S3 E17: What is it like to watch "Hamilton" in 2020?


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When the musical “Hamilton” first came out, all four of us were in our early 20s, trying to find our own place in a new country. We found hope and inspiration in the story of Alexander Hamilton as told by the musical—the story of a young, ambitious immigrant who became a hero of the American revolution.

This past July 4th weekend, a original Broadway production of “Hamilton'' streamed on Disney+ for the first time ever. Also on the same weekend, President Trump gave a speech in front of Mt. Rushmore, claiming "a left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution."

What is it like to watch “Hamilton” in 2020, when a celebration of “American progress” seems unfit for the time we are living in?

For this episode, we invited our friend Yangyang Cheng, particle physicist and writer, to talk about the musical and what changed between then and now.

In this episode you’ll hear:

  • Why do we think “Hamilton” is a product of the Obama era and “an embodiment of its triumph and aspiration, as well as its limits and deception”
  • How have our own beliefs in meritocracy and the American dream changed in Trump’s America?
  • The limit of representation and diversity--why we must move beyond celebrating diversity
  • Rethinking American history: the 1619 project vs. Hamilton
  • Why do we say that “Hamilton” is a cultural product of the pre-MeToo era?

About our guest:

Yangyang Cheng is a particle physicist and a postdoctoral research associate at Cornell University. She also writes the “Science and China” column at SupChina.

She has previously been on Loud Murmurs to talk about HBO’s drama “Chernobyl.” Listen to that episode here.


Yangyang’s July column: Watching Hamilton at the End of the World


The “1619 Project”


Ishmael Reed’s criticism of “Hamilton” when it first came out


When a weasel shut down the world’s most powerful particle collider


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