The Corner

Two Views of Hamilton

One of the most telling differences between liberals and conservatives is that liberals think more people should go to college, and conservatives think fewer should. To be sure, reducing enrollments might make a dent in the current mountain of student-load debt incurred for training that often helps the recipients very little. But perhaps the greatest benefit would be that the fewer identity-studies majors there were, the less of a market there would be for theater criticism like this, by The New Yorker’s Hilton Als, reviewing Lin-Manuel Miranda’s new musical about Alexander Hamilton — which our Rick Brookhiser, who knows a thing or two about Hamilton, discusses much more positively here (and which I have not seen).

The oddest line in Als’s piece is probably best not quoted here, though you can find it by searching for “circle” if you’re interested. And, as usual, he overuses the well-worn device of juxtaposing high-toned academic references with bits of last month’s slang. But the passage that perhaps sums up his view the best is this:

“Hamilton” is the work of a more mature artist, for sure, but one who’s fearful of being kept out of the white boys’ club of the American musical. By burying his trickster-quick take on race, immigrant ambition, colonialism, and masculinity under a commonplace love story in the second half of the show, Miranda hides what he most needs to display: his talent.

In other words: Miranda is Hispanic, so if he doesn’t focus constantly and relentlessly on sociopolitical issues related to his ancestry, he’s chickening out.

By contrast, here is Brookhiser’s takeaway from Hamilton:

Revolution is exciting, and sometimes necessary. But then comes government, and self-government: writing the Constitution, writing the Federalist, giving the economy a kick; freeing the slaves; being faithful to your wife . . .

Judging from the show’s popularity, even New York theatergoers seem more receptive to this simple yet profound message than to the progressives’ all-politics-all-the-time view of the world.

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