The Greatest Showman is a film centered around PT Barnum’s rise to prominence in New York City’s now monumental entertainment industry. Director Michael Gracey constructed a movie that was unquestionably standard for the time of year that it was released: the holidays, a time dedicated to idealism and hope. He attempts to illustrate the viability of the “American Dream” by concentrating on Barnum’s elevation in socioeconomic status. While Barnum became rich and brought his family into a more lavish lifestyle — he was viewed by earlier and wealthier New Yorkers as an outcast. To them, he was a customary symbol of an emerging social class being built based upon President Wilson’s attempts to create equity with progressive social policies, like a notable income tax for the wealthy. The idea of “new money and old money” plays a significant role in this film — as it does in other relevant pieces of modern media like The Great Gatsby, in which Gatsby is seen as a fraud who does not belong in the “old money” universe with figures like Tom Buchanan.
In the same manner that Gracey shows Barnum’s advancement in society, he also depicts the downfall of his plans and the devastation that comes with the burning down of the circus building. After the fire, he and his employees experience a sense of deep loss: something people looking to rise in social class often face due to inherent societal barriers. Because of Barnum and the circus' members desire to become relevant in an overtly single-minded world, full of individuals frightened of the idea that dissimilar people could be showcased, they brought their act to a tent slightly outside of the industrial part of New York City. Thus, Gracey again tries to emphasize the importance of persistence. There is a general reason that the director picked this story to tell and at this time: it is a reminder of the tenacity of the human spirit and how we have the unparalleled opportunity to create, discover, and rediscover until we sense that our impact on the world has been acknowledged. In a time in which America is more divided than ever, Gracey shows his audience that — through collectiveness — a common goal can be realized.