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Why 'The Greatest Showman' Uplifts Me as a Person With a Disability

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Sometimes a movie grabs your heartstrings and sticks with you. I fully admit I’m not the biggest movie buff on the planet. In fact, it takes a lot of convincing for me to sit and watch a movie. Why? Sitting still is difficult for me because I always feel I need to be doing something. However, I’m very happy to say that seeing the movie “The Greatest Showman” is not something I regret or will forget.

“The Greatest Showman” is about the life of P.T. Barnum, founder of Barnum and Bailey Circus. The circus has recently retired, but the story behind it lives on. I remember seeing the previews for the movie, but forgot to go see it with all the holiday activities. When my husband asked me to go with him last week, I said yes. Neither of us knew exactly what we were getting into, but we were both pleasantly surprised.

Actor Hugh Jackman’s acting and singing made me quickly understand why he was nominated for a Golden Globe.  He starred as P.T. Barnum. From the first second of the movie I felt entertained, excited and interested. Jackman fit the part perfectly, and one could easily believe he was P.T. Barnum. The music alone will sweep you off your feet.

As a woman who has cerebral palsy, “The Greatest Showman” resonates for me with its theme of embracing your differences. From the beginning of the movie, someone who has a disability is presented positively, doing a kind act and appearing happy to do so. I can’t tell you how nice it is to see a movie portray someone, anyone who is different in a positive way.

Barnum seemed to be intrigued by the unusual. Unfortunately, in the early 1880s, acceptance of any kind of difference seemed far and far between. He took a gamble that people would pay to be entertained by the unusual, but first he needed to convince the people who had differences that they should be involved in the show.

All the people with challenges had excellent stories, but three stuck out to me throughout the movie. First, a man in his 20s, a little person who lived in hiding with his mom because of being little. Second, a woman with a beard who worked but always hid her face, despite her amazing singing voice. And, third, a talented trapeze artist who happened to be African-American in a time of racism.

None of these people could change who they were born to be, even if they wanted to. However, they were all courageous enough to step forward and show the world who they really are — talented, creative people. The Golden Globe-winning song “This Is Me,” sums up everything the disability community has tried to convey to society.

No matter who you are and how different you might be, you have the right to be the person you were meant to be. I have cerebral palsy and have been stared at, made fun of, been told that I’m not good enough, been mocked and disrespected. It isn’t easy to push that negativity aside and be who you were meant to be regardless. I succeeded — even though the challenge continues, I know who I want to be and am.

“The Greatest Showman” is not only very entertaining, but uplifting to see others rise to their upmost courageousness. I highly recommend this movie to everyone, but especially if you’re feeling a need for a little boost of morale.

Originally published: March 15, 2018
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