Part 1: And if you don't know, now you know...
I need to get this out of the way: I love Hamilton. Well, at least I love what I've heard of the soundtrack over and over and of reading Hamilton: The Revolution. Every time I encounter these songs I'm struck by their genius: the lyrics, the music, the casting of many actors in two complimentary roles, the fact this is a compelling Broadway musical based on Colonial history. When I finally see it on stage I'll probably be internally screaming or maybe externally, depending on how many drinks I had (one, it'll just take one).
One of the beautiful things about encountering something over and over is that you start to notice things you might not with just one encounter. Not too long ago I realized a pattern that often happens in musicals with me: I like the men's songs better (except for Wicked and Hairspray). It occurred to me while standing in my home alone belting out some King George lyrics ("...what was it? '85? That poor man they're going to eat him alive..."). Why do I gravitate to the men's songs more than the women's? I can't remember if it was Trey or I who came to the, now obvious, realization that all the women's songs in Hamilton are about men. Yes, "The Schuyler Sisters" has some empowered lines:
Let me sum up:
"The Schuyler Sisters" - It's great to be in NYC right now. We're looking for men with good minds.
"Helpless" - Love at first sight. I've got to marry this guy.
"Satisfied" - Crap, I shouldn't have let my sister have that guy. I'm going to regret this night the rest of my life.
"That Would Be Enough" - Stay with me instead of going to war, am I not enough?
"Take a Break" - You're working too hard come hang out with my family and sister who totally has a crush on you.
"Say No To This" - Have an affair, it'll be fun!
"Burn" - You..you..you. I'm burning all the letters you ever wrote to me, I'm not publicly speaking about your affair (props, that was her own business), and you're sleeping in your office.
"Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story" - I did all of these things for you for the next 50 years of my life (This is one of my favorite songs. Where's Eliza's musical?).
I know the show is about Hamilton. Hamilton had several ladies in his life. I can't help but feel disappointment that this is the window they're viewed in. Hamilton is a big deal. While our girls do have a rapping Angelica to look up to and an Eliza that spoke out against slavery when half of the country thought the opposite, but what other messages do these songs send our ladies?
Part 2: Can I be real a second?
I feel this annoying knee-jerk reaction to my thoughts expressed above, a fear I'm being "too feminist." I know, right? That's silly, but I've just been culturally trained to have that response. I'm working on not having that reaction, or at least to see the reaction and wave to it as I float away on my magical feminist parade float.
I've also noticed how I felt the need to start the post with "HEY I REALLY LOVE HAMILTON BUT..." Why do I feel like I have to protect myself? It's a mix of fearing people disagreeing with me and me internally feeling really conflicted about how much I love this musical but feel weird about its depiction of women. I'm not asking for a rewrite. If I ever meet Lin-Manuel Miranda I'll probably be speechless or incoherent. I simply see the importance in calling out these things in a popular cultural phenomenon.
If you stand for nothing...what'll you fall for?
(Thank you for the courage, Alison)