The Circus and the Dream: Representation of the American Dream of Minorities in The Greatest Showman


This research analyzed the commercially successful American musical film entitled The Greatest Showman, released in 2017. This film depicts the journey of P.T. Barnum, who becomes a showman. Barnum founded a circus that includes people from minority racial groups and who have physical uniqueness. This research aimed to examine how representation of the American dream is portrayed in this film and is reconstructed by focusing on minority characters in the circus troupe. A descriptive-analytical method was used with a qualitative approach by considering narrative and cinematic aspects. Inspired by P.T. Barnum’s ‘freakshow’ and circus in the nineteenth century, the film portrays the circus as the pathway to the American dream for multicultural and disabled minorities. The circus provided equal opportunities for all people to show their talents and abilities to perform in a circus show, regardless of class, social status, or gender. However, problematically, the representation of the American dream in the film still affirms white, male privilege by maintaining white males as the leaders of minorities in the circus space.

Keywords: American dream, film, freakshow

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