Not The Greatest Show, man!

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Image courtesy of Irish TypePad via Flickr

The Greatest Showman felt like a bog-standard musical, it was happy and interesting and entertaining. The performances all round were commendable, the film certainly doesn’t lack in acting talent. But, all this being said there was one thing that ruins The Greatest Showman, and that is the truth of its origins of P.T. Barnum and his circus.

Of course, it is understandable that many aspects of Barnum’s circus had to be altered to suit the PG rating of the film, but it has to be asked why on earth did they choose Barnum’s in the first place? His life was certainly not PG as he conned and manipulated more than he entertained. There’s the whole issue of Barnum exploiting people instead of empowering them in by putting those with abnormalities and disabilities on display. Then there’s the ethnic stereotypes that he perpetuated and marketed. On top of all that there’s the abuse that animals suffered in his circus. It hardly paints the picture of a happy musical yet that is what we’re presented with.

What was possibly one the biggest disservices this film did was to Jenny Lind, the Swedish opera singer who in real life showed absolutely no romantic interest in Barnum, contrary to what the film would have you believe. In fact, the reason why she quit her tour was because she was tired of Barnum’s relentless marketing, which leads to the assumption that she didn’t particularly even like him. So for the film to take Lind, an extremely highly regarded opera singer of the time and paint her as little more than a jilted lover is unacceptable. She was a real person, with a career and talent, but after this film many will walk away thinking of her only as the other woman. Not to mention the fact that her big ‘operatic’ song sounded more like it was taken from the modern-day top 40s.

As far as the actual music goes it is fair to say that there were fairly high expectations given the fact that on almost every poster The Greatest Showman bragged featuring Academy award winning lyricists of La La Land. The music was enjoyable, if perhaps a little over produced in parts and not exactly fitting to the 19th century setting, but seeing as the title song ‘This is Me’ now holds a Golden Globe it is hard to argue that it isn’t good. Sometimes from a musical that’s all you need, uplifting and happy music and in this The Greatest Showman delivers.

Overall The Greatest Showman was an enjoyable, feel-good show, it’s only the real life story that quite frankly sucks all of the joy out the actual film. If what you’re after is a fun and fluffy musical where love predictably prevails then this hits the spot, so long as you remain unaware of its origins.