Why The Greatest Showman is the Most Mormon Movie Ever Made

Currently in US cinemas there is a new film called The Greatest Showman very loosely telling the tale of PT Barnum in an extravagant musical. I have seen the film twice now and after my recent visit I tweeted out:

I have to admit Greatest Showman‘s flaws are more obvious on rewatch but in many ways I think it is the Ultimate Mormon Movie

I then promised to explain this tweet and so here I am to elaborate!

SPOILER WARNING!!

First, I should state that I enjoyed the film. It’s an old school, classic family musical. It is written by the same people who made La La Land, and I honestly prefer it. I like the songs better. I like the message better, and I just think it is more of a fun time. Take your family and go enjoy yourselves at the movies!

Obviously The Greatest Showman has no Mormon characters and is not a faith-based film, so how can I say it is the ultimate Mormon movie? Well, it comes down to themes, style and messaging that will ring true for many Mormon people (obviously speaking in broad generalizations here but I have yet to find a Mormon who dislikes the film…).

So let me explain why I think The Greatest Showman particularly resonates with a Mormon audience:

Mormons are Misfits

The first reason is that Mormons see themselves as ‘peculiar people’. Several times in scriptures we learn that the “Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself” (Deut 14:2). This is something Mormons take very seriously and wear with a kind of pride. For example, each year BYU is voted “the most stone cold sober school in the US.”  Most of us are are very proud of this designation and boast of it when promoting the church. Look at this video BYU put out heralding the accomplishment.

But this idea of the Mormon Misfit goes back to the church founding where such practices as polygamy and communal living certainly made the people peculiar.We were literally expelled from several states and an extermination order written against us by a state governor (another source of pride).

However, this ‘rebelliousness’ obviously takes a very PG rated form and this is what makes The Greatest Showman so perfect for Mormons. The peculiar people of Barnum’s circus are different from the world but in a sweet, very clean cut way. This is a PG rated movie but it has a ‘freak show’ the whole family can enjoy

If you watch this video on ‘This is Me’ you will see what I mean about the clean cut misfits of The Greatest Showman

Mormons Love Marriage

Mormons have unique views on marriage that helps them bond with The Greatest Showman. We believe that marriage in the temple can be for time and all eternity and that the bond between a couple lasts forever. Children are an important and sacred calling for a couple but it is a marriage between 2 people that the highest ordinance of the church is based. There is nothing more important than a faithful marriage to most Mormons.

In The Greatest Showman PT Barnum is shown as a young child who is the son of a poor tailor. He meets a young girl named Charity who he bonds with immediately and the two are obviously destined to be together. These children grow up to be Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams and they leave her parents, get married and have two beautiful daughters. This is literally the dream of nearly every Mormon person.

In the movie Barnum’s marriage is tested by a woman named Jenny Lynde played by Rebecca Fergusson. In most Hollywood movies he would give into the temptation and betray his marriage. Not in The Greatest Showman. He stays true, even after she publicly shames him and implies scandal. He is true to his wife and the two make up and stay committed to each other. This is very appealing to a Mormon audience. It’s certainly more appealing than say the characters in La La Land who have premarital relationships and give up on their relationship fairly quickly. No such luck in a Mormon musical fantasy! LOL

Barnum is also very sweet with his daughters creating a world that shelters them from the troubles of his work and other stresses. This is encouraged in Mormon households as we have Family Home Evening and other family time to teach, fortify and bond as a family. The scene where Barnum gives the girls a special lamp might as well have come out of a church movie.

Mormons Are Theatrical

People that did not grow up in Utah or Idaho may not be aware of the theatrical traditions of the Mormon people. In fact, when the Saints arrived in Utah one of the first buildings they erected was a theater. Along the pioneer trek the Saints were known for having dances, reciting poetry and singing in choirs.

Today there are few places that support regional theater the way Utah does. Literally every town has their own little theater.  We also have the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Utah Symphony, Utah Opera, Ballet West and the Utah Shakespeare Festival- all institutions that have received national recognition (to name a few).

Utah is very dance focused and whether it is team dance or ballroom dance students are taught young and are encouraged to display their talents. These performances are usually clean cut, boisterous shows that are very similar to what you get in The Greatest Showman.

