per se, it had quite a few good elements and I genuinely understand why people adore it so much. However, I had so many issues with it that in the end, the more I think about it, the more disappointed I am. I think that I suffered from my usual history major curse and I was so sick to see the same overused tropes when this movie was supposed to be different. I’ll still listen to the songs, though, because I want to support the songwriters who worked on them and they were the best aspect of the movie. If you’re curious, I got most of my informations from all the links I put right below and once again, I wrote this to share my opinion on The Greatest Showman, we all think in different ways, we can’t always agree and that’s great!

To go further: 
Thank you for reading, 
Lots of love, 

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