19 Apr Op/Ed: Of Hamilton, #Hashtags, and Heresy
A show that puts front and center the very people that literally built the White House?
Oh no! We can’t have that!
And in yet another stunning move of what people of color can no longer have to themselves in the extreme wave of cultural appropriation that has taken the world by storm, the musical Hamilton has come under fire for daring to request a primarily multicultural cast.
Because, you know, there are far too many shows on Broadway that predominantly feature latinos, blacks, and Asians and white people need to have a bigger presence. Go ahead and name them.
They don’t call it the Great White Way for nothing.
Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.
2015 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical.
Unprecedented advance box office sales.
Et cetera, et cetera.
Little wonder that there is a bit of Manifest Destiny coming its way…
Written, produced, and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton has been a smash success since debuting off-Broadway in 2015 and has only grown in acclaim. Loosely based on the life of America’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, the show delves into birth of the country and places minorities front and center of the story. By infusing hip hop into its numbers, Hamilton has succeeded on all fronts, becoming a juggernaut of a pop culture phenomenon, receiving accolades from President Obama, Helen Mirren, and many people that have never ventured towards the theatre. Moreso than any other show before or presently, Hamilton has breathed new life into the theatre and introduced it to a section of the population that usually isn’t on Broadway’s radar.
So imagine the backlash that has ensued when the show’s website requested actors of color for their upcoming auditions.
President Barack Obama: “With a cast as diverse as America itself, including the outstandingly talented women, the show reminds us that this nation was built by more than just a few great men—and that it is an inheritance that belongs to all of us.”
It must be particularly jarring for the white community to read about a show achieving such universal acclaim that does not have them front and center. By defiantly casting people of color in roles as the Founding Fathers, Hamilton has inadvertently lit a fire under white people who are now demanding to be included in a show so spectacular, innovative, and original that does not involve them.
The terms ‘color blind casting’ and ‘rainbow casting’ may be decades old, but the reality is that it is more theory than actually applied. How fitting that now that the tables have been reversed and people of color are gaining acclaim as #OscarsSoWhite still looms in our recent memory, reverse racism is suddenly attempting to become a ‘thing’. Note the uproar when a black Hermione was cast in the recent production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London. One of the organizations that has been set up to protect actors of all colors in America has a questionable history when it comes to how they execute policy and their condemnation of Hamilton producers is the latest in a long line of misfires by the Actors Equity Association. How quickly AEA stepped in to reprimand the Hamilton crew for the following casting notice:
But say the word ‘Miss Saigon’ and it is one glaring case of when the AEA has been seriously inconsistent with upholding casting rules for Broadway productions. Does that AEA only support diversity when it excludes white people?
Things that make you go hmmmm….
How refreshing it is to see a Broadway show that is not lily white? As white people cry foul, is it so far out to assume that soon there will be a Roots remake with an all-white cast?
Channing Tatum as Toby, anyone?!
The latest Hamilton controversy could even be compared to the war on drugs that is currently also trending. When it was crack, no one was checking for black people. But now that it is heroin, it’s #treatment time. So conversely, now that Broadway’s runaway hit doesn’t involve a majority of white people, it’s time to do away with race restrictions?
Maybe we all should be smoking on a crackpipe.
The line for rotation starts here.
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