Hamilton is back on our collective radars after the filmed version of the Broadway show debuted on Disney+ last week, but amid fans’ joy at finally being able to watch and rewatch the hit musical, debates about the show’s content and historical accuracy are resurfacing—leading to a response from the musical’s creator himself.
The conversations and discourse around Hamilton, which is partly inspired by Ron Chernow’s just over 800-page biography of Alexander Hamilton, aren’t new. During the height of Hamilton’s popularity (around 2015-2016), people debated Hamilton’s shortcomings and what it chose to obscure or ignore about the life of Alexander Hamilton.
Chief among them? Some of Hamilton’s not-as-savory political opinions, having Black actors portraying slaveowners in a musical that celebrated them, and the fact that Hamilton’s in-laws, the Schuylers, were slaveholders; the latter especially stands out when Hamilton takes shots at Thomas Jefferson for owning slaves in the show’s second act. At the time, Chernow supported the choices that writer-star Lin-Manuel Miranda made, noting in 2015 that “I think he has plucked out the dramatic essence of the character.”
In 2020, the debate over Hamilton is coming back. There is still a question about its historical accuracy, the portrayal of female characters, and its role in celebrating slaveowners. While recent events have brought Hamilton newfound relevancy, others find that its criticism of America doesn’t go nearly far enough when the U.S. is finally starting to tear down statues dedicated to slaveowners, Confederate soldiers, and white supremacists.
Among those offering critiques of Hamilton over the weekend was Strong Black Legends host Tracy Clayton, who posted a thread about engaging with Hamilton in 2020, noting that “hamilton the play and the movie were given to us in two different worlds & our willingness to interrogate things in this way feels like a clear sign of change.”
“After reading the critiques i would have appreciated more context about hamilton & slavery,” she wrote, “but to lump it in with statues of columbus and robert e lee denies this conversation the nuance it deserves & we’re capable of giving it that.”
On Monday, Miranda finally weighed in on the Hamilton debate taking shape using Clayton’s thread as an entryway into the conversation. While he pointed out some of the constraints of trying to portray Hamilton’s life in a two-and-a-half-hour musical, he also called criticisms of Hamilton valid.
“Appreciate you so much, @brokeymcpoverty,” Miranda tweeted. “All the criticisms are valid. The sheer tonnage of complexities & failings of these people I couldn’t get. Or wrestled with but cut. I took 6 years and fit as much as I could in a 2.5 hour musical. Did my best. It’s all fair game.”
H/T New York Post