Generally, I wouldn’t consider myself to be a huge film fanatic. I’m not the type of person that preorders movie tickets weeks in advance, shows up hours early to the midnight premiere or comes in costume to the showing ("Harry Potter" and "Star Wars" fans, I’m looking at you). I love movies, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t always understand the rush to be the best-seated, earliest-arriving, craziest-dressed person in the theater.
I think the mark of a good movie isn’t necessarily found in the size of its franchise or even the amount of press it receives, but in how it affects you after you leave the cinema. I’m not talking about the kind of impact that makes you question why you spent money on the ticket in the first place. I’m talking about a positive impact that makes you see the world a little differently.
Over the past month, I saw two movies that had this exact effect on me. The first was "The Greatest Showman," unsurprisingly, a movie musical about P.T. Barnum with songs written by two of my favorite songwriters. The second was "Wonder," a touching story based on a children’s book about a boy with facial deformities. At first glance, these two films may not seem to have anything at all in common. However, they both shared an inspiring message of individuality that kept me thinking long after the final credits had rolled.
"The Greatest Showman," incredible music and cinematography aside, is at heart a tale about standing out when the rest of the world is fitting in. It is, after all, the story of the man who started the circus, which celebrates uniqueness in the form of bearded ladies, trapeze artists and lion tamers. I think that one of my favorite quotes from this movie sums it up perfectly: “No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.”
"Wonder," on the other hand, is about a young boy named Auggie whose physical appearance has made him the target of bullying and insensitivity from those around him. He doesn’t always understand the unkindness he endures, nor does he deserve it. But as Auggie’s parents and new friends continually remind him, the very things about him that people target are the things that make him special. He comes to understand that everyone, regardless of how they look or how they act, should be treated with compassion, and that was enough to leave me teary-eyed in the movie theater.
These are the messages that movies need to be sharing, the messages that audiences around the world need to hear. In today’s society, there is so much pressure to “fit in,” to be like everyone else. The world pushes us to meet some impossibly high standard of success or beauty that can never be achieved. When faced with these pressures, what if we decide to push back, and instead embrace what P.T. Barnum and Auggie shared through their stories. We shouldn’t look down on what makes people different. Rather, we should accept those differences, realizing that they are what make us human – and interesting.
I may not be showing up to the midnight premiere of a feature film in full costume anytime soon, but in my opinion, those aren’t the movies the world needs. We need movies like "The Greatest Showman" and "Wonder" – movies that celebrate individuality and embrace uniqueness. Who knows, you might even see me prebuying a ticket for a film like that in the months ahead.
Emma Chrusciel is a senior at Geneva High School. In addition to writing, she loves Broadway musicals, playing piano, and spending time with her family and friends. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.