A Closer Look at: The Greatest Showman

So Jesus said to the Jew who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  – John 8:31-32
I just watched the movie, “The Greatest Showman” with my wife.  Truth be told, I’m not a musical guy, but my wife is.  That being the case and the fact that we’d heard good things about the movie, we decided to watch it.
It was VERY entertaining!  Even for a musical.  Sorry, I told you, I’m not a musical guy, normally.
Spoiler alert, we’ll be talking about themes and characters that are in the movie.  So, if you want to see it without my observations, you may want to stop reading now!
Here are some of the things that encouraged me.
  • It’s about a man who went through a “rags to riches” transformation.
  • He loved his family!
  • He wanted his children to have a better life than he’d had growing up.
  • He was a man that stood up and helped those who had been abused by “society.” Those who were looked down upon, and taken advantage of, he elevated to stardom!
  • He made a mistake, and those that he had rejected, took him back.
I love themes of reconciliation.  Our God is still in the reconciliation business so it encourages me to see it happen in a mean spirited culture.
In the movie, newspaper critic James Gordon Bennett wrote a scathing review of Mr. Barnum’s show, calling it a circus.   Mr. Barnum, without skipping a beat, embraces the slight and puts “circus” into the shows name.
Later in the movie, Mr. Bennett is transformed after he’s seen the positive impact the show has had on people, especially the performers.  He tells Barnum that what he is doing could be considered a “celebration of humanity.”
(By the way, if you want to read an amazing story, research Mr. Bennett.  His is a TRUE “rags to riches” story.  For instance, he was a Scottish immigrant who created a publication he called the New York Herald.  Maybe you’ve heard of it, today it’s the world’s most read newspaper.)
One particularly important issue addressed in the movie was racism.  In the circus, a persons “race” wasn’t an issue.  This was illustrated with a relationship between a black trapeze artist named Ann Wheeler and a white aristocrat named Phillip Carlyle who gave up everything to be in the circus.
Philip initially is afraid of the relationship because of what society, including his wealthy parents, think and backs away from Ann.  Later, he realizes that they’re wrong and tries to make things right with Ann.  It takes him nearly dying to make Ann realize that it doesn’t matter what others think and they’re to be together.
This “one race, the human race” message is near and dear to my heart, in part because of the experiences my wife and I have had.  Most of you know that my wife is Japanese.  And, believe it or not, we’ve seen racism raise its head from those within the church.
On one occasion I even had a speaking event cancelled because my wife and I were in what the pastor called an “inter-racial” marriage.  He explained that the church by-laws restricted the pastor from allowing anyone in an “inter-racial” marriage to speak from their pulpit or he’d be fired.
All of this to say, I appreciated their stand on the issue.
There’s only one problem.  None of that happened.   The movie is wrong about probably 90% of everything else that’s portrayed.
For instance, Philip Carlyle and Ann Wheeler never existed!  This means that the whole “one blood” message that was shown never happened.  (If you’d like to get an idea of how “inter-racial” relationships were treated “back in the day”, watch the movie entitled, “Loving.”  It’s NOT necessarily a “feel good” movie.  What this couple experienced is pretty eye opening.)
The real P.T. Barnum’s show was not a “celebration of humanity,” far from it.  It very easily could have been billed as an “abuser of humanity.”
Let me just give you a couple of examples that aren’t in the movie to make my point.
Mr. Barnum’s career started at the age of 25 with a lady named Joice Heth.
In a memoir written by Mr. Barnum in 1855 he stated that he bought her, as a slave, so that he could exhibit her.
In 1869 he changed, saying that he bought the rights to exhibit her.  He advertised her as the “Greatest natural and national curiosity in the world.”
She told everyone that she’d been George Washington’s nursemaid and was 161 years old.
Her legs were paralyzed as well as one of her arms.  She was blind, mostly deaf and in many ways, a slave, regardless of how Mr. Barnum characterized it!
