‘This Is Me’: An Anthem for the Marginalized
By Daniel Kim
In December 2017, the biographical musical drama The Greatest Showman was released. The movie, which presents the story of American showman P.T. Barnum and his motley crew of performers, went on to be a box office hit, accumulating a total of over $430 million worldwide. And although the commendable displays of some of Hollywood’s most familiar faces—Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, and Zendaya—played a major role in the film’s success, it was the heartfelt emotion that resonated with audiences across the globe. The awe-inspiring and poignant “This Is Me” became the movie’s outright biggest hit song, receiving the 75th Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.
In the film, P.T. Barnum’s circus features several performers, all of whom have apparent oddities. For example, the crew includes a man whose face is fully covered in hair, a bearded woman, a two-foot-tall man, siamese twins, and many more. For much of the movie, the characters struggle with their identities. They worry that their anomalies dehumanize them and render them worthless, unloveable outcasts. However, as they participate in Barnum’s circus, they develop a sense of solidarity. They start to understand that their flaws constitute their unique identities and make them who they are. Consequently, towards the climax of the film, the performers stage an uplifting rendition of “This Is Me,” a song about self-acceptance bound to encourage anyone feeling undervalued or unappreciated.
The lyrics’ raw emotion and portrayal of ostracism—and overcoming it—is incredibly impactful. Keala Settle, who plays Lettie Lutz, an overweight, bearded woman, sorrowfully depicts the pain of constant rejection: “I am not a stranger to the dark. Hide away, they say 'Cause we don't want your broken parts.” Needless to say, her physical features leave Lutz feeling ostracized and unwanted. And for a long time, words of rejection scar Lutz and make her hate herself. However, Lutz eventually learns to embrace her oddities and develops a sense of self-acceptance as she progresses through the song. “When the sharpest words wanna cut me down, I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown 'em out. I am brave, I am bruised I am who I'm meant to be, this is me.” Settle, along with her abnormal crew, discovers that they must never let the hurtful words of others get to them. They learn that they are who they are, and they should never be ashamed of being true to themselves.
“This Is Me” projects the voice of outcasts who have experienced discrimination and rejection all their lives. However, amidst the pain and suffering, the characters learn to accept themselves for who they are. In a larger sense, the song speaks to marginalized individuals who have learned to hate themselves and every one of their imperfections as a result of societal norms. Settle and her crew break away from the stigma surrounding their anomalies and chant the importance of self-love and self-acceptance.