The Greatest Showman & The Brainwashing of the Modern Soul

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:]

19 thoughts on “The Greatest Showman & The Brainwashing of the Modern Soul

  1. That was a very interesting post. To be honest I haven’t seen it yet nor really heard of it. But I’ll be cautious. Interacting with our kids and talking about the messages our culture puts out there and the subtle and not subtle untruths it hides is VERY important.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, Lydia! Such an important and necessary post! Thank you so much for being courageous enough to write the truth so faithfully and so well. I used to have a movie review website where I often shouted the unpopular truth about trendy films, so I know the risks involved in following God’s call to do that. I’m certain I would’ve said the same thing you’re saying about this film. Thank you for being the voice of truth in the darkness in this high-risk battle zone for the hearts of Christians and our children!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We watched this recently out of curiosity, Justin had read some similar critiques as yours. We actually didn’t even really like it just as a movie, but we walked away with the same thoughts. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s unintentional, it’s the anthem of our day.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reading this post and wondering if you have heard of polycystic ovarian syndrome? This disorder is very common amongst women (the estimate is as much as 1 out of every ten females) and one of the most lamented symptoms is growth of male-pattern facial hair. Although these syndromes have many other terrible issues — cystic acne, painful or no menstration, infertility, male-pattern baldness, insulin resistance, and accompanying depression — the ability to grow a beard is particularly taboo and horrifying to most women. Many of these ladies who suffer from PCOS are Christians who hold very specific beliefs about gender being simply male or female. They deal everyday with trying to remove facial and body hair; shaving, plucking, waxing, even going through painful procedures including electrolysis (inserting a tiny filament and burning the root of each individual hair). All of this — tiring, expensive, and even degrading — in an effort to be more feminine and to feel less of a freak show.

    With this in mind, imagine seeing a woman with a beard singing a song about being yourself. Imagine wondering what it would be like to not have to hide something you didn’t choose that gives you deep shame and anguish? Imagine wondering if anyone would love you if they knew your embarrassing secret?

    Now imagine being told that others dislike the image of a woman with a beard because it reminds them of a political agenda that 100% has nothing to do with you? That a bearded woman — who could be YOU if you didn’t shave twice a day and lather on makeup — is, by appearing in a feminine outfit, clearly singing in a feminine voice, trying to convince people it’s ok to have sex reassignment? This is just not so.

    I don’t think you are a bad person. I don’t even think you’re trying to be unkind, Lydia. But your lack of knowledge about other women’s circumstances and your desire to ferret out any bad thing makes this post unintentionally cruel to women who struggle with natural hormone imbalance, especially other Christian women. Please think carefully about this when you see a woman with facial hair and transgender choices are the first thing that enter into your head. Not everyone is out to push an agenda on you — least of all a woman who suffers from an actual syndrome and is just trying to live her life without pretending.


  5. Lydia!! I’ve missed your blog. So glad that I’ve finally found you again through the #tellhisstory link-up. This is a great article! I have to admit that I saw this movie, enjoyed it and even recommended it, but after reading your article, I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve shared this on FB. Keep up the good work. This blog is a God send.


  6. I have not seen the film but have read much about it. I appreciate your thoughts shared here. We need to be more mindful not to get caught up in the hype or good feelings of a film, but look deeper into the hidden agenda or lies being conveyed. We must do this not only for the sake of our own souls, but for the sake of our children. Blessings!


  7. Hi Lydia,
    I noticed that you published other comments, but not mine about the state of polycystic ovarian syndrome actually being very common and not having to do with a transgender agenda. If you are uncomfortable considering that point of view, I hope at least will look into what this syndrome is and how common. Here is a video about a woman who was actually the inspiration for the bearded lady character on TGS.


    1. Thanks for stopping back by! I hadn’t published your comment yet, as I wanted to take the time to read and respond, and I haven’t had a chance! I will try to get to it sometime this week, so thanks for your patience!


      1. Hi Lydia, thanks so much for taking the time to look! I think you will find it is an interesting and complex syndrome. I myself suffer from severe effects from PCOS and I think that is why I feel very strongly about it. Hope you had a great weekend!


  8. Hi Lydia,
    My heart goes out to Concerned and I thank you for sharing about her experience. I have certainly learned from her. Sadly, I think there are many people with different situations that don’t feel acceptance in the body of Christ for various reasons and it is good for us to learn about what people go through so we can share the love of Christ. Having said that, I like how you (Lydia) so eloquently put into words the feelings I had about the film. This film was shown at my daughter’s school and she came home feeling uneasy. I have not seen the movie, but I have watched the trailers and read reviews about it. Even though the film does teach a message of acceptance of all people, I do think there is more to it than that. At our daughter’s school, she came home one day saying there are 3 or 4 genders. She explained that one of her friends said she had seen a pregnant man so it was a fact. I did some research into this and found that this “man” was actually a woman who had surgery and hormones treatments. I also showed her where one guy in California wants to pass some sort of legislation recognizing 15 genders. Once culture accepts more than 2 genders, it is a slippery slope. You are spot on about your perceptions related to this being a time when gender line are not clear. My daughter came home one day saying that :”Scout” of “To Kill a Mockingbird” is “trans” because she was a tomboy and she played with boys. We then had to deal with that and how being a tomboy or playing with boys does not make a girl “trans.” You certainly are right that kids these days are growing up in a society where gender lines are not clear. At my daughter’s school, there is a young man who is confused. He has influenced the other kids to read teen books written by a “trans” person. This book is highly acclaimed, but one parent reviewed it as glorifying confusion and suicide. Some at the school were trying to validate the feelings of this young man and in the process, violated the freedom of religion and freedom of speech of the families and students of faith. So, I have been dealing all year with the effects of trying to raise a child our modern culture where gender lines are not clear. I have no doubt that this movie promotes acceptance of people with differences and I have no doubt that this movie is also promoting a subliminal agenda. I have been in a cult and I knew they say to share “milk before meat” which means to share something that people can accept. In the cult, they taught persuasion techniques to their missionaries. I have no doubt that there is more to this movie than meets the eye and I can’t understand why more people cannot see this. My heart does go out to those who suffer from health issues and I do hope this movie helps them find more acceptance. Yet, at the same time, I think we need to pass on to our children Biblical views of gender and etc. Thank you, again, for your blog. I think you have a high level of discernment and are articulate to express it well. May God bless you and your ministry.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Lydia, Thank you for your prayers. The kids and teachers can present the cultural worldview as fact, but by God’s grace our daughter had a solid Biblical foundation and she has learned to weigh what teachers and kids say from a standpoint of absolute Biblical truth, not the ever changing world of relative truth.We are thankful to God that she has learned to stand strong in her faith and is being a light to those around her. Thank you again for your prayers and for sharing the subtle undertones of what this movie teaches.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hey Lydia. Interesting article! Although, i have to wonder: Where do you draw the line between ‘brainwashing’ and ‘change / development of mindsets through art’? Even if you are right (which i DO think you are), *why* would it be wrong to promote acceptance of trans people, and most importantly, why does that scare you? Surely as a christian you’d want them to feel accepted and loved too! It’s about time we get rid of old, toxic mindsets. Hope you stay open and really rethink this take!


    1. Of course I want them to feel accepted and loved as human beings. There’s a difference between accepting trans people and accepting transgenderism. I think the movie is seeking to do the latter. Thanks for your comment.


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