Here's How 'Hamilton' Is Radically Revolutionizing Fandom
Falling in love with "Hamilton" kind of feels like falling helplessly in love with someone you've never met in person. You know everything about him, from his favorite color, to his most commonly used euphemism, and his self-sorted Hogwarts House allegiance. You even get butterflies when you hear his name. However, there's a part of you that will never feel fully satisfied until you meet face to face. Welcome to the "Hamilton" fandom.
Tickets to Broadway's most tantalizing new show are practically sold out until 2016 (unless you have a cool $400 lying around), and yet the Internet can't get enough of "Hamilton."
The impassioned community "Hamilton" has created proves that you don't have to be in the room where it happens to witness how wondrous a place it can be. "Hamilton" is bringing people together -- theater nerds, history buffs and hip-hop heads alike -- to participate in something special. Now, before you can get a sense of why this fandom is so important, you must first understand the musical's cultural impact and how it's changing the narrative of musical theater.
For a show obsessed with the idea of leaving a legacy, it's fitting that "Hamilton" has changed the game in so many ways. It's a musical about Alexander Hamilton, America's "ten dollar founding father without a father," and his life and political career from the American Revolution until his death in 1804 at the hands of his career nemesis Aaron Burr. Furthermore, it's a story about the American dream in its purest form, both in what it takes to get there and what it can cost you at the end.
More importantly, the cast reflects what America looks like today, bringing both diversity and women into the forefront. (Werk.) The story is every bit Eliza Hamilton's as it is Alexander's -- some would say even more so.
The creation of actual genius Lin-Manuel Miranda, "Hamilton" perfectly infuses hip-hop (the rap battles between Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson) with more traditional works of musical theater (Phillipa Soo's chilling ballad "Burn"). The result is nothing short of a ravenous and ambitious masterpiece.
But arguably the show's greatest legacy has been its fans, many of whom haven't even seen the musical for themselves. Unless you're lucky enough to win the Ham4Ham lottery (of which an average of 400 people show up daily for a chance to win only 21 seats), or one of the 20,000 AP US History students who the Rockefeller Foundation is enabling to see the show over the next year for $10, or someone willing to spend probably a minimum of $327 for a golden ticket, you're not seeing "Hamilton" anytime soon. That said, "Hamilton" is still having a breakout moment thanks to its fans.
They, like me, start their mornings with "My Shot" -- the perfect "get your ass outta bed" inspiration, IMHO -- before listening to "The Schuyler Sisters" on repeat at least three times. (We're all just Peggys who want so badly to be Angelicas. Sigh.) When they need a good, cathartic cry, "It's Quiet Uptown" will always do the trick. And if I ever need to break up with bae, you better believe I'll be quoting Eliza Hamilton: "I'm erasing myself the narrative."
They imagine every bit of the production in their minds, from the staging to the mannerisms of the actors. They have in-depth discussions on how the turntables at the center of the stage add to the dramatic impact of show-stopped like "The World Was Wide Enough" and "Satisfied." Of course, if you really want to know how things are staged, the fans who have seen it will drop some knowledge.
That's the coolest part about the "Hamilton" fandom (Hamildom?): Just because someone hasn't seen "Hamilton" doesn't make them any less of a fan.
Like most fandoms, the Hamildom has spawned a giddy plethora of fan fic, fan art -- mostly using the likeness of the Broadway cast, not the historical figures themselves -- and even more impressively, it's pretty drama-free. (No one is Team Eliza or Team Angelica; we're all Team Schuyler Sisters.) There are no ship wars, no shade and absolutely no Samuel Seaburys allowed. To join this squad, you just have to agree on these three things: Lin-Manuel Miranda is our lord and Savior, his Tumblr is an infinite chasm of unbridled joy, and he is the definition of DAD.
Miranda is arguably the captain of this ship. He's constantly engaging with the fandom, bridging the gap between the creator and his audience. He also encourages us to keep things positive. For example, when a harmless "Harry Potter" tweet sparked a heated debate on social media, instead of playing the role of the Sorting Hat, Miranda peacefully checked out. Then he later added on Tumblr, "I promise you this: If JK Rowling comes to the show, I PROMISE I will ask her to sort our characters. This is my vow as your friend and total Slytherin Lin-Manuel Miranda (You thought I was a Hufflepuff YOU DON’T KNOW ME HOMEY)."
Also, it goes without saying that the Ham4Ham stage door performances Miranda organizes daily are unparalleled on Broadway. It's tailgating but way campier and therefore 100 percent more fun. Thanks to the magic of camera phones, those intimate moments between creator and total-effing-psyched fans are available for the world.
Not to mention the show has also done unprecedented things for history. Adapted from a 2004 Alexander Hamilton biography written by Ron Chernow, who also served as Miranda's historical consultant, "Hamilton" isn't just bringing history to life, it's making our history exciting and accessible again. (So much so that fans of A. Ham -- this writer included -- are reading the 832-page biography for fun.)
During a behind-the-scenes segment of "60 Minutes," rapper Daveed Diggs (who plays fan-favorite Thomas Jefferson) told Charlie Rose that he never truly felt like an American until joining the cast of "Hamilton." Many of the show's young fans feel the same when they listen to Hamilton wax poetic about not throwing away his shot.
Ultimately, "Hamilton" is the story of a group of scrappy young rebels who irrevocably change history forever. It's hard not to see ourselves in characters like Hamilton, John Laurens, Hercules Mulligan and everyone's favorite fighting Frenchman Marquis De Lafayette. Despite the overwhelming odds stacked against them, they fought for what they believed was right and reveled in their hard-earned victory with a few pints of Sam Adams.
Miranda has given the Hamildom everything they need to spark that same creative fire in themselves. In fact, he encourages it. At the end of the day, it's the fans who are in charge of the narrative now -- and that's the pièce de ré·sis·tance.