By AIM CEO Emma Dalmayne:
We want to give you a head’s up on The Greatest Showman. It’s a wonderful magical musical extravaganza of hope, inclusion and team work.
A complete and utter fabrication of who the opportunist P.T.Barnum was and the hideous exploitation he practised and encouraged.
Barnum ran ‘freak shows’ in the late 19th century, people with extreme physical differences were exhibited as ‘oddities’ and exploited for Barnum’s gain. Crowds gathered at his shows to cheer and ridicule those who had physical deformities and those with dwarfism. He was also racist, having black men in cages whom he depicted as ‘wild men’.
The film is visually stunning, and while it portrays Barnum as a hero, it doesn’t completely gloss over the fact he was a leech on the diverse and the physically disabled.
Charles Stratton ‘The Little General’ was only 4 years old when exhibited by Barnum, by age 5 he was smoking cigars for the crowds amusement.
Lettie Lutz was only 1 year old when she began labouring for Barnum.
The song ‘This is Me’ sung by the ‘bearded lady’ character named Lettie Lutz is heartbreaking. https://youtu.be/wEJd2RyGm8Q
In the scene that initiates the song Barnum refuses to allow Lettie and the rest of the group into a champage reception he’s hosting for his new and more socially respectable star, Jenny Lind. He’s plainly horrified they have turned up while he hobnobs with the rich and high class attendees and slams the door in their faces. This, to me was hurtful.
To me it symbolises the charities and organisations of today who use the disabled to gather funding yet allow us no voice. The exploitation is still rife, it still is as active only not as openly.
It’s important to know the background of Barnum if you see the film. Barnum was not who Hollywood are portraying him as, and to be frank I’m greatly disheartened to see someone like him showcased as one whom championed the disabled when nothing is further from the truth.