Hamilton does a superb job at educating this generation on the American Revolution

George Liu, Videographer, Anchor

When you think about American history, what comes to mind? A bunch of white guys arguing with each other? A slew of pointless events that happened a long time ago and not worth learning about? Harambe? I am guilty of assuming all those things as a good enough representation of the history of our country. Now, what do you think of when I mention Hamilton? You think of the hit Broadway musical dramatizing the life of Alexander Hamilton right? Was Hamilton an old white guy who did nothing but argue? Of course not! Was his life a slew of pointless events that happened a long time ago and not worth learning about? Many of you would kill me for even suggesting that. Was he just as great as Harambe? I could write another opinion column on that subject, but there is no denying that both were pretty awesome.

The life of Hamilton and other pivotal figures in history are far more interesting than what we assume. Many Americans just haven’t been adequately educated about their lives, or have been in a way that is uninteresting to them and easily overlooked. But the musical Hamilton presents a very unique change by dramatizing Hamilton’s life. Squeeze all that drama into R&B and hip-hop music, along with superb screenplay, and you’ll find a wildly popular musical that has already won 11 Tony awards, including Best Musical, since its opening in August of 2015.

Lin-Manuel Miranda had the right idea. He took a thick biography, read by few people, and turned it into an amazing Broadway musical. There is no denying the fact that the adaptation of history into movies and plays has been well-received by this generation. Besides Hamilton, we also have the movies Straight Outta Compton and Spotlight. While we may mostly watch them for entertainment purposes, these historical adaptations also show their rich educational value as well. We familiarize ourselves these historical figures, delving into their lives as they navigate through some of the most tumultuous times in American history. To mainstream America, they are no longer just a few paragraphs in a textbook, accompanied by the occasional portrait. They were living, breathing human beings with hopes, fears, thoughts, and dreams, just like all of us.

I’m not saying that we should abandon all our textbooks and just watch adaptations (although that would be fun). Reading about history generates a unique respect for the past, as as you actually learn about how things have changed rather than just get the “gist” of it from a show. Film and musical adaptations are also not always historically accurate. They may omit or exaggerate some parts of the story for the sake of entertainment. But this usually results in a better experience on our end, and is perfectly fine as long as the bulk of the story is factually correct.

In the end, musicals like Hamilton do not need to be completely historically accurate. What I think is the greatest legacy of featuring history in movies and plays is that they inspire more people to learn about what they say on the screen or stage. Oftentimes this does lead to cracking open a few books. Just to give an example, I have a friend who, after becoming addicted to the Hamilton soundtrack, read the 832 page biography for which the play was based on! These movies and plays are the closest we’ll ever get to experiencing history until the invention of time machines, and even then I might just prefer buying tickets to a well-made musical.