Look at this video of the BYU Young Ambassadors and tell me it does not seem right out of The Greatest Showman playbook:

Before every temple dedication there are cultural celebrations with grand theatricals and BYU is famous for its acapella, dance and show choirs. People eat that stuff up and it’s just part of the culture.

This is totally the style of The Greatest Showman. Big boisterous and cheerful:

You could argue that Zac Efron became a star based off of the Mormon template of entertainment. All the High School Musical movies were filmed here and are very emblematic of the type of musical that is popular.

Mormons have a Pioneer Spirit

I am well aware that the version of PT Barnum we get in The Greatest Showman is mostly fictitious, but I think that is largely irrelevant for the effectiveness of the musical. Nobody cares that The Sound of Music is wildly inaccurate to what happened with the von Trapps. Certainly no one should be looking at a fluffy musical for historical accuracy.

So, if we just take the character presented in the movie it is a very appealing for a Mormon audience. He is literally the man who invented the phrase ‘show business’. He gathers his group despite everyone laughing in his face and Mormons relate to that spirit. I mean most Mormons are either returned missionaries or related/married to one. The idea of being a bold thinker and being rejected is very attractive.

He is also kind of a prophet type character that leads with great charisma and enthusiasm. This type of evangelism is encouraged as we have no paid clergy and must all be responsible for public speaking and motivating our fellow church members. Barnum might as well be a bishop in this movie! LOL

Conclusion

The Greatest Showman is not a perfect movie. The script could be better, but it does a good job selling itself to a Mormon audience and evidently the producers thought so as well because they did a very early screening of it in September here. Whether that will turn out to be a good approach to take across the country will be interesting to see. It certainly selling out here! Pretty much all my local friends on facebook and twitter who have seen it, loved it.  Just it being a PG live action film alone is enough to excite people here but you add in grand musical spectacle and you have a winner!

It’s not often we get an old fashioned family friendly musical so go see it! Have fun and enjoy it whether Mormon or not. My Dad hasn’t seen a movie in the theater since Les Miserables but I know he will love this. 🙂

My Christmas Tree 2017

Hey guys! I just wanted to share with you a quick photo of my Christmas tree this year! It’s actually slightly different than the ‘memory trees’ I’ve done in the past. For years I put little frames with black and white photos on the tree, which I loved. Unfortunately after 10 years or so of use they were finally starting to fall apart and I just felt like switching things up a little bit. I am also in love with my new tree and I didn’t want it to be overly covered up.

The reason I am in love with it is I decided to purchase a flocked Christmas tree this year. I thought about getting a white tree and really do something different but when I saw this I knew it was perfect for me! I love the look of the snow and the white/green touches with the ornaments. I am excited to have my tree up early so I can enjoy it for over a month! It’s so pretty! 🙂

Have you ever switched up your Christmas tree and done something different? It feels good and less boring old Christmas! I highly recommend it. Let me know what you’ve tried and what you think of my tree. Merry Christmas!

Hallmark Christmas Week 2 Mini-Reviews

So today is Monday and that means we’ve had another weekend of Hallmark original movies. Make sure you are subscribed to our podcast on itunes and/or youtube to hear Amber and my full thoughts on the films every Wednesday.

Until then let me share with you my mini-reviews of the 4 new movies we got this weekend. Let me tell you guys- it was a little rough! There is one I particularly didn’t like but the rest were just ok for me. I think Amber and I will have a ton of fun hashing them out on the podcast and I did enjoy live tweeting them. One thread you can see my path to crazy town and how it went down! LOL

The Sweetest Christmas-

This movie was perhaps a little better than I expected it to be because the plot is pretty lame. Lacey Chabert plays a woman who wants to enter a gingerbread contest but needs to borrow her ex’s oven to do so and sparks fly! Some Hallmark movies rise and fall on the chemistry of the actors and this would be one of them. Also the side characters were really strong. I loved her sister who actually told her how stupid she was being (when Kylie asks her what she should say about the oven she said ‘You could say can I borrow your oven?’. That made me laugh). Also his buddy at work played by Jonathan Adams was a lot of fun. I also thought it was strange that the ‘wrong guy’ in this was the one that made more of an effort and seemed more invested in winning her heart. Still Lea was a charming single Dad and these high school boyfriends are hard to pass up on Hallmark Channel. This is no Miss Christmas but it’s an okay way to spend an evening.

