pt barnum

'The Greatest Showman' and the Problem of ‘Exploitainment’

Adam Gravano

The Greatest Showman takes the second perspective. These aren't just “freaks.” Yes, the draw is their perceived defects and differences, but what would they be without them? Why shouldn't they take pride in these and showcase them to the world? Is this even right? Is it being done in such a way as to appeal to the coarse and base in us? The question should remain unanswered, as there's plenty of exploitative media to go around for the able-bodied and sound of mind as well: every cable news confrontation, the entire reality television niche, and the revelations of #MeToo lay bare an industry to which Barnum would hardly be a stranger — perhaps even unreconstructed. 

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