The Greatest Showman in La La Land


It would appear that movie musicals are en vogue again.  La La Land, which cost a modest 30 million to make, was swallowed up by the recently released The Greatest Showman, tipping the scale at 84 million in production costs.

There is something about the grandiose and fanciful that tugs at our heartstrings, leaving us with a sense of longing.  Not only is this true of the audiences who have watched the movies, it’s true about the the characters within the films as well.  Both stories explore the theme of “making it big” and if/how success will define them.

I’ve always had an affinity for the movie musical genre, though I don’t always enjoy the story’s ending. Through the decades, the stars have sung and danced their way through at least 90 minutes, all asking the ultimate question, “Is love enough?”  There are typically 3 answers to this question: “Love is everything”, “Love is enough” and “No, I value ___ more than love.”

While LA (Hollywood region) doesn’t have a singular “greatest showman”, there are a myriad of show men and woman clamoring for the attention of the American (and global) audience.  Their tricks to awe and inspire are sometimes so effective, that without our notice, we find our values and morals shifting.  There is the “innocent” shift, when you find yourself rooting for the guy to pull off the grand heist, and then there is the more disturbing and impactful shift, when a film has been so effective in its messaging that your moral compass has lost its ability to locate True North.

This article isn’t to decry all movies and start a protest.  Rather, it serves as a word of caution to be aware about what the “showman” is alluring you with, and to evaluate why you find pleasure in the show.   We all love an opportunity to relax and leave reality for a few hours.  Being caught up in the world and story of another, is really what the movies are all about.  However, when you leave the theatre with a touch of dissatisfaction about your life, it’s time to do some introspection.

The big (or small) screen portrayal of people more beautiful, more successful, and more exciting can leave us longing for something “more” in our own lives.  Take caution my friends.  While movies can produce important lessons about injustice and evils that we need to change as a society, it is much more common for films to produce a culture of dissatisfaction that leads to wanting what others have, or wanting something we shouldn’t have.

While the circus is no more (at least not the Barnum and Bailey variety), the idea of watching performers, great acts and daring spectacles, lives on 7 days a week at your local movie theatre.  We, after all, are a people who want to be entertained.  Just be careful that you don’t become the lion trained to jump through the flaming hoop.


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