Let me be the first to say that I don’t get excited about musicals. In fact, when my family saw The Greatest Showman in the theaters they went and saw it without me. I didn’t end up catching the film until I was stuck on a 10-hour long flight from Chicago to Poland with little else to do. I watched it because my ten-year-old daughter begged me to watch it sometime. I must unashamedly admit that I was blown away. It was impossible to not be swept away by the storytelling, the characters, and the soundtrack. Promise you won’t tell anyone, but I even have the soundtrack downloaded on my Spotify playlist.
Let’s start with what these posts are not. This post is not going to be a commentary on whether P.T. Barnum, the actual person, treated people affected by disability with kindness and respect. There are plenty of history books out there that cover this topic. These posts are also not set to convince you that The Greatest Showman is a Christian film.
Blog Series Themes
This blog series will look at the themes within the 2017 movie The Greatest Showman and specific lyrics from its soundtrack. The Christian themes within the film are undeniable. Themes like restoration, a celebration of the uniqueness of humanity, pride and being humbled, social justice, empowering people to be who God created them to be, forgiveness, and so much more. I believe that truth can be found in many places if we are open to seeing it.
It is hard to ignore the lack of success that P.T. Barnum experienced in his early attempts to get his museum off the ground. It wasn’t until his daughters challenged him that we see a turning point in the movie. Helen said, “You have too many dead things in your museum, Daddy.” Caroline followed up on this statement by saying, “You need something alive. Something sensational.” P.T. Barnum responds, “That’s a big word.” Caroline answers back reminding her father, “It’s your world.”
What is ironic is that the “sensational” things that P.T. Barnum finds to bring his museum “alive” are people. People that Jesus classified as “the least of these.” As Matthew 25:40 states:
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
People who were viewed as different or disabled were hidden away in P.T. Barnum’s society. They lived in shame and fear. They were seen as weak. The weak throughout history have always been viewed as disposable and of little to no value to society.
Whatever the true motivation of P.T. Barnum this is not how he viewed the soon to be stars of his show. It was the castaways, the disposable, the weak, that P.T. Barnum empowered to take center stage. He wanted to challenge his society to view them differently.
It is hard to not think the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:22.
On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.
Did P.T. Barnum understand this truth? I don’t know. I do know that, in the film, it seemed that P.T. Barnum embraced and empowered his cast of performers. This would communicate that either consciously or subconsciously he understood something about this truth.
What About the Church?
The greater question might be does the Church really understand this truth? Does the Church view the “least of these” and the “weak” as “indispensable”? Does the Church embrace and empower the people that our society rejects and hides away?
Stay tuned to this blog series!
All "The Greatest Showman" name, lyrics and images copyright Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.