Not a regular movie-theater goer, I finally got to watch the 2017 musical The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman on a recent long-haul flight, long after friends and colleagues have raved over it. The hopeless romantic that I am, I wiped away a tear or two for most part of the musical, and after it, turned off the remote control to my personal screen feeling good about the human race — the hard work, imagination and doggedness of P.T. Barnum (Jackman); the devotion of his wife Charity (Michelle Williams); and the loyalty of Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron, based in part on Hachaliah Bailey, Barnum’s real life business partner in the circus. Carlyle, to me, was the precursor of the Prince Harrys of the world.).
My favorite line in the movie is when Barnum’s circus performers dejectedly tell him his museum has been burned down, and he replies, chin up, “Then we shall build a tent.” In other words, move on, guys. From the ashes of the museum they built a home most associated with the circus — a tent.
As I am wont to after every good biographical (or semi-biographical) movie, I devour material on its protagonists, usually online
Alas, P.T. Barnum, was apparently no Jean Valjean (the fictional character Jackman played in another of his hit musicals, Les Misérables).
Barnum was an American showman who founded the Barnum and Bailey circus, and is widely credited with coining the saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” although no one knows for sure.
Barnum, according to printed and online sources, including his own book, was the, “Shakespeare of Marketing.”
He knew what the audience wanted and he sold it to them. When they were unsure of what they wanted, he made them want what he was selling by means of clever marketing and advertising tactics.
Perhaps, he would not have stood the test of the days of “Truth in Advertising.” But then again, is there truth in magic — which, until now, is arguably the art of deception? Are magicians swindlers because they accept money for making people believe they can actually cut a woman into two parts and put her back again without even a piece of Band-Aid?
Or do people go to the circus and watch magicians because they want to be entertained, fully aware that they must suspend disbelief, not because they are gullible, but because they want to be awed?
Barnum was also known as the “Prince of Humbug.” According to the Smithsonian magazine, Barnum wrote in his book that “humbug,” “consists in putting on glittering appearances — outside show — novel expedients, by which to suddenly arrest public attention, and attract the public eye and ear.”
“And Barnum wanted to make it clear such a practice was justified by saying there are various trades and occupations which need only notoriety to insure success.” According to the article, Barnum claimed there was no harm, no foul done, so long as at the end of the day, customers felt like they got their money’s worth.
But I think Barnum erred in some deceptions, including when he reportedly trumpeted the existence of a 161-year-old black woman, who he claimed was George Washington’s nurse. She was not and it was unlikely she was really 161! (This is no spoiler because she was not portrayed in the movie.)
Were the makers of The Greatest Showman just like Barnum himself, giving us something not quite real or accurate to entertain us, making us reach for that Kleenex box and swoon, and making us feel good about the human race? The Greatest Showman is reportedly the fifth highest grossing musical of all time!
Good thing the movie makes no claims of being scholarly material. Unlike Lincoln starring Daniel Day Lewis, the movie doesn’t aim to depict a slice of history with footnotes. By precisely being a musical, with some alterations in characters, The Greatest Showman unabashedly tries to entertain with a competent cast and production crew.
Another thought-provoker: by putting on stage so-called “freaks,” unusual people tucked in basements and behind curtains by their families because of the shame their appearances might give their kin, was Barnum giving them dignity by taking them out of the shadows and paying them wages, or was he making a fortune on their misfortune?
Same argument against those who made money out of “Mahal” and “Mura” — unless both were properly compensated for their performances and thus have led more productive lives after providing comic relief on television.
Does the end, and the fact that “appearance-challenged” people have entertained a multitude, justify the means? Laughter is really the best medicine.
After all, a circus does not pretend to be a Congressional hearing, though a Congressional hearing can turn out to be a circus. A circus does not pretend to have the drama of the opera, or the high-brow appeal of the ballet. And it has become less and less of a freak show nowadays but a demonstration of almost superhuman prowess in balance, gymnastics, agility.
In fact, sexually abused children are finding therapy in learning the skills needed in a circus because of the focus needed to hone those skills, and because of the anonymity a circus performer has.
The Times of London echoed the world press in its final tribute to Barnum: “He created the métier of showman on a grandiose scale.…He early (on) realized that essential feature of a modern democracy, its readiness to be led to what will amuse and instruct it.…His name is a proverb already, and a proverb it will continue.”
Yes, successful are those who make us believe that what they offer is what we need — whether laughter or leadership.
‘MECOnnect’ project for Pinoys in Taiwan
The Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) recently launched its MECOnnect project aimed at bringing its various services closer to Filipino workers based in Taiwan.
“In line with our President’s directive to ensure the welfare of our overseas workers, we decided to conduct town hall meetings all across Taiwan so they can conveniently transact with MECO,” said Philippine resident representative to Taiwan Angelito Banayo.
The initial town hall meetings were held in Nanzih District and St. Joseph’s Church in Kaohsiung and the Queen of Angels Parish Church in the Xinying District of Taiwan.
Coming from a predominantly Catholic country, Filipino workers in Taiwan are known to congregate in Catholic churches during their days off to hear Mass and socialize.
MECO also aims to propagate a massive information dissemination campaign about its plans and projects through the town hall meetings and its new website (www.meco.org.tw).
Banayo said he would also want MECO to establish stronger and closer relationship with leaders of the Filipino community in Taiwan.
MECO recently transferred its offices to Neihu District, housing all other offices dealing with Filipino workers under a “one-stop-shop” set up.
Banayo said MECO is set to launch a mobile app that would provide better service not only for Filipinos but for Taiwanese travelers who would want to visit or do business in the Philippines as well.
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Is real-life a circus? have 1194 words, post on www.philstar.com at May 31, 2018. This is cached page on Talk Vietnam. If you want remove this page, please contact us.