itsnotmymind (itsnotmymind) wrote,

  • Music:

The People Who Don't like Hamilton

I found this article here, about the people who buck the tide and have reservations about he musical Hamilton. Now we all like what we like dislike what we don't, and I don’t want to convince anyone out of their artistic opinions, but nonetheless I disagree with some of the arguments made, and want to talk about it.

One “Hamilton” skeptic I found via a callout on Facebook was, in fact, my musical theater writing teacher from college, Jay Kerr, who runs (and is trying to sell) a theater in Upstate New York.

“The writing is sloppy,” Kerr said via email. “Rhymes are not true” — some are not exact rhymes, but merely sound similar to rhymes — “and could be if he spent five more minutes. Good writing takes second place to the overall concept.”

I'm no theater expert, but I question that idea the rhymes have to be true for a good musical. In face I think too many true rhymes might make the musical a little cutesy.

Some people felt the "the rap-esque songs felt gimmicky.”. Not arguing there -
I didn't feel the way, but that's very much a matter of opinion.

The slavery issue is another one I can't disagree with. I like the way the show portrays slavery in some ways - i.e. that Hamilton clearly opposes it but as a white guy it is not his priority - but the show does romanticize George Washington. Per the article: “For goodness sake, why are we still venerating these guys?” [Lyra D.] Monteiro said in an interview. “If you had to put all the slaves owned by Washington, Jefferson and Madison on that stage, they wouldn’t fit.”

(For another angle, check out kate_nepveu's post on Hamilton here, where she says, in response to Alexander's line "we roll like Moses, claimin’ our promised land", no, not your promised land, not promised to you, not your land, no.. Given what Moses and company did to the people already living in their promised land, it's Biblical appropriate, but I don't think that's what most people are thinking when they hear the line.)

Donatella Galella feels that “Hamilton” offers a “celebratory American nationalism and mythmaking that a lot of people long for. It offers this assurance that if you work hard enough you’ll be successful,” while playing down the systemic obstacles.

I don't agree with this. True, the musical is a celebration of a man who worked hard, overcame barriers, and became hugely successful. But does the mere act of celebrating such a man imply that anyone can be successful if they work hard enough? The open song sure doesn't seem to be saying that:

"The ten-dollar founding father without a father
"Got a lot farther by working a lot harder
"By being a lot smarter By being a self-starter
"By fourteen, they placed him in charge of a trading charter"

A certain percentage of people do escape poverty, due to a luck, smarts, and hard work. The musical does not seem to be implying to me that anyone can do it (most of the other politicians who Alexander interacts with are from a well-to-do- background). Indeed, it says the exact opposite:

"There would have been nothin' left to do for someone less astute
"He woulda been dead or destitute without a cent of restitution"

ETA: Two more notes:

1. Unless I'm forgetting something, I don't think the musical ever makes it explicit that Washington is a slave owner - although it's a significant part of Jefferson's characterization.

2. When they win the Revolutionary War, we get this line that makes me cringe: "Black and white soldiers wonder alike if this really means freedom". No, black and white soldiers did not have the same expectations of freedom from winning the war. No, no.
Tags: hamilton

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