Hamilton

Full disclaimer, I still haven’t seen it, so I’m not entitled to have an opinion on it. Nonetheless, I think we’re seeing an interesting social phenomenon, and a proof of Marshall McLuhan’s most famous statement, the medium is the message.
For five years, we have all been hearing people sing the praises of Hamilton, the Broadway musical. So far, so good. I tend to like musicals, on the grounds that even if the story is shit, there might still be a couple of enjoyable songs in there. Also, I like historical biographies. Hamilton is not my favorite among the revolutionaries, and I certainly would have voted for Jefferson over him, but he definitely gets credit for being a smart guy who was right about some stuff. And, recently, history has not been kind to Jefferson.
But, back to Hamilton, the musical. It was incredibly popular as a stage play, with all the in-crowd people, those who can afford to pay a couple hundred bucks for an evening’s entertainment, raving about it.
Now, it’s on TV (pay TV, but still TV) and it has been shown to a much wider audience, and it’s like the blazing campfire got doused by a surprise summer rainstorm. Some people are still saying they liked it, but a whole lot of people are saying ‘meh’ or even ‘that kind of sucked.’
Part of it was the idea of black actors playing white characters, which I hadn’t even realized was the deal back when it was just rich people seeing the play. Tricky stuff, there. The Wiz worked. Black Panther worked, even with white audiences. But, a historical drama, I don’t know. When Daniel Day Lewis played Lincoln, he was made to look like Lincoln and part of the casting choice was that that would be possible. When Cliff Robertson was chosen to play John Kennedy in PT 109, part of the reason for that choice is that he looked a bit like Kennedy.
It can be defended, it’s acting, it’s a stylistic choice. But, it’s one that apparently worked with the dress up and go to the theater audience, and not to the people who were watching it on their couch, at home, in their underwear.
Also, I think there’s a bit of confirmation bias at play. If you’ve shelled out a couple of Benjamins to see a show, you are disinclined to come out of that show and say “Eh, didn’t like it that much.” Even most rich people will admit that that is an amount of money not to be lightly thrown away, and nobody likes to admit they got took.
Whatever the specific reasons, it is proof of what McLuhan said. The medium definitely does have an effect on how the message is perceived.

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