The Friday release of “Hamilton” on Disney+ finally made the Pulitzer-winning musical available to a mass audience, and social media takes on the tale of the first secretary of the treasury were mixed, reflecting viewpoints of a year very different from 2015, the year the play premiered on Broadway.
A number of voices praised creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s unique blend of hip-hop music and historical reenactment, highlighted the “audacious” way it included actors of color and urged audiences to support a theater industry suffering during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
You want your mind blown even further? After you have watched Hamilton once, take some time to gather your emotions which will be all over the room, then turn on the captions and watch it again. So. Many. Incredible. Words. Packed. Into. Milliseconds. #Hamilfilm— Ben Schwartz (@rejectedjokes) July 4, 2020
What I love about Hamilton is how much the founding fathers would have *hated* it— Katy Stoll (@katystoll) July 4, 2020
I feel like what’ll be lost to history about Hamilton is just how audacious this show was. Staging a show with majority POC - almost all non household names - on Broadway and turning that into a smash was unprecedented. And a hip hop musical on politics to boot? Absurd.— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) July 4, 2020
If you’re going bananas watching @HamiltonMusical PLEASE realize EVERY human who helped in creating and cultivating that magic piece of ART still needs the governments financial help past July 31.— Emily Lavengood (@EmilyLavengood) July 4, 2020
THEATRE IS STILL OUT OF WORK THROUGH 2021.
You enjoy art? Let’s keep it alive.
But others offered more muted takes, particularly audience members who argued that casting performers of color as slave-owning Founding Fathers such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson did not necessarily reclaim United States history for people of color — especially in 2020, a year defined by racial injustice protests sparked by the police killings of George Floyd and other Black Americans.
Miranda, who is of Puerto Rican descent, also received criticism. Some commenters brought up his lobbying for President Barack Obama’s 2016 Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, known as PROMESA, which was designed to reduce debt in the territory but has been criticized for cutting the budgets for vital public services.
Miranda himself qualified his support of PROMESA when he brought “Hamilton” to Puerto Rico in 2019, acknowledging that the law resulted in “unintended consequences.”
"liking hamilton as a musical and appreciating the work it has done to give poc more recognition on broadway" and "recognizing that it doesn't portray history accurately and the founding fathers were actually horrible people" are statements that can coexist— vinny 🐷💤 (@T3CHNOBL4DE) July 2, 2020
Do you think Lin Manuel Miranda effectively utilized media representation of BIPOC to funneling money into PROMESA which along with forming La Junta gutted social services in Puerto Rico, eliminated pensions for public-sector employees, and closed over 500 schools— shai isn't swedish (@haikkonst) July 3, 2020
I’m not saying you’re a bad person for enjoying it, no media is ideologically pure. But there’s a very clear disconnect when white leftists/liberals start talking about the removal of problematic media and figures... and then stan Hamilton.— Bug Enthusiast 🦋✨Commissions Closed ✨ (@Idolomantises) July 4, 2020
go and enjoy the music, but i'm telling you it's inherently problematic because of it's biased storytelling.— gian's kumu manager 🏳️🌈 (@bayagestetapang) July 3, 2020
i.e.: luna and goyo actually SHOWED their downsides and put judgement up to viewers. hamilton has no trace of his bigotry so you are programmed to think he's good.
casting poc to partake in a biased telling of a white slaveowner's life is not reclamation especially considering the fact that THEY probably don't even know THEIR OWN ancestry because of these colonizers.— gian's kumu manager 🏳️🌈 (@bayagestetapang) July 3, 2020
people who are unable to separate actors and characters sicken me.
Culture critic Jeva Lange argued that “Hamilton” feels “outdated” in 2020. The musical’s diverse casting seemed monumental in 2015, but “the past four years have illustrated the devastating limits of representation without accompanying fundamental change,” she wrote in The Week on the day “Hamilton” debuted on Disney+.
“Hamilton” “emerged during the sunny optimism of the late Obama era,” Lange said. “Half a decade on, we now live in a world where Hamilton has failed to age along with it, having idealistically put its full-throated faith into pre-packaged American values and ideals without acknowledging the underlying forces — like the fear-mongering, xenophobia, mean-spiritedness exploited by President Trump — that lay siege to them being realized.”
David Klion of The Nation and New Republic echoed the sentiments, tweeting that Hamilton was “Obamaism in a microcosm.”
Like Shakespearean plays, it appeals to people across the social spectrum in the vernacular of their time, and it compellingly captures human drama in a way that transcends its ideological leanings, which are more interesting to scholars than most audiences.— David Klion (@DavidKlion) July 4, 2020
It’s fine to enjoy things while also critically analyzing them. We can do both!— David Klion (@DavidKlion) July 4, 2020
Commentaries on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s romanticized vision of Alexander Hamilton are not new.
Historian Annette Gordon-Reed told The Harvard Gazette in 2016, “A Broadway show is not a documentary.” The play portrays Alexander Hamilton as a scrappy underdog who criticized Thomas Jefferson for maintaining slaves, but “opposing slavery was never at the forefront of [Hamilton’s] agenda,” Gordon-Reed said. The Founding Father was “elitist ... [and] in favor of having a president for life,” she added.
Rutgers professor Lyra D. Monteiro expressed similar views in The New York Times. “Hamilton” “over-glorifies the man, inflating his opposition to slavery while glossing over less attractive aspects of his politics, which were not necessarily as in tune with contemporary progressive values as audiences leaving the theater might assume,” she said in 2016.
For his part, Miranda stressed that the play — as well as the flawed character of Alexander Hamilton himself — were both still relevant to America in 2020, which is “having a real reckoning” to uproot the legacy of slavery.
“When you write a musical that brushes against sort of the origins of this country, it’s always going to be relevant,” Miranda said in a June 29 interview with NPR. “The fights we had at [America’s] origin are the fights we’re still having.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.