For the second time in as many years, left-wing critics are taking Lin-Manuel Miranda to task for creating a production they deem insufficiently woke. And for the second time, the composer and lyricist has immediately apologized.
A year ago, when a mob sent the hashtag #CancelHamilton trending because the Tony-award-winning musical cast the Founding Fathers in a positive light, Miranda immediately asked for forgiveness. “As the writer of this show,” he said, “I take responsibility and apologize for my part in this moral failure.”
This time, complainers took aim at the casting of his latest project, a film version of his Broadway smash, “In the Heights,” claiming that while characters are played by Latinos with a variety of backgrounds, they’re too light-skinned.
In a Roots video that sparked much of the criticism, interviewer Felice León asked ‘Heights’ director John Chu, “What would you say to folks who say that ‘In the Heights’ privileges white-passing and light-skinned Latinx people?” Chu responded, “I would say that’s a fair conversation to have. Listen, we’re not going to get everything right in a movie. We tried our best on all fronts of it.”
From there, social media took up the “representation” cry, with one Twitter user commenting, “In all of this ‘In the Heights’ discourse, I hope y’all amplify the voices and analysis of *dark-skinned Black Latinas* who constantly bear the brunt of misogynoir, anti-Blackness and xenophobia in Latin America and the US. I’m TIRED of my sisters being erased. why aren’t you?”
Autostraddle Editor in Chief Carmen Phillips had a somewhat different complaint— she was upset by a lack of LGBTQ representation, saying, “By relegating Daniela and Carla to background sweetness, ‘In the Heights’ asks queer Latinxs to settle…it asks Afro-Latinxs to settle. We are worth more than settling.”
On Monday, Miranda posted a statement to Twitter addressing the furor, saying, “I started writing ‘In the Heights’ because I didn’t feel seen. And over the past 20 years all I wanted was for us — ALL of us — to feel seen. I’m seeing the discussion around Afro-Latino representation in our film this weekend and it is clear that many in our dark-skinned Afro-Latino community don’t feel sufficiently represented within it, particularly among the leading roles.”
He finished with the ubiquitous promise to “do better,” saying, “I’m trying to hold space for both the incredible pride in the movie we made and be accountable for our shortcomings. Thanks for your honest feedback. I promise to do better in my future projects, and I’m dedicated to the learning and evolving we all have to do to make sure we are honoring our diverse and vibrant community.”
While Miranda wouldn’t defend himself, there was one celebrity in Hollywood willing to do it for him. Legendary Puerto Rican actress Rita Moreno told Stephen Colbert Tuesday night, “It’s like you can never do right, it seems.” She then added, “I’m simply saying, can’t you just wait a while and leave it alone? There’s a lot of people who are puertorriqueño, who are also from Guatemala, who are dark and who are also fair. We are all colors in Puerto Rico. This is how it is, and it would just be so nice if they hadn’t come up with that and left that alone, just for now. They’re really attacking the wrong person.”