Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Founding Falsities: Why Hamilton the Musical is Not a True American Story

Image result for hamilton the musical poster
Hamilton is one of Broadway’s top shows, receiving acclaim for its cast diversity. Critics say it has revolutionized the definition of a Broadway musical. However, Hamilton plays into the ideology of the ‘self-made man’ and fails to address elitism and racism in American politics. Hamilton picks and chooses details from the past to manufacture a false, though entertaining, story of America’s origins.

Alexander Hamilton’s story is one of a rise from poverty to fame. However, from the political elitism of colonial times to the Industrial Revolution’s business monopolies, patterns have shown that to rise through the classes is an exception, not a common truth. Yet the musical emphasizes how Hamilton was “non-stop”, as though hard work, rather than luck, can pull someone to elite status. It also ignores Hamilton’s elitism. He thought that the masses of people were untrustworthy and power should be given to a trusted - and rich - few.

Hamilton is also a false story because it ignores that most of the founding fathers actively supported slavery. The author, Lin Manuel Miranda stated that Hamilton allows people to, “leave whatever cultural baggage [they] have about the founding fathers at the door” - which is exactly what makes the story false. The lyrics mention John Laurens’ abolitionism but barely acknowledge Jefferson’s affair with Sally Hemmings. Alexander says of the South’s economy, “we know who’s really doin’ the planting”; but this is the only time slavery is mentioned in a political context. It seems as though Miranda is mentioning slavery just enough to be deemed politically correct, but little enough that listeners can forget that the founding fathers were white slave owners and their politics relied on slavery.

Poverty and racism are still around today, and they are entwined within each other. Systematic racism gives people of color unlivable wages, evicts them from their homes, and arrests them disproportionately more than white people. Classism and racism have been ingrained in American society since before the country even existed, and no matter how inclusive the casting call for Hamilton is, the musical forgets these issues and tells a false story of American history.

1 comment:

  1. I really liked how you opposed the story of Hamilton. It is very easy to argue that the story is true because of the factual evidence, but I have heard very little about why it is not a true story. Although I had an idea that Hamilton supported slavery, I never really tied it to the same hardworking and "non-stop" man that is glorified today. Although the musical does shed light on many true and historically correct moments in history, it fails to show the whole truth, even the ugly parts. I definitely learned a lot by reading this.