Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Deadwood creator David Milch has spoken at length on the quality and quantity of the profanity in his late, lamented examination of frontier morality, pointing out that the reason he chose to use anachronistic modern curse words is that historical accuracy would have required him to use epithets like “varmint” that would have made his hard-bitten saloon owners and crooks sound like Yosemite Sam. His artistic choice was designed to make us understand how coarse these men were during their time by translating how coarse they would sound to us during our own.
One part of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s genius in Hamilton is that his casting and musical form is this same idea writ large. He’s made the English king the only white man and made the Americans diverse because at that time the Americans were to be treated by the English the way that Americans now all-too-often find themselves treating their own ethnic and other minorities, and the notion of Americans who wanted their freedom was viewed as ridiculous and unrealistic–the colonists should have laid back, accepted their rulers, and remembered their stations. The use of rhythm and vernacular and hip-hop cadences speak to youth, to the energy of movement and the desire to be counted as more than somebody else’s dominion that characterized the very idea of breaking free from what was, at that time, the definition of a world empire. And I think part of what Miranda is pointing out is a fundamental truth about our national populace–that even when they have little reason to love America, few people can understand its beating heart quite like those who have had to fight to be recognized as its citizens, moreso than those whose privilege grants them that assumption from day one.
I’m sure I’m not saying anything somebody else hasn’t said already, but I haven’t had the time or headspace to give Hamilton a proper listen until this past week. I should no longer listen to it at work, because I sit too closely to other people to have to fight back tears all day long.