Menu lock

United States

Nov 22, 2016

The problem with Hamilton isn’t Mike Pence, it’s that it is racist, whitewashing trash

If it is not OK to normalise hatred, and of course it is not, then Hamilton is not OK. Mike Pence is the least of the musical's problems.

Helen Razer — Writer and Broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and Broadcaster

Hamilton Musical Logo

Looking to invest in an uplifting musical? Hooboy, do I have a pitch for you. Cop this: we open in 1788, with a chorus line of attractive, go-getting British officials. Over the years, they face fun problems building colony infrastructure, but none so tricky that they cannot be surmounted with a rhyme. Yes! That’s right, this is a musical based on a form called “hip hop”, which is very big with the youth. But — you’ll never believe it — here’s the twist. The entire cast, from Phillip to Macquarie, is all “diverse”! We’re thinking of calling it Bligh!

We recommend

From around the web

Powered by Taboola


Leave a comment

13 thoughts on “The problem with Hamilton isn’t Mike Pence, it’s that it is racist, whitewashing trash

  1. Peter Murphy

    I would like to have a musical about Aaron Burr, the guy who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. He’s a bit of a dubious character himself – he wanted to annex parts of Spanish Texas for his own little empire – but he was definitely against slavery.

  2. zut alors

    Is the person who invented musicals the same sadist who came up with owners’ corporations/bodies corporate?

    1. Helen Razer

      You’re saying you find them about as much fun as strata meetings, ZA?

    2. Carlene Colahan

      ZA – as both must have required major mind altering pharmaceuticals, I would say you are onto something!

  3. mikeb

    “Hamilton, which excuses the racist horror of America’s past merely by switching the race of its players”. It does? That’s quite a stretch of the imagination.

  4. Piers Gooding

    Trump and his team have refined outraging social liberals to a fine art – they do it as an inroad to the rage of the losers of the prevailing economic order. This stokes a form of class conflict between the ‘culture/policy/educated class’ and this huge population of people whose lives, jobs, towns have been winnowed away. Why would Pence go to a play with a diverse cast who he knew would criticise him? Pence, choosing to go to a hip hop musical? Come on. Why did Trump choose to use the term ‘safe space’? These were deliberate provocations – decided upon in a meeting room – to further galvanise the rage of the culturally and economically marginalised, and to distract from other things…. say, the Trump court case. Many journos and readers have not twigged to this finely tuned magic trick.

  5. Shaun

    That’s not the cast of Hamilton.

  6. Peter Gledhill

    Dead right H. FFS you cannot judge power by what it says, but ONLY by what it does!

  7. J Wheeldon

    “Makes no mention of slavery”

  8. AR

    Speaking of blackwashing, anyone remember the SBS show, BARBAKEWARIA?

  9. Humphrey Bower

    Helen, please. With all due respect, this is absolute tripe. I have not seen Hamilton either, but unlike you I will not attempt to review it. However the facts as I understand them are: (a) it is not about slavery, but about the American Revolution (and as far as I am aware unless you are a Stalinist not every show has to be about slavery in order not to be racist); (b) nevertheless it does mention slavery (and in fact if anything exaggerates the title character’s commitment to abolitionism); (c) it is a musical, and thus a work of art, not documentary history (although it does have unusually detailed historical and political content for a musical); (d) it is a work of theatre, thus not to be taken literally in terms of its casting and staging (e.g. black people can play white people, although in Australia we are slow to catch up on this); (e) it is racially diverse in its casting and staging by having black, Latino and Asian-American performers play its ruling-class white characters (which sounds to me like precisely what is radical about it as a work of theatre); (f) by doing this it is not saying that ‘the only problem is that there were not more black people or women in control’ (the casting isn’t literal, remember?) but giving racially and sexually diverse people more power as storytellers onstage today; (g) it began life as an off-Broadway show at The Public Theatre, where tickets generally range between $50 and $100, and so are relatively accessible (compared with, say, a Kanye West concert), before transferring to Broadway, where average prices are now about $500, except obviously for resales and fund-raising events (which are, precisely, fund-raising events). To say that the show is ‘racist whitewashing trash’ or that it ‘bleaches history’ – or to compare the casting with Mickey Rooney’s performance as an Asian character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – is grossly offensive to the show’s creators and performers and shows no understanding of theatre or cultural politics (which despite everything you rail against does exist and does matter, as ‘what is said and performed’ is a part of ‘what is done and decided’ and makes a material difference to people’s lives). As for your repetitive diatribe about Obama: it was the previous Bush administration that embarked on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and an expanded policy of surveillance, imprisonment and torture at home and abroad, whereas Obama has largely engaged in a policy of withdrawal and scaling-back on both fronts (I won’t rehearse again my critique of your selective and simplistic caricature of his deportation policy). In closing, I’ll simply suggest that your hatred of liberalism has got in the way of the facts, in a manner that is alarmingly similar to Trump and his supporters.