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Hamilton vs. 1776 (Maggie Otradovec)

I love Hamilton. I saw the show on Broadway a few years ago, saw a tour at my local theatre, and I’ve watched it about a million times since it was released on Disney + this past summer. With that being said, I am obviously partial to Hamilton. However, I did find both entertainment and value in 1776. The 1972 film starring Mr. Feeny from the hit 90s show Boy Meets World follows a group of founding fathers as they work to draft the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. It’s no masterpiece compared to the phenomenon that is Hamilton, but it gives audiences a story that Hamilton did not: what happened in the meantime. There are brief mentions of the events of each show in the other as well as a few allusions (“Sit down John!”). 1776 shows the political aspect of the revolution (the writing of the Declaration of Independence) while Hamilton shows the military aspect of the revolution (the battles of the first act). 1776 showed why America wanted independence (America had acquired a new nationality, requiring it to become a new nation to paraphrase Ben Franklin) and Hamilton showed how America fought for independence. 

However, both of these depictions are guilty of romanticizing the “leaders” of the revolution. Both neglect the role of the working man, let alone women and slaves. Hamilton attempts to justify this by bringing diversity to the story, but it does fail to mention that Hercules Mulligan’s slave did most of the smuggling he was singing about. Neither of these shows are bad because they are romanticized and inaccurate, however. There is no need to chastise either when they are not sources meant to be academic. They are not scholarly articles or books written by experts in the field. The purpose of these two shows is to entertain and leave the audience with a message (similar to art), even if they are based on true stories. I believe that as long as the truth is taught in schools (which isn’t always the case, of course, but one can hope), there is nothing wrong with a little romanticizing.

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  1. Margot Roussel Margot Roussel

    I agree with your analysis that some things are romanticized, but neither of these works should be taken as academic works. I am a Hamilton fan too! I found a few things I learned more about in 1776 that were briefly mentioned in Hamilton like the common sense article by Thomas Paine. I really liked both pieces, and how the different main characters showcased different narratives.

  2. Zariah Chiverton Zariah Chiverton

    Although they are not academic sources in the typical sense, I still think we can learn from them especially if we compare the presence of certain people and demographics and ask why do they show up in Hamilton and not 1776? Hamilton is also inaccurate in some ways the same way 1776 was, so what was the point of making another movie?

  3. Alexander Barnett Alexander Barnett

    I enjoyed learning more about the political aspect of the American Revolution, I would have otherwise never known about.

  4. Carly Cohen Carly Cohen

    I would agree that Hamilton is certainly more upbeat and entertaining than 1776. I also agree that both pieces had some flaws but know that there is some true value in both pieces that was shown in fun and creative ways.

  5. Annie Waters Annie Waters

    I definitely agree with your critique of the romanticization of leaders in both of these works. However, I think Hamilton, despite portraying certain characters (George Washington especially) of higher moral character than was true, fulfills the duty of paying homage to a wider range of demographics in the conversation of the Revolution, much more so than any significant preceding work has accomplished. This is not to say that Hamilton is without fault, as it doesn’t do much to address the fact that the Revolution wasn’t primarily fought to defend the rights of the “have-nots.” However, it does credit this group with much of the work done in the Revolution. What I find especially significant in this regard is the inherent recognition or Hamilton’s immigrant status, the significant involvement of the ensemble in staging, and the characterization of the Schuyler sisters. Unlike 1776, Hamilton assigns roles to a cast that extends far wider than a group of elite politicians, as evident by the symbolism and energy offered by ensemble choreography. Meanwhile, though it’s recognized that women were heavily barred from direct government involvement, it’s especially evident through Hamilton’s portrayal of Angelica that this did not make women complacent in history. Angelica has great influence over society through her domestic life and knows full well how to take advantage of it, as we see in “Satisfied.” Again, all of this is not to say that any romanticization in Hamilton (which I agree is present) is justified, but at least in terms of representation and recognition of a collective contribution to history, I find it much more successful than other works.

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