The Greatest Showman Points to Heaven

The Greatest Showman Points to Heaven
I was hesitant to see “The Greatest Showman” as were a lot of people. I don’t really know why. I have always had this negative subjective experience with the Circus. I remember enjoying it as a kid, but I think somewhere along the line when the show “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” came out in the 90’s I inherited this disdain for the odd and disfigured. I don’t mean to say that a woman with facial hair made me view the human person as less, but I questioned whether it was right to put it on display. I guess that is the point of Ripley’s. Believe it or not! It felt more of a hoax rather than something real I wanted to connect with.  Somehow I had passed this emotion on to the Circus in general. Freaks, oddities, and the unimaginable. So when I saw the trailer for the “Greatest Showman” this urge of not wanting to be duped came up. However, I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the film despite my past experiences, bad critic reviews, and inaccurate portrayal of P.T. Barnum. 

This is a review on the film, not on Barnum’s life. There are many things that Barnum did that I do not agree with, and some statements he made that I see eye to eye with. The film is loosely based on his life, but portrays something of the spiritual that I want to point out. It is worth exploring as the entire film brings to life the biblical story of the Prodigal Son in an entertaining and beautiful way through musically intense joy.

Faith, Hope, and Love
The film displays faith, hope, and love through the eyes of Phineas Taylor Barnum, who was a poor son of a decorator. He grew up desperate to rise above his status, a fault that would lead him astray on the journey of the prodigal son, but also virtue that created in him an ethic of hard work and showmanship. 

The song “A Million Dreams” sets the scene for the faith he has in himself, the hope for a better future, and the deep love for his wife and children, his greatest success. This was not enough for him as he continued to find fulfillment elsewhere in the world. After being dismissed from his job he convinced a bank to loan him money to purchase a museum. He filled it with things that people had never seen before, fake things, but no one came. He ventured out into reality, looking for people who he could bring out of the dark and put on display for entertainment as visualized through the song “Come Alive”. 

This is when “The Greatest Show on Earth” was born. 

Barnum put so much of himself into his show; his passion for theatrics, love for the crowd, and his belief in the human person. The show became a sensation with attractions like the Irish Giant, the Bearded Lady, multi-racial acrobatics, exotic animals, and the small general Tom Thumb. From the perspective of the show, Barnum exaggerated the facts to keep the crowds coming in, but what he built was a home for people who were seen as outcasts. All of this he built on mere faith, hope, and love...and charisma. 

Prodigal Son 
The well-know prodigal son story is about a son who squander’s his entire inheritance after abandoning his family. Barnum does the same thing when he puts all of his money into a nationwide tour of European opera singer Jenny Lind. He leaves behind his “hoodwinked” circus to give the world something real, Lind’s melodious voice and charm. He abandons his wife, daughters, partner, and circus family after taking out an extensive loan to make Lind’s tour happen. This was the prodigal son separation; believing that there was more to life waiting for him out there in the world then what was actually in front him. Lind’s haunting pop ballad “Never Enough” is the perfect anthem for Barnum’s inner searching. 

Then it all comes crashing down. Lind leaves the tour due to Barnum’s refusal to sleep with her, orchestrating a public kiss that goes viral. His wife takes the kids and goes back to her father, someone who Barnum personally loathes because of his high social status. The entire circus is set on fire by protesters losing the museum and all of the animals. This is the lowest point Barnum. The prodigal son is sleeping in the pig stables realizing how much better he had it back home. The song “From Now On” replaces “Never Enough”, a new anthem in Barnum’s heart. It echos the prodigal son’s confession. 

The Prodigal Son’s Confession
How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.

Barnum’s Confession
A man learns who is there for him when the glitter fades and the walls won’t hold. Cause from that rubble what remains can only be what’s true. If all was lost there’s more I gained because it led me back to you. I drank champagne with king’s and queens and politicians praised my name, but those were someone else’s dreams, the pitfalls of the man I became. For years and years, I chased their cheers a crazy speed of always needing more, but when I stop and see you here I remember who all this was for. 

From now on, these eyes will not be blinded by the light. From now on, what’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight. Let this promise in me start, like an anthem in my heart...from now on. 
And we will come back home again! (Repeated until you want stand up yourself and join in)

Barnum doesn’t walk home, he runs now. Desperate to fix his mistakes he no longer hesitates in his failing self-confidence, but springs into the fountain of humility seeking forgiveness for his reckless behavior. He is welcomed back by his wife who reminds him that he doesn’t need to be loved by the world, but by a few good people. 

A Celebration of Humanity 
Some call heaven a wedding feast, but it’s also the greatest show. A show that is not put on for someone to watch, but to gather people from all of humanity to join in because that’s what joy is called to do. 

The music in this film seeks to promote joy. It is fast, intense, upbeat... it keeps moving. Life keeps moving. Life is fun, energetic, and engaging. It awakens the soul even when we are in our darkest moments. God calls us out of the dark and wants to put us on display as a reminder of who we are as human beings. We are beautiful. Made in His image and likeness, meaning our very bodies speak of who God is, no matter what distinctive qualities differentiate us.

At the end of the film, a critic tells Barnum that he never liked his show, but the people always did. He said that the accomplishment of putting people of difference on stage as though they were equals is what he would call a celebration of humanity, something that points to heaven. In the end, we will realize that we were never mere viewers, but each have our own part in the greatest show. 

"A human soul, ‘that God has created and Christ died for,’ is not to be trifled with. It may tenant the body of a Chinaman, a Turk, an Arab, or a Hottentot – it is still an immortal spirit". P.T. Barnum

Previous PostOlder Post Home


Post a Comment