“Let’s go see the circus movie!” I never thought those words could bring so much turmoil to my life.
Why? Because I absolutely, positively freaking LOVED every minute of The Greatest Showman.
Then I came home…and both enthusiastically and innocently typed “P.T. Barnum” into my google search bar.
I. Was. Horrified.
Who was this man? Certainly not the character Hugh Jackman portrayed. Hugh Jackman’s character wasn’t dark or greedy enough to organize a public autopsy of a deceased “side show” to prove she was 160 years old. (She wasn’t.)
I wrestled with conflicted emotions. I started reading Hollywood reviews and realized the critics were blasting the movie for rewriting history.
Why not just make the character “P.T. Barnaby” or something and written a beautiful fiction story about how we all WISH the circus got its start?
This movie is full of amazing messages. It’s about overcoming your past, breaking through society’s walls meant to keep the “lesser” out, true love, there being a place for everyone in this world, and on and on. It’s exactly the type of messages I want my children to hear, learn and live by.
But the vast majority of the critics don’t seem to see any of that…They’re completely, utterly determined to ruin this movie.
But here’s the thing…the critics PRAISED The Wolf of Wall Street.
That particular movie sent me searching the Internet for a completely different reason…I hated it.
It celebrated drugs, casual sex, selfishness and a host of other awful things. The “star,” was a man who stole from the working class. He didn’t just do things unacceptable by today’s standards…he did illegal things and destroyed lives.
And to make matters worse, that jackass waited until his “time” to repay those he stole from was up to release his book, make the movie deal, etc. So Hollywood was actively supporting his continued offenses to real, live families here with us today.
But the critics seemed to have no trouble looking past all of this. Neither do the cable networks who are now playing “modified for TV” versions of the movie – off which that jackass gets even more royalties.
Why is it okay for The Wolf of Wall Street to be a “funny, sensational, beautiful performance,” but the poor cast of The Greatest Showman is practically being told they should be ashamed of participating in the film?
It’s not. At least, not to me.
So, I’m not listening to the critics. I’m also not rewriting history. I did my research and I know the horrors about P.T. Barnun and how poor Jenny Lind is probably rolling over in her grave that the writers created a love interest with a man she despised.
I can know all of that and still love the movie.
I love the music. I love the dancing. I love the messages of love, hope and acceptance. And I can allow my children to enjoy and learn from those messages too, clarifying between what is real and what is imagined.
Did the real P.T. Barnum do horrible things: Yes. Did the real P.T. Barnum create a home for people previously shunned and shamed by society: Yes. Is it complicated: Yes.
Very few things in this world are simply black and white. And that’s a message I need to teach my children as well.
So. For anyone else feeling conflicted about The Greatest Showman, I’m emphatically saying it’s okay to love the movie and the cast without loving the man.
And why on earth did I even write this blog? I’m certainly NOT a film critic…I barely even go to movies (mostly because I want to laugh and Hollywood seems to be slightly obsessed with dark horror flicks). But it’s frustrating how many people are jumping on the critics bandwagon without even seeing the film and sorta making me feel like shit for supporting it. I figure I’m not the only one.
Per the movie’s anthem, “This is me.” I’m in love with The Greatest Showman and you can be too without being made to feel like a horrible person.
Much Love, H
Per my references to “the critics,” please know I’m obviously not referring to every single one. I’ve even found a couple critics bold enough to praise the film (you go!). I know there’s good and bad in all walks of life and blah, blah, blah. But Rotten Tomatoes shows The Greatest Showman score at 55 percent (failing) whereas The Wolf of Wall Street enjoys a 78 percent positive rating. And given both movies were about awful people, I believe the “reasons” some of the negative reviews have listed for why they hate The Greatest Showman are quite hypocritical.