He would have her “perform” 6 days a week up to 10-12 hours a day.
It’s reported that Mr. Barnum told how on one occasion he gave her quite a bit of alcohol so that she was drunk.   This allowed them to pull her remaining teeth, making her look older.
At one point attendance dropped off because local preachers took a stand and told their people that it was immoral to pay money to look at a slave.  This was during the time that abolition was growing in the country.
In order to outsmart the clergy, whom he is said to have despised, he told everyone that he was an abolitionist.  He was actually touring with Joice because she was a freedwoman and was trying to raise money to get her great-grandchildren out of slavery.  It’s said that this worked and religious people started flocking to the show to help this poor woman.
On one occasion a Boston minister reportedly gave Mr. Barnum $10.00 to help free some of Miss Heth’s relations.  He took the money and later wrote, “I took the money, I could not do less without betraying myself,” he wrote. “That night, a few friends and myself spent it on Champagne and oysters.”  He bragged that he never bought a slave’s freedom, it was all a scam to make money!
Mr. Barnum even found a way to take advantage of Miss Heth after her death.  He had a doctor perform an autopsy and charged 50 cents each so that people could watch.  Approximately 1,500 people are said to have attended.
When the doctor performing the autopsy concluded that she wasn’t 161 years old, and probably no more than about 80, Mr. Barnum told everyone that the corpse was a fake and the real Joice Heth was alive and “performing” elsewhere.
That’s NOT the guy I saw depicted in the movie.
As for his kindness to “Annie Jones,” aka the bearded lady, that he discovers singing in a sweatshop washing cloths.  Well, that’s not even close to the truth either.
First of all, he didn’t find her later in life.  He actually started exhibiting her when she was just 9 months old!  She was originally billed as the “The Infant Esau.”  Her parents were paid $150.00 a week in order to put her on display.
And what about General Tom Thumb whom Mr. Barnum meets as a 22 year old man in the movie? Well, that’s not quite how it happened.
The truth is, he first met him as a 4 years old and made a deal with his parents to exhibit him in his New York show for $3.00 a week.
To his credit, he did increase it to $50.00 a week when the act became popular.
When you research Mr. Barnum you’re not going to find someone that was trying to make the world a better place.  Actually it’s quite the opposite.  You’ll find someone who seems to be trying to make a quick buck off of the suffering and misfortune of others.
Be careful!  When we watch something it is very easy to assume that it is true or even close to the truth.  That’s not the case with this movie.  It is VERY well done.  The film quality is excellent, the acting is great and the story is heart warming.
It’s just not true!
I didn’t even go into the really ugly history that you can find on how blacks were actually treated, including being stolen from their families and sold to the circus.  That’s really ugly stuff and I intentionally kept this pretty generic.
I encourage you to research like this whenever you hear or read about some new amazing find that proves everything that we’ve known to be true to not be incorrect.  That’s what we’re teaching how to do in our Academy of Hope Online classes.  We believe that by teaching HOW to think and not WHAT to think we can prepare a generation to deal with the increasing deception that’s coming before Christ returns.  You will amazed at how easy it is to do and what you will see when you look at the evidence critically.
In addition, we do real world application.  On April 7th we’ll be taking folks through the Chicago Field Museum and teaching them how to use facilities such as these for ministry.  If you’re in the Chicago area please consider joining us.  It’s an all day event.  We’ll teach how to tell the difference between Fact and Opinion.  We then go into the museum and apply what was taught.  We come back, debrief, teach again, and then go back into the museum to apply!
Or maybe you’d like to join us by digging dinosaur bones and seeing for yourself how the actual evidence supports what God’s Word says.  If that’s the case, join us in Glendive, Montana this summer.
Remember John 8:31-32.  “abide in my word”.  If you want to know the truth, seek God’s Word FIRST.  As Christians we’ve been duped too many times by “humbugs” like P.T Barnum because we’ve not allowed the Word to be our authority.  Let’s choose today to seek out truth.  Ultimately, that’s all that matters, and that’s because the truth will set you free.
