I’m going to catch a LOT of flack from my brown skinned brothers and sisters for this take, I believe, but it has to be said. “The Greatest Showman” might be the best movie ever made. That’s right. I said it. And I know that is an ultimate superlative. I know that might be hyperbole. I also know that being that I LOVED every MINUTE of Black Panther, from a “my people” perspective, what I’m saying is tantamount to blasphemous, but let me explain.
“Black Panther” is a cinematic marvel. It is everything that a movie about “us” should be. It is proud and unabashed. It is beautiful. it honors tradition while looking to the future. It explores the conflict between African and African-American relationships. It shows the beauty of family relationships and the power that can be borne out of an enemy becoming a friend. Yet, while this movie is one of the most important movies I have ever seen, it is not the best. It’s up there, to be sure, but not at the very top. I love what Ryan Coogler and his people did with the vast source material of the comic book series. I loved the diasporadic portrayals of Africa. Even in its fictional design, Wakanda pulled from historical and tribal elements to create something that has now grossed one BILLION dollars WORLDWIDE!!! Now, tell me that is not significant!!
IN my opinion, where “The Greatest Showman” shines is in it’s story. And maybe the story is so meaningful to me because I can relate to it. I don’t know what it is like to be a Prince, but I know what it is like to be a man with dreams that outrank my means to accomplish them. I know what its like to have a taste of success and let it go to my head. I know what it feels like to feel everything careening out of control and not know how to stop it. I know what it feels like to be Phineas Taylor Barnum. And while I don’t have the same resolve to furiously and recklessly chase my dreams without regard for anyone else as he did, I know what it is like to look out over the horizon and see something that you really want to attain. Shoot, most days I still feel that way.
While I’m not him, I feel like him. His quote in the movie, “A man suffers from imagining too small, not too big” has it me in a very disturbing way. It has caused some cognitive dissonance within me that I have to resolve. And that alone is the reason why this movie is tops on my list. T’Challa’s plight to find his own way to rule, and to save his people, while also knowing that “his” people includes those in Wakanda and abroad, is one that I have always accepted. My people are my people. No matter where they are, or what shade they are.
“The Greatest Showman” speaks to something larger. It speaks to that “something” inside of all of us that is begging, pleading, and craving to be released. That “something” that the world HAS to see. What we were created to do. That is larger than an individual or a nationality or race.
What if there were a world full of PT Barnums? People who looked for out-of-the-box ways to bring dreams to light? To make reality out of fantasy?
And, the soundtrack is just NUTS!!! Every song speaks to me in an intrinsic way. Some even bring me to tears.
That puts it over the top for me.
Now, of course I’m oversimplifying for time’s sake. I know the many complexities of the “Black Panther experience”. Trust me. I know them well. I’ll even explore them at some point. For now though, my ratings are firm. it was a hard choice! Really hard.
Anyway…I’m off to sing sing the ENTIRE soundtrack for the UMPTEETH time, and make my classes sing along!