Usually when you spend so much time hyping something up — and waiting for it, in our case — the fear is that all of the hype would be for nothing. That, ultimately, the anticipation was greater than the final product. And, unfortunately, that happens far too often in entertainment.
Well, in the case of the Hamilton movie on Disney+, the wait was more than worth it. And it was so much better than I could’ve imagined.
There aren’t words to express my feelings about Hamilton, but it’s my job to try my best and do just that. It goes without saying that Hamilton is truly a masterpiece that’s able to teach us about the history of the United States in such a way that feels like we’re not even learning at all.
As a teacher, one of the hardest things is to not only get children’s attention but to keep it. As a teacher, you want students to be excited about learning. And Hamilton demonstrates the way to do just that.
Hamilton is one of the most unique pieces of entertainment in history because of how it’s able to blend history with hip-hop, R&B, and everything in between. That, and it’s truly an inspiring story about how an orphaned immigrant rose above all of the adversity to become one of the most pivotal figures in United States history.
Alexander Hamilton was no saint. He was stubborn, overworked himself, at times neglected his family, cheated on his wife, and you have to believe he was truly never satisfied. But he’s not unlike a lot of us. We all have our faults. We’ve all been guilty of indiscretions that have made others look at us differently and us look at ourselves differently. We’ve all experienced adversity that has pushed us to our wit’s end. We’ve all wanted to leave some kind of lasting legacy, whatever that may be.
Obviously, the flaws are unique to given individuals, but it’s a reminder that no one is perfect. While history usually remembers the things that no one wants to be remembered for, it also shows us that these imperfect people accomplished greatness. Especially the people whose legacies live on after them.
And Lin-Manuel Miranda is able to so beautifully depict not only the history that comes with all of the names that we know — Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson, etc. — and those we might not know — Eliza Schuyler, Angelica Schuyler, John Laurens, etc. — but the intricacies of all of the men and women that comprise this story and the history of our country.
It’s easy to forget that we’re literally watching our country’s history unfold in front of us, especially when we’re watching rap battles between Hamilton and Jefferson or watching Hamilton and his buddies at a local pub drinking and singing about not throwing away their shot.
What makes Hamilton so enjoyable is that it’s enjoyable. It’s not like typical history documentaries we’re used to. It’s fresh, it’s bright, it’s emotional, it’s riveting, and it’s something you’re left singing long after the curtain call.
The significance of Hamilton, especially at this time on July 4, is something that resonates with everyone that watches it. The history in Hamilton goes beyond Alexander Hamilton himself. It shows us a time when women’s only job was to marry and have kids. It shows us a time when slavery was the norm, but there were people that stood against it. It shows us a time when our country completed the biggest upset in history by besting the British in the Revolutionary War.
While for many it’s a reminder of some things they’ve learned in their history class, for other’s it’s introducing them to this history that they might not have found interesting before. Or, even for someone like me, it’s giving me a new appreciation for history, learning things we were never taught in our textbooks or in school.
I was lucky enough to see Hamilton on Broadway back in 2018, albeit not with the original cast. But it was still one of the most life-changing entertainment experiences of my life. Being at the Richard Rodgers Theater, watching and listening with awe, feeling the energy that radiated in the room, even as we all fought the urge not to sing the songs we’d sung hundreds of times prior to seeing this in the flesh.
But watching the Hamilton film felt like I was experiencing it for the first time all over again. While it wasn’t the same as being in the room where it happens, getting to see the original cast perform — recognizing the familiar voices that have been singing in my head for so long — was so special. Getting to experience it with my mom, who I saw Hamilton with on Broadway, and singing along to all of our favorite songs. Introducing Hamilton to a new audience, who were instantly transfixed by what was happening.
Much like Hamilton has been a cultural movement, so is getting to share this wonderful work of art with so many people. But also getting to experience it again — and knowing I can watch it again and again, which I plan on doing. I laughed, I cried, I cheered, I sang, and I smiled until my mouth hurt by night’s end.
Hamilton isn’t just a trend. It’s not something silly like crazy bands or fidget spinners that thrives for a short period of time and then gets forgotten. Like the history it depicts, Hamilton is something that will live on long after we’re gone.
Much like Alexander Hamilton left behind a rich legacy that has been revived in our history, Lin-Manuel Miranda has ensured that his own legacy will live on with one of the most masterful pieces of art that we’ve had the privilege of experiencing.
It’s amazing, how lucky we are to be alive right now. To get to witness something so special. And now, thanks to Disney+, we can all say that we were in the room where it happened. Even if that happened to be our living room. And that’s pretty special.