Stay Bold!
Posted in
Tagged with





1 Chronicles 16:8-12 1 Chronicles 22:14 1 Chronicles 29:11 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 1 Corinthians 15:33 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 1 John 2:15-17 1 John 4:10 1 Peter 3:15 1 Peter 4:12-13 1 Peter 5:10 1 Thessalonians 5:11 1 Timothy 6:10 1 Timothy 6:3-10 100 miles 1Peter 1:17-21 2 Chronicles 9:13-29 2 Corinthians 12:9-11 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 2 Timothy 1:7 2 Timothy 2:15 2 Timothy 3:12 2 Timothy 4:11 25% are staying 50k 55-mile race Abraham was very rich. Abuja Acts 11 Acts 13 and 15 Acts 17:11 Acts 9 Albert Einstein America waited too long. Barna poll Barnabas Be a Berean Be bold! Be bold Be happy! Best Evidence God Created Bible Bob Gillespie CRT Candace Nordine Carl Kerby Jr. Carl Kerby Choosing for Two Christ opened my eyes. Christian witness Chruch Colossians 2:14 Colossians 3:1 Columbo Tactic D. Mark Jacobs Jr. Dan Lietha Dave Glander David Tautofi DeBunked 15 DeBunked TV DeBunked Deuteronomy 6:6-7 Deuteronomy 6:6-9 Did Jesus Commit Suicide? Dr. Andrew Fabich Dr. Francis Schaeffer Dr. Jason Lisle Draa Mackey Easter Ecclesiastes 4:10 Ephesians 3:17-18 Ephesians 3:19-21 Exodus 33:14 Facing the Giants Frank Figueroa Galatians 5:22-23 Galatians 6:9 Gen Z Genesis 13:1-2 Genesis 1:14-15 Genesis 1:27 Genesis 3:10 Genesis 3 God created you God is rich in mercy God loves you God-shaped vacuum God's character God's joy God's plan God's pursuit God\'s character God\'s joy God\'s plan God\'s pursuit God\\\'s character God\\\'s joy God\\\'s plan God\\\'s pursuit God\\\\\\\'s character God\\\\\\\'s joy God\\\\\\\'s plan God\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s character God\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s plan God\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s character God\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s plan Gods Word is truth Gods Word Gods care Gods character Gods light Gods plan of redemption Gods plan Gospel message Groggy Hawaii Heaven Hebrews 10:19-22 Hebrews 12:1-3 Hebrews 13:5 Hebrews 13:8 Hell His glory Holly Varnum How can I fight and overcome fear? Hubble Huntsman Center I Peter 3:15 IMPACT Is it okay for a Christian to be rich? Isaiah 26:3-4 Isaiah 40:28-31 Isaiah 40:29 Isaiah 40:31 Isaiah 41 Isaiah 43:1 Isaiah 45:9a Isaiah 64:8 James 1:12 James 1:2 January 2022 Jeremiah 29:11 Jesus chose to die. Jesus saw their faith Job 1:3 Job 2:8 John 10:17-18 John 11:25 John 14:6 John 15:13 John 16:33 John 3:16-17 John 3:16 John 8:32 John Mark John Ray Joni Eareckson Tada Joni and Friends Joseph A. Kennedy Joshua 1:9 Juan Valdes Justice Kaimuki Bulldogs Kaimuki High School King David King Solomon Know It! Live It! Share It! Lacey Reitz Liberty Institute Listen Loose the Lion Luke 18:1 MTD Malachi 3:3 Malachi 3:6 Mark 2:3-5 Mark 5:19 Mark 6:31 Martin Luther Master Potter Matthew 11:28-29 Matthew 11:28 Matthew 11:29 Matthew 19:16-24 Matthew 19:23-24 Matthew 6:19 Matthew 9:35 May 15 1987 Memory Lane Mere Christianity Mic'd Up Mic\'d Up Mic\\\'d Up Mic\\\\\\\'d Up Money is their god. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism Mosaic NRB National Religious Broadcasters Nigeria Pastor Baba Philippians 3:12-16 Philippians 4:6-7 Please say Yes! Please say "Yes!" Please say \"Yes!\" Please say \\\"Yes!