As I walked back into the bright sunshine of Central Queensland from the darkened movie theatre, I knew what I’d seen had been something special. The Greatest Showman, featuring, you know, one of Australia’s greatest showmen, had been wonderful. Colourful, joyful, memorable and moving.
My niece immediately began searching for songs featured in the movie on YouTube until she could convince her Mother to download the album. It had an impact. A conversation started about the way we treat people and the systematic way we learn how.
For me, I couldn’t get past the idea that I’d seen it all before.
The movie had made me think about the body positive community. Not for the reason you might imagine, either. For me, the moment was, SPOILER ALERT, when he loses everything turning his back on the people he celebrated and championed, pushing them back into the shadows.
The worst of the Showman and what was once my community tread the same path. His inability to let go of this conditioning, wanting approval and validation from the people who were least likely to give it ruin him. He took something that was diverse, beautiful, unique and tried to make it fit where it had no right making it fit.
I see that every day on the internet when it comes to conversations about body positivity. It’s been white-washed, watered-down and rebranded into such a tight, saleable package that it no longer resembles what it was before. Instead of champions, we have promoters and salespeople. This movement wasn’t made to be saleable. To be a catchphrase for every clothing brand or soap company that wanted free press for their business.
It was imperfect, ugly even, diverse, loud and anything but packaged and polite.
In my opinion, it has lost its way, like the Showman. Gone are the people who found a place to call their own, a family and community of people who celebrated and raised up their voices. Replaced instead with thin, cis-gender, white women with experiences as limited as their understanding of how this all came to be. What we celebrate in the community today is so far from what it was. So far from what was possible before.
And our crash is coming too.
It’s the only way it can end. Piles of ash and burning good intentions. The scary part about that is that when it comes to body positivity it won’t be the people who have co-opted the movement who suffer. They’ll just go back to their lives. Move on to the next thing, just as high society shut their doors to the Showman.
The Showman and his desperation to fit in destroyed their community, their home, and now it falls back to them to rebuild it. Fitspo, before and afters, sales pitches and stomach folds will do the same. But the performers, the heart and the reason behind the movement can’t go anywhere. This is their life, experience and existence.
It’s their story and in the end, we will let them tell it.
That’s my wish, anyway. Perhaps there will be a catchy musical number to round things out.