What's The Big Deal About 'Hamilton,' Anyway?

What's The Big Deal About 'Hamilton,' Anyway?

"History is happening in Manhattan."

Last week, it was announced that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. While America celebrated the inclusion of such an important female historical figure on our money, fans of the Broadway hit "Hamilton" rejoiced in double measure, as there has been talk that it would be the “ten-dollar founding father” who Tubman would be replacing. However, Alexander Hamilton gets to stay on the bill, a decision undoubtedly influenced by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit hip hop musical.

Earlier in the same week, Lin-Manuel Miranda received a Pulitzer Prize for "Hamilton," one of only nine that were given to plays in the last hundred years. Previous winners include "Rent," "A Chorus Line," and "South Pacific," all of which were politically proactive, which puts "Hamilton" in good company. Its cast is comprised of mostly people of color—black and Hispanic founding fathers—is just as revolutionary as the events of the plot.

The winning of the Pulitzer prompted the consideration of raising the prices of tickets to the show, which is significant because premium tickets are already at $595 a piece. Yet people still fill up the Richard Rodgers Theater every night to be in “the room where it happens.”

So, what is the big deal? How did a musical about Alexander Hamilton and rapping founding fathers influence the decisions of the United States Secretary of Treasury, win such an exclusive and prestigious award, sell out an entire summer’s worth of shows by March, and manage to captivate the country more than any Broadway show has ever done?

Here are four things about the show that prove just how important Hamilton is:

1. Diversity

The show's most defining feature is that nearly every founding father is portrayed by a black actor. Lin-Manuel Miranda claims POC actors were chosen because they are the best choice to perform the genres of music selected for the show: rap and hip hop. Also, having black founding fathers claims the story of America's past for America today.

Throughout the show, positive light is also shed on immigrants. The opening line characterizes Alexander as a "bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean" who "grew up to be a hero and a scholar." At 19, he traveled as an immigrant to the United States where he was able to "rise up" and become a founding father of our nation—a poster boy for the American Dream. In a world where there's so much talk against immigrants, it's a nice reminder that one of the founding fathers was one.

2. Feminism

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I'm 'a compel him to include women in the sequel." (The Schuyler Sisters)

"Hamilton" is full of feminism. Though we typically don't hear as much about women in colonial times as we do about the founding fathers in history classes, the show tells the stories of Angelica, Alexander's wife Eliza, and Peggy Schuyler as if they're just as important--because they are.

Women get the leads in some of the most powerful songs in the show--including but not limited to "Satisfied," "Burn," and "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story." Women are respected and considered equals to the men in the show.

3. Hip Hoppin' Politics

"A civics lesson from a slaver. Hey neighbor, your debts are paid 'cause you don't pay for labor!" (Cabinet Battle #1)

Imagine this: all future presidential debates and congressional meetings are rap battles. Amazing, right? The two cabinet meetings in "Hamilton" are staged as rap battles between Hamilton and his political nemesis and fellow founding father Thomas Jefferson, and they're so fun because of the witty rhymes and digs they take at each other. These songs and others, including "The Room Where It Happens," "Washington On Your Side," and "The Election of 1800," poke fun at the pettiness of the politics of the beginning of our country and now, in how closely the founding fathers' drama resembles today's. Also, the clever lyrics and catchy beats make you care about and learn American history without even realizing you're doing it. And the best part is you enjoy every minute of it.

4. Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

"Let me tell you what I wish I'd known when I was young and dreamed of glory: you have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story." (History Has Its Eyes On You)

A recurrent theme in the show is the idea of a legacy. The show is narrated by Aaron Burr, who infamously killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel, playing on the idea that the victor gets to tell the story. Alexander acts as his own narrator in a way because of the way he aggressively protects his good name and tries to shape the way future generations remember him, which is ironic considering in the opening number, Aaron Burr claims "his enemies destroyed his rep, America forgot him." Lin-Manuel Miranda also acts as a kind of narrator of the story because he wrote the show.

So, there's a question: who tells the story? The show answers on many levels, but it all boils down to one answer: we do. The whole show is proof we don't have to accept what is. We can have black actors portray founding fathers. We can remember the story from Burr's point of view or from Hamilton's. We can listen to a story so seemingly distant from our world today and claim it like it's our own. History may have its eyes on you, but it's not set in stone.

The big deal about "Hamilton" is that it tells a story lost in history of an immigrant turned founding father, and it reclaims the story of the beginning of America for today's America. It's no wonder this show full of diverse actors, strong female characters, Grammy award-winning songs, and important themes has turned the world upside down.

So, if you haven't listened to the cast album, what are you waiting for?

Cover Image Credit: New York Times

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12 Beautiful Views Of Purdue's Campus, One For Each Month

A photo story of Purdue's beautiful campus.

Because Purdue University is located in Indiana, the campus experiences many seasonal changes. One thing is for certain, no matter the month the views are always beautiful. The photos below are meant to represent each month of the year in Boilermaker territory.


