The Greatest Showman vs Reality: A Contrast

“The Greatest Showman” is a musical film that tells the story of P.T. Barnum, a man who revolutionized the entertainment industry in the 19th century. The movie has captivated audiences with its catchy songs, stunning choreography, and heartwarming message. However, as with most biographical films, “The Greatest Showman” takes some artistic liberties with the story of P.T. Barnum. In this article, we will contrast the movie’s portrayal of Barnum with the reality of his life, highlighting the discrepancies between the two.

The Greatest Showman: An Epic Spectacle

“The Greatest Showman” is a visual masterpiece, with extravagant sets and costumes that transport audiences to a magical world of wonder and imagination. The film portrays P.T. Barnum as a charismatic and ambitious man who rises from poverty to become a great showman, creating a spectacle that captivates audiences and earns him fame and fortune.

Reality: The Dark Side of P.T. Barnum

While Barnum was undoubtedly a showman, the reality of his life was much darker than what is depicted in the movie. Barnum was known for exploiting “freaks” and marginalized individuals for his shows, often lying about their backgrounds and perpetuating harmful stereotypes. He was also involved in racist and xenophobic activities, including promoting the idea of eugenics and supporting the forced sterilization of Native Americans.

The Greatest Showman: A Musical Fantasy

One of the most significant departures from reality in “The Greatest Showman” is the way in which the film portrays Barnum’s life. The movie presents a romanticized version of events, with Barnum portrayed as a noble hero who overcomes adversity and achieves greatness through his talent and hard work. The film’s musical numbers add to this fantasy, with catchy songs and elaborate choreography that turn Barnum’s story into a fairy tale.

Reality: The Exploitation of “Freaks”

The reality of Barnum’s shows was much less glamorous than what is shown in the movie. Barnum’s circus featured individuals with physical abnormalities, such as bearded women and Siamese twins, who were put on display for the amusement of audiences. These individuals were often mistreated and forced to perform for long hours in uncomfortable conditions. While some performers did achieve fame and fortune, they were still subject to discrimination and ridicule from the public.

The Greatest Showman: A Story of Inclusion

One of the central themes of “The Greatest Showman” is the idea of inclusion and acceptance. The movie portrays Barnum as someone who believed in giving a voice to marginalized individuals and providing them with a place to belong. The film’s message of acceptance and celebration of diversity has resonated with many viewers and has been praised for its positive representation of marginalized groups.

Reality: The Marginalization of Minorities

While “The Greatest Showman” promotes the message of inclusion and diversity, the reality of Barnum’s life was marked by his involvement in racist and xenophobic activities. Barnum was a vocal supporter of the American Anti-Slavery Society, but he also supported the idea of eugenics and promoted the forced sterilization of Native Americans. He also perpetuated harmful stereotypes about minorities in his shows, including portraying African Americans as savage and uncivilized.

In conclusion, “The Greatest Showman” is an entertaining and visually stunning movie that tells the story of P.T. Barnum in a romanticized way. While the message of inclusion and diversity is admirable, the film’s portrayal of Barnum’s life diverges significantly from reality. The reality of Barnum’s life was marked by his exploitation of marginalized individuals and his involvement in racist and xenophobic activities. While it is important to celebrate the achievements of historical figures, it is equally important to acknowledge their flaws and the harm they may have caused.

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