No, we shouldn’t cancel ‘Hamilton’
Like thousands and thousands of others, I spent two-and-a-half hours on Friday night watching the streaming version of “Hamilton” on Disney+ with my family for the first time.
I was gobsmacked.
I had a hunch that I’d like it — I’m a fan of most musicals and, until recently, a regular theatergoer. But I surprised even myself. I didn’t like it, I loved it.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece was everything a terrific musical should be: stirring, witty, inspiring, anthemic, singable, quotable, dazzling. I’m only mad I didn’t make it a point to see it in the theater, and that I waited so long to add “You’ll Be Back” to my shower repertoire.
Because of COVID-19, art, like expensive Broadway musicals, feature films, even opera and art installations, is being delivered to our living rooms. That incredible democratization, even if by default and not design, is a great thing — but with it comes the increased scrutiny of a wider audience, and at a time when America is collectively reexamining nearly everything we’ve ever made over the course of our history.
In the case of “Hamilton,” the very recent history. Miranda’s musical is just five years old, and yet, through today’s eyes is rubbing some as insufficiently honest about the Founding Fathers’ roles in slavery.
It doesn’t avoid the issue — there are plenty of references to slavery throughout the musical. In one song, Hamilton raps scoldingly at Thomas Jefferson:
“Your debts are paid ’cause you don’t pay for labor/
We plant seeds in the South. We create. Yeah, keep ranting/
We know who’s really doing the planting.”