\\\" Potter Proverbs 12:26 Proverbs 14:12 Proverbs 19:21 Proverbs 3:5-6 Psalm 103:2-5 Psalm 119:105 Psalm 119:11 Psalm 119:160 Psalm 122:1 Psalm 138:1-2 Psalm 139:14 Psalm 147:4 Psalm 16:11 Psalm 18:1-2 Psalm 19:1 Psalm 23:1 Psalm 23:2 Psalm 23:4 Psalm 27 Psalm 34:19 Psalm 40:8 Psalm 69:9a Psalm 8:3 Psalm 8:4 Psalm 92:1-4 Pursued Reasons for Hope in the Mosaic of Your Life Reasons for Hope* Reasons for Hope Respond to God's voice Respond to God\'s voice Respond to God\\\'s voice Respond to God\\\\\\\'s voice Resurrection RforH Romans 10:9-10 Romans 12:9-21 Romans 3:23 Romans 6:23 Romans 8:26 Sanctity of Life Schaftlein Report Scriptures Spurgeon Stay bold! Stay bold Supreme Court Surprised by Joy The Screwtape Letters There is no truth TikTok Trust His heart Trusting God Wade Wacker Wealthy Christians What is a Christian? What is my purpose? Who Made God? Why am I here? Why did Jesus have to die? Wooed Word of God abortion absolute truth achieving the impossible antidote to fear apologetics astronomy astrophysics biblical creationist biblical perspective biblical worldview blindfold boldness bold brokenness butterfly caged called to encourage certainty character clay coercion come alongside compromised confidence critical race theory critical thinking curriculum cut the head off the snake debate defend depression design of the eye desperate passion don't stop don\'t stop don\\\'t stop don\\\\\\\'t stop dont stop doubt encouragement entrusted by God to do good eternal life eternity without God examine the scriptures eye fair and impartial family circle fearfully and wonderfully made fear filled with joy and worship football coach former athiest freedom of choice galaxies give a defense give thanks glory in His holy name good news of Jesus Christ good news gratitude grog heroes of the faith hope human eye humble ourselves illness impact lives impact your teammates positively incomprehensible God isolation keep moving keep progressing largest church in the world light year speed like Christ loss of loved ones love of money love made for another world made in His image memorization without application memorizing Scripture multiple meanings mystical truth never compromised no complaints no hope no pain no gain no quitting not a fetus objective right and wrong one foot in front of the other opened doors opportunity to bring hope overwhelming distance part of a team paying it forward persecution persevere physics postgame prayer potsherd pottery potter power of the Word progress quadriplegic reach the younger generation reality exists reality reassurance red cardinal redemptive work of Christ refining refocus what church looks like relentless forward motion resolutions rest root of all evil sacrifice salvation see God move seek the Lord shine a light silversmith slavery social media son of encouragement speak life speak your truth spiritual apathy stagnant church stand boldly on the Word of God star-gazing starstruck stars stress statistics stress study for yourself suffering symbol of God's love and reassurance symbol of God\'s love and reassurance symbol of God\\\'s love and reassurance symbol of God\\\\\\\'s love and reassurance symbol of Gods love and reassurance teaching science telescope thankful the apple of his eye the finish line the lion will defend itself the seeing eye thriving in Christ trials tribulation troubles truth turn to God ultamarathon ultrarunner unborn child uncage the Lion uncover the truth universe use your gift visual reminders wethering the storm where two worlds collide windows to the soul worldview your circle matters youth zeal for worship