This review is rated S for spoilers. This is your final chance to look away…
Ok, still with me?
Everyone seems to be watching this and listening to the soundtrack. My barista was flabbergasted that I hadn’t seen it. The youth choir I play for screamed excitedly when I asked them about it. Several of my friends fessed up to listening to the soundtrack nonstop. So, after the second week of it being out, I went to see it.
I have a few problems with it, and these problems are a major part of why you need to go see this movie.
In the movie, Barnum, in a last ditch attempt to make a living for his family, convinces a midget, a bearded lady and other malformed people to come work for him in his circus. Soon, there is a line of people at his door wanting a job. Dog boy who is covered with hair, a giant, an albino… then, a fat man, a tattooed guy, a guy with horns, and several others. As the movie progresses, these misfits are shunned by a small sect of society, and have to stand together and learn to love themselves and redefine their self worth.
So what’s my issue?
The part that is subtly slipped in is that the fat guy and the tattoo guy are just as much as an outcast as the bearded lady and the albino. Unless the fat guy has a thyroid issue (my excuse every December), he is a “freak” by his own choosing. He needs to lose weight by eating less and moving more. The tattoo guy chose to have his entire body covered in permanent ink whereas the bearded lady was born with a condition. They are not the same nor can they be comparable to each other.
The message is clear; all freaks and outcasts should look themselves in the mirror and accept that their condition is beautiful. I am in complete agreement with this if it’s a physical deformity or issue they didn’t choose or cannot change; but the person who chooses a sinful lifestyle must never be encouraged to call it beautiful and be proud of it. (For clarification, I mean truly sinful lifestyles. Not something that goes against my preferences but against the clear teaching of scripture.) That doesn’t mean we throw rocks at them or call their life choices beautiful, but lovingly lead them to the saving grace of Christ who can make all things beautiful.
The brilliance of the storytelling is that the tattoo guy and the fat guy (and the rest of their ilk) are never in the forefront. They’re peripheral characters. You really only hear from the bearded lady and the midget. So we pity the ones with ill fated deformities but lump all the others in by association.
One thing I did love about the movie is that the outcasts did learn to respect themselves and realize that their imperfections made them special. Outside the circus tent, they were insignificant but when they let the ringmaster orchestrate their circumstances, they were powerful, bold, and positively impacted society. I’ll not slap you in the face with that allegory but for the Christian who is less than perfect or has scars from past decisions, know that you are not beyond use by God to do great things.
Why should you see this? It seems to, in part, glorify a philosophy that directly opposes God’s plan. Shouldn’t we boycott?
This story is out there. Millions upon millions of millennials (and others) are digesting this. If you pull out of the culture, how can you possibly expect to know what story they’re hearing? We’ve tried pulling out of the culture before and it didn’t go well for us. We lost the upper hand when telling the story of Christ and redemption because we were always mad about something we hadn’t seen or read, and couldn’t engage anyone intelligently about it. I can’t tell you how many sermons I heard about Harry Potter and the Simpsons by preachers, who had never read the book or saw an episode. They lost credibility with me, because they were approaching the subject from a position of ignorance.
John 17: 15 says “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” You can appreciate the good parts of The Greatest Showman and warn others about the bad. If you want to reach millennials, you have to know their culture and be able to combat the story they’re getting from the other side. This doesn’t mean you pierce various parts of your body and get a pair of skinny jeans, it means you find out why the “kids these days” are piercing various parts of their body and wearing clothing that cuts off circulation to their lower half.
In the meantime, you should go see The Greatest Showman. Your millennial will probably have already seen it and would love to talk with you about it. You don’t have to take them out of the world, but please, keep them from falling for the lies of the evil one.