It was the talk of the town, the city, and the world. I had heard grand and glorious things, and some dear friends were going, so I went. The theater was filled with excitement and anticipation, families with young children, fans returning for the fourth and fifth viewing . . .
I watched the show, and it was enchanting! The sights, the sounds, the music, the grandeur. An impeccable performance and quality likening back to films of the olden days. Not only that, it was inspired by an historical account, and that fact alone typically scores pretty high points with me.
But I walked away from The Greatest Showman greatly troubled. As much as I attempted to enjoy what has arguably proven to be one of the greatest musicals of all time, my heart was undeniably filled with more sorrow than delight.
Yes, the scenes were masterful, and many moments were uniquely profound and powerful. Most surprisingly, strong family values were present, as P.T. Barnum learned the importance of investing in his family over his career and even chose to be faithful to his wife instead of responding to the advances of the famous Swedish singer.
Such a great family film! And there they were – the men and women, boys and girls, taking it all in.
I couldn’t help but wonder if this shiny new attraction with its mesmerizing soundtrack could be one more sly attempt to brainwash the modern soul.
First, let’s chat about the bearded lady. One of the many “freaks” employed by Barnum, the bearded lady is historically a staple of the carnival experience. It is a rarity for a woman to grow a beard, but she is rightly viewed as a woman nonetheless.
. . . in an age where gender lines are clear.
But we don’t live in such an age any longer, and so the bearded lady becomes, at least, a point of confusion for vulnerable, impressionable eyes who just yesterday observed the emergence of the “pregnant man.” While biologically, the bearded lady is the victim of a rare, hormonal disorder, outwardly and visually, she fits transgenderism to a T.
I am not a stranger to the dark
“Hide away,” they say
“‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts”
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
“Run away,” they say
“No one’ll love you as you are”
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
from “This Is Me,” sung by the bearded lady
But perhaps the inclusion of the bearded lady is perfectly innocent. She’s a prominent character, and her plus-size chest, bursting out of her dress and plastered across the giant screen, is enough to make one barf and promptly throw one’s husband out of the theater.
But let’s say we overlook the bearded lady, and consider instead one of the major underlying themes of Barnum’s story . . . supported, of course, by a superb soundtrack.
Think about it. Barnum employs a host of misfits: people who, for various reasons, aren’t accepted by society. They’re looked down upon, made fun of, treated with contempt, and found to be the victims of discrimination. But in the end, Barnum’s little troupe finds acceptance and praise.
This is huge, as it is the primary message being heard around the world: Be who you want to be. And it is brilliantly subtle, because these misfits are simply who they are, not necessarily who they want to be . . . which just so happens to be the other developing philosophy of today’s culture: Embrace who you really are.
If you want to be a man instead of a woman (or vice versa, or any other combination, or marry multiple partners or an animal or inanimate object), do that! Be that! Because really, that’s who you are on the inside. So, let it go, put it all out there, embrace your inner self, and don’t let anybody tell you differently. There are no rules. Truth is what you make it.
Intentionally or unintentionally, it’s there. Just check out the lyrics to the catchy tunes your children are singing.
We can live in a world that we design
You may be right, you may be wrong
But say that you’ll bring me along
To the world you see
Take the world and redefine it
Leave behind your narrow mind
And I can cut you free
Out of the drudgery and walls you keep in
So trade that typical for something colorful
And if it’s crazy, live a little crazy
You can play it sensible, a king of conventional
Or you can risk it all and see
from “A Million Dreams,” “Come Alive,” and “The Other Side”
At worst, the writers were hoping to push an agenda. At best, worldly philosophy is accidentally and quite naturally dripping from their pens and drawing boards. (And why should we expect anything less?)
Regardless, the young minds who will shape our tomorrow are being served a grandiose display of lies, and it seems even those with the best parents are unawares. I’d like to think the Christian families celebrating the show and dousing themselves in the soundtrack every waking moment are ones who, as per usual, had a lengthy conversation post-viewing with age-appropriate children such that their little intellects are working overtime to critically evaluate and fight every long lost word their brains consumed. Somehow the viewing numbers and the replays and the box-office receipts and the enlightened smiles of pure obsession tell me otherwise.
A more likely story is that these Christian parents have, themselves, been brainwashed. Immodesty, perversion, and a complete and thorough godlessness were just paraded in front of them with such glamour, and blasted through their ears into their minds and hearts with such prose, they didn’t even notice. They enjoyed the consumption of well-delivered scenes and mind-blowing talent and even a marriage restored, yet unknowingly drank in a dumpster-full of soul-damning garbage.
How I pray that I am wrong. How I pray that The Greatest Showman was genuinely crafted to promote determination and resolve, a celebration of unique design and incredible gifting, and the restoration of broken relationships. How I pray that’s as far as it goes.
But I fear the devil has another thing in mind. And it is my prayer that, however Christians choose to respond to this film or any other, they would be compelled to weep over the lies that would threaten to destroy, fight for the hearts and minds of their children, saturate their souls with sin-spurning Scripture, and declare truth and righteousness with urgency until Jesus comes.
Walk as children of light, for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true.
(See Ephesians 5:1-21)
[image credit: unsplash.com]