“Hamilton” is under fire from left-leaning activists who say the Tony award-winning musical is a relic from a less-woke era that glorifies a slave-trader and other founding fathers who have recently fallen out of favor.
The musical is now a feature film, released last week on the Disney+ streaming network to record-breaking viewership and rave reviews, but activists contend that times have changed from when the musical first premiered on Broadway, and now, after the death of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department, Americans are “reckoning” with the problematic traits of founders like Alexander Hamilton.
“[T]he politician’s links with the slave trade have resurfaced following ‘Hamilton’s’ release, with the hashtag #CancelHamilton this week gaining traction on social media,” the National reported over the weekend. “While Hamilton, portrayed as a scrappy young immigrant in the eponymous musical, is not believed to have directly had enslaved people in his service, he managed slave sales for his wife’s family, the Schuylers, according to historians.”
One Harvard professor noted to the National that “Hamilton” puts a gloss over the life of the United States’ first Secretary of the Treasury, in pursuit of a modern audience: “He was not an abolitionist. He bought and sold slaves for his in-laws, and opposing slavery was never at the forefront of his agenda.”
Some social media users were blunt.
“Can we cancel Hamilton for glorifying our racist founding fathers and painting America as a good country,” one asked, according to the Daily Mail.
“Can’t believe Disney is showing a show about a slave trader in times like this. Also, the actors aren’t the same color as the people they are portraying. How dare they,” fumed another.
“Are y’all ready to talk about how problematic Hamilton is?” posted another. “Lin Manuel Miranda created a piece of work that used hip hop (a genre created by black people) to tell the story of colonizers and slave owners.”
Others were more thoughtful, pointing out that, in previous, less-woke lives, they were certainly fans of “Hamilton,” even though scholars have long pointed out that the musical is riddled with historical inaccuracies and convenient revisionism. Now, though, in a nation grappling with the implications of institutionalized racism, their appreciation for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s signature work has been tarnished.
“hope everyone does some research about Hamilton the musical, especially with it coming out this friday. i get that it’s an enjoyable musical, but try to put things into perspective after doing research about why a musical about slave owners isn’t the greatest thing to support rn,” noted one.
Miranda, for his part, still feels “Hamilton” has something to say to the current moment.
“When you write a musical that brushes against sort of the origins of this country, it’s always going to be relevant,” he told NPR over the weekend. “The fights we had at the origin are the fights we’re still having. I’ve always said that slavery is the original sin of this country.”
Even if leftists succeed in making “#CancelHamilton” trend, it’s unlikely they’ll do much to damage the smash Broadway hit. Broadway.com reports that the show has grossed an astounding $650,000,000 in ticket sales since it opened in 2015.
Disney+ isn’t likely to pull the film version of the live musical, either. Although Disney has yet to release any official streaming totals, “the Disney+ app was downloaded 513,323 globally and 266,084 times in the United States from Friday, July 3 through Sunday, July 6th,” according to Decider — a 72% increase over average, and a definite win for the struggling entertainment conglomerate.
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