Overall Grade- B

A Song for Christmas-

This is another one that was a hair better than I thought it would be because the plot is very tired. Becca Tobin was very cute as a singer who is left behind by her stupid manager in a small town and she gets to know the VERY hunky Kevin McGarry. They had good chemistry and the movie did a good job giving them lots of flirty situations that were fun (like getting a tree off of a truck never felt so cozy).

However, I did have some issues with the movie. First, she does not sound like a country singer at all so they should have just made her a popstar. I think this fact prevented us from hearing much music which we were kind of promised in the publicity. The title is A Song for Christmas and you literally hear 1 song. He spends a lot of time strumming on the guitar which was dreamy but I would have liked to hear more singing. And my other problem is this movie leans heavily on the ‘city girls are stupid’ Hallmark trope. There is so much dialogue about how the city has poisoned poor Addie and she needs to be rescued by the country. My favorite was the mother (a rescued city girl) says ‘When I got here I didn’t know the difference between a palm tree and a Christmas tree…’ It’s so funny because I would say most movies it’s the country folk that are perceived as less educated but not in Hallmark. LOL.

Overall Grade- B-

Enchanted Christmas-

Going into this weekend I was pretty excited about Enchanted Christmas. I love dance movies and the chance to see real life couple, Carlos and Alexa PenaVega, together was exciting. However, it was just okay for me. They obviously had great chemistry and the dancing was fun. I liked it was set in Utah and on twitter I got to make a lot of lame Utah jokes, so that was enjoyable.

My issues with the movie is a plot thread where he gets an opportunity to go on a world dance tour with a fellow dancer annoyed me. This friend is relying on him to join the world tour and it is a tremendous opportunity. I know we are expected to give up everything for love in these movies but shouldn’t our true love also be supportive of our dreams? Couldn’t you write the story so he did both? I saw another this week where a girl gave up her dream of being in a Broadway play because her love couldn’t handle waiting 6 months for her. Why not have the play and it ending with her doing both? That would be so romantic and meaningful. This was particularly weird because he left his partner in the lurch. I guess perhaps I am asking too much and should just get swept up in the magic but I think there are ways to do both (One Starry Christmas is an example of supportive work ending).

I also felt like the weak attempt at diversity was disappointing. Having one of your characters make tamales for Christmas is not enough Hallmark Channel! You need to do better!

Overall Grade- C+

Engaging Father Christmas-

So this movie was a sequel to last years Finding Father Christmas and Hallmark sequels have a dubious track record at best but this one was based on a book so I had hope. I ended up being severely disappointed!!! There are good things about this movie. The chemistry between Erin Krakow and Niall Matter was great and the proposal sequence and their kisses was very romantic.  I also love Andrew Francis in anything!

However, I could not get over the idiotic plot of Miranda getting blackmailed by a creepy reporter who is threatening to expose her background as the son of James Whitcomb, the famous stage actor of the previous film. The idea that anyone would care about the child of a stage actor is tough to believe but the lengths to which she goes to hide this made me crazy. In no world is it a good decision to break things off with Ian in order to save a family that won’t publicly recognize her shame. This is crazy talk and it made me crazy. Plus, it was all so telegraphed and the script expected you to be surprised by the reveal of the reporter. Groan. I hated it. At a certain point the gossip monger is telling the truth and the Whitcomb family needs to grow up and acknowledge that. It’s certainly not worth sacrificing your love for it!!!

Also, they make a big Christmas Carol error having Ghost of Christmas Future showing Scrooge his young self. No sir!!! (That’s a small thing but it did annoy me).  It was just all so stupid and annoying. I couldn’t take it!

Overall Grade- D+

So there you have it. My thoughts on this weekends movies. What did you think of the movies? Make sure to listen to the podcast and let us know what you think.