How Lin-Manuel Miranda Is Responding To Hamilton Criticism

When Hamilton debuted on Broadway in 2015, it was an instant sensation and amassed legions of fans who were all but obsessed with the hip-hop musical about the trials of Alexander Hamilton. Now that the show is on Disney+ and more people are considering the tale, Lin-Manuel Miranda is facing criticism about the portrayal of slavery in the production. 

In case you live under a rock or something, Disney+ released a filmed version of the staged musical in early July 2020, meaning that millions more people can actually see it. But a lot has changed in the world since the musical was first released, and some people are seeing aspects of the show in a different light, especially considering the heightened conversations around the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Miranda seems to be taking the heat in stride and has acknowledged the attention. In fact, he seems to consider some of the criticisms to be valid. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton was a huge hit

Hamilton is insanely popular, by all accounts. Critic Lauren Michele Jackson praised its "multicultural patriotism" in a July 2020 piece in The New Yorker, and when it debuted in 2015, Ben Brantley of The New York Times lauded the play for its diversity and re-positioning of American history. He went so far as to joke that he was "loath to tell people to mortgage their houses and lease their children to acquire tickets to a hit Broadway show," but that it might be "worth it." 

Hamilton won a Pulitzer Prize for drama, 11 Tony Awards, and has garnered more than $1 billion in profits from ticket sales, recordings, and merchandise, per Forbes. Basically, it's a cash cow for Lin-Manuel Miranda and a cultural phenomenon. Broadcasting the production on Disney+ means that the Hamilton hype is far from over. 

Then again, the current cultural climate and discussion around the Black Lives Matter movement and protests in 2020 has some people wondering if maybe Hamilton wasn't all that radical and perhaps didn't measure up to the hype. 

Audiences are rethinking Hamilton's message

The criticism of Hamilton comes at a time when many communities are rethinking their monuments and heroes, and while Lin-Manual Miranda's musical positions Alexander Hamilton as an immigrant who did what he had to do, the show arguably tends to gloss over the actual matter of slavery. Although Hamilton opposed slavery, he married into a family of slave owners and compromised his belief that Black and white people were "probably" equal in the name of property rights. Some critics of the musical believe that the ambivalence portrayed in the play should prompt people to #CancelHamilton in 2020, per the New York Post

Others feel that the musical shouldn't necessarily be canceled, but that a conversation about it should be had. Tracey Clayton, a writer and the host of the Strong Black Leads podcast tweeted, in part: "Hamilton the play and the movie were given to us in two different worlds & our willingness to interrogate things in this way feels like a clear sign of change." She added, "I totally get the frustration about it being a play about slaveholders that is not about slavery. I've felt that in lots of things I watch, but I flex the same muscle I use when I listen to hip hop as a black woman. We enjoy problematic things all the time." 

Miranda seems to agree. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda says Hamilton criticisms are 'valid'

Writer Tracey Clayton of the Strong Black Leads podcast believes the criticisms of Hamilton are fair, but she also asserted that there's more to it than just canceling the play outright. Clayton referenced the 2020 removal of statues of slaveowners and white supremacists across the country, tweeting, in part: "After reading the critiques i would have appreciated more context about Hamilton & slavery. But to lump it in with statues of Columbus and Robert E. Lee denies this conversation the nuance it deserves & we're capable of giving it that."

Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda seems ready to listen to those conversations, too. He responded to Clayton's thread of tweets about his show with an open mind, writing, "Appreciate you so much ... All the criticisms are valid. The sheer tonnage of complexities & failings of these people I couldn't get. Or wrestled with but cut. I took 6 years and fit as much as I could in a 2.5 hour musical. Did my best. It's all fair game."

Overall, it's arguably a good thing that more and more people can watch the musical and formulate their own thoughts about whether they want to cancel it or not.