Posts Tagged ‘Broadway’

A Few Thoughts on Hamilton

July 13, 2020

Selling Out

I heard a lot of rumbling and grumbling from Hamilton fans when it was announced that the show would be released on Disney Plus. The thing I heard was that people were accusing Hamilton of selling out to Disney. People jumped to that judgment because of Disney’s status as a content and intellectual property juggernaut. Disney is also a large corporation which are historically ethically neutral at best. I am not here to defend Disney but Hamilton was going to be distributed by one company or another. While we still have capitalism, that is the way it is going to be. Disney+ being a new platform makes it not a bad idea for both sides. Miranda gets plenty of eyes on his show while Disney gets yet another exclusive to dangle for subscriptions.

On top of all of that, Miranda already has an established relationship with Disney having worked on several projects with the company (Moana, Mary Poppins Returns, Ducktales, Star Wars, and the upcoming Encanto). With an established relationship, Miranda probably had an easier time arguing for creative control of the edit. Disney cares a lot about presentation so they would be able to display the production as well as anybody. Disney has also started to care more about diversity and representation and if this pushes them further in that direction, great!

Miranda had been sitting on a recording of the show for years presumably for a theatrical release that had been scheduled for October 2021. A theatrical release would have been great but we are in the middle of a pandemic which likely will still be lingering next year. Miranda is very smart and compassionate and probably did not want people rushing out to theaters and getting sick. Additionally, a Disney Plus subscription is about seven dollars which beats a fifteen dollar ticket any day. So for half the price, you can have a month of access to a lot of great Disney content instead of paying more for one shot (pun intended). Also, at one time a Hamilton ticket was considered a bargain at over $800. This is a steal. Of course, not everybody has Internet access but I think Miranda did the best he could.

In short, “selling out” means to compromise your moral code in exchange for money. Miranda’s goal was to get as many people to see his show as possible because he is an artist. He has accomplished that goal and continues to accomplish that goal.

F-Bombs

Before the show was released on Disney+, Miranda was asked on Twitter about whether the show would be censored. Disney has a historically clean image to maintain and, among other things, Hamilton has three usages of the word “fuck”. The problem was that Disney+ has a rating cap of PG-13. In order to maintain a PG-13 rating, a movie has to keep to only one F-Bomb (and context matters). Miranda agreed to edit out two out of three F-bombs in order to get under the wire. He did not have to sacrifice any sexual innuendos and most of the show survived intact. Yet, some people are angry.

The arguments seem to be varied. Some people are mad that Miranda may have been pressured to sacrifice artistic vision. This is the anti-censorship argument. While I usually think that censorship is wrong, I do not think that is what happened here. Miranda has been vocal about his willingness to lose those two words in order to get the show aired. Another argument that I have heard is that the word “fuck” is not even that offensive. It is just a word. I agree with this. There is no such thing as dirty language, only dirty speech. However, that argument can go both ways. If it is just a word, then why not cut it out to accomplish a goal? The two usages that were cut added very little to the lines they were in and the one they kept (which is more of a Fuuuu). I say it is a pointless thing to complain about.

What Was Left Out

This is a much more valid complaint that was absolutely good to be asked. Hamilton does not do much to address the issue of slavery in the Colonies and the fledgling United States. There are a few lines that point out the conflict of fighting for freedom while slavery still exists but there are no slave characters and the issue is not pushed. Miranda has agreed that this is an issue. He agonized for a long time on what he could include and still maintain a cohesive story in an amount of time that an audience could sit through. He had a lot of tough decisions and frankly, I feel like he made the right ones.

I do not feel qualified to argue this point because I am a White Male Southerner. Miranda has addressed criticisms and has agreed with many of them. However, he has pointed out that the music of the show is a celebration of music that was only possible because of contributions by Black artists and culture. The show also does not paint any of the historical characters as paragons of virtue. Every single person (slave owner or merely complicit) is portrayed as deeply flawed.

I think the biggest point in the show’s favor in this matter is that it is a positive show that has sparked discussion about American History. The show talks about “Who Tells Your Story” and Miranda told a story but it is up to everybody to tell all of the stories. We need to continue to tell Black stories, immigrant stories, and so many other important stories. Hamilton is a great show but it may end up being more important because of what it brought to the table. I think vilifying Hamilton misses a lot of points and we could approach the problem in a more positive way.


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