Large snowflakes are peaceful when the sidewalks are not slick.


Overcast views create a moody view from the top floor of a residence hall.


The Hello Walk is a serene view at dusk.


The white flowered trees blossom to surround the Engineering Fountain.


The campus is coated in fog and mist after a humid day.


The arch casts magnificent shadows during any time of the day.


The sunset glows down University Street from the top of Grant Street parking garage.


Students or little kids can play in Loeb Fountain during a hot day.


The sun during golden hour shines brightly on the Bell Tower.


Bright lights shine down on the Ross-Ade Stadium during a football game.


Colorful trees line campus sidewalks in the fall.


The large tree and smell of the gingerbread house fill the Purdue Memorial Union during the first weeks of the month.

Cover Image Credit: Katelyn Milligan

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3 Reasons 'Black Panther' Is A Black Cultural Icon

The cultural significance behind the celebration of blackness

Nobody ever denied the Marvel Cinematic Universe's influence over the masses, and one could look no further than the box office to understand that. Eighteen films in a franchise, though, and you'd be remiss if you thought superhero fatigue would've settled in by now.

Enter 2018, and this most recent "superhero flick" prioritizes political intrigue, race relations, and moral ambiguity in Ryan Coogler's Black Panther film, the highest-grossing film of 2018, seventh in the United States, and twentieth of all time.

The biggest debut by an African American director boasts a predominantly black cast, the best reviews (beating out both Nolan's The Dark Knight and Iron Man) for a superhero movie, and yet still garners the question: What makes Black Panther so engaging to audiences? First, let's start with

1. The Director

Ryan Coogler is a well-renowned film director, similar in vein to Quentin Tarantino only in the fact that both produce, comparatively to other high-demand filmmakers, very few but powerfully-influential works.

His first feature film, Fruitvale Station, gathered acclaim and the majority of audience/grand jury awards in 2013's Sundance Film Festival, a feat he built upon when co-writing and directing Creed, the seventh installment in the Rocky film franchise, and from both films a collaboration with actor Michael B/ Jordan further flourished.

The fact that Black Panther's director who, since the age of twenty-one served as a counselor for the incarcerated youth in San Francisco's Juvenile Hall, has very much so lived out the same life he so often realizes in his films, only further adds to why Marvel's latest feature film rings truer to its audiences.

Coogler is a founding member and avid supporter of Blackout For Human Rights, a campaign designed for the specific purpose of addressing racial and human rights violations in America.

Not simply a film director making a "quick buck" or even just passionate about filmmaking as an art form, Coogler has time and again used his cinematic voice to convey the thoughts and feelings of people of color across the silver screen for all to see. Secondly, we must consider

2. The Ethnocentric Emphasis

While many filmgoers are no stranger to race relations being confronted in a film, this was a case wherein a major company, Disney/Marvel, took it upon themselves to challenge the status quo for mainstream audiences.

This wasn't BET(Black Entertainment Television), a rap video, or a stand-up comedy routine, all of which are tried-and-true methods for people of color to communicate to a wider audience; this was Marvel, the biggest name in movies today, and they were making a move.

For a time, myself included, there was fear the message would become misconstrued or miss the mark entirely, what with impeding studio interference already having plagued prior Marvel movies.

Luckily, the black representation allowed for a rare opportunity for young black children to have a superhero they could not only empathize with, but physically resembled family they already idolized.

This in no way takes away from the many fan-favorite white superheroes, but does provide a comic book character for a subdivision of audiences marginalized on a national and even global scale.

Linking back to Coogler, the director set his sights on the advanced sciences, heightened technologies, and rich cultures envisioned within Wakanda's waterfalls and warring tribes, in contrast to other films centered around black pain and suffering.

The piece handles the racial identity of itself was dignity and pride, a welcome step forward in cinema that highlights the positive blackness can offer. Last, one cannot disregard the impact that came from

3. The Control of Characters

Think back to any Marvel movie, and you can name the Chosen One protagonist, Supportive Sidekick, and Snarky, Smarmy Love Interest-type caricatures with ease, but Coogler's sense of pride and admiration for blackness with a focus on the ethnocentric vision for Wakanda brings the people of his fictional place to life.

All these fully-realized characters make for an exciting, engaging film phenomenon where, as critics have pointed out, even central antagonist Killmonger (Erik Stevens, portrayed by Michael B. Jordan) is cast in a sympathetic light.

It is not hero v. villain(again), but a dueling of two ideologies colliding in a struggle that transgresses the physical combat and becomes a philosophically-intriguing debate that, by the film's conclusion, makes for two sides forever changed.

No one character is painted in a negative fashion, or without redeemable qualities, and again creates persons both for and against immigration, in favor of and against union between "people that look like us across the globe"(black) and "colonizers" (white).

Black Panther is a monumental movie with ties to other racially-motivated pieces, a la A Raisin in the Sun, that posits African-Americans in a heroic scene. It is personal favorite of mine, and hopefully, this helps you understand exactly.

Cover Image Credit: flickr

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