Tuesday News: Stage and screen edition
The Uses Of History in Hamilton: An American Musical – Sumana Harihareswara’s contemplation of the musical Hamilton as “a fantasy of political agency and of changing the world,” and of using — and intentionally misusing — history in much the same way as “much science fiction.” I’ve heard a lot of good things about Hamilton, and in particular its interrogation of some of the cultural myths central to the fantasy of “America,” but cannot weigh in on the substance of Harihareswara’s argument about the play. However, I think her larger points about how historical fiction can be ahistorical and still historically relevant are worth contemplating. We see a lot of anachronistic historical Romance, but some of those deviations may not always be clear or even coherent, which is different from what Harihareswara is arguing for here (with the SFF analogy).
Hamilton is exuberant and sentimental and loving, and certainly one of its forebearers is the 1972 musical effort 1776. But—with the occasional exception like the song “Molasses to Rum”—1776 doesn’t let itself criticize the hypocrisy and complicity of these white men. Hamilton is more self-consciously anachronistic, in its race-bending casting and in the genres of music it uses, and in its willingness to impose modern morality on the past, not as a thoughtless default, but as a conscious and intentional (sometimes metatextual) decision. So I locate its fourth-wall-breaking peers in Kate Beaton’s “Hark! A Vagrant” and in Derek Waters’s Drunk History. – Tor
‘Rowling loves black Hermione’ wizarding world rejoices at Noma Dumezweni’s Harry Potter casting – Conflict has erupted over the casting of Olivier Award-winning actress Noma Dumezweni as Hermione in the upcoming London production of The Cursed Child, despite the racially ambiguous descriptions of Hermione in the series itself. As an article in The Daily Beast notes, Hermione was teased for being “mudblood,” with her race only being inferred as white by some fans, especially after the casting of Emma Watson in the films (which would hardly be the first time that a character of color was portrayed by a white actor). That the assumed default is white is, of course, the crux of the problem, and one that seems to necessitate calling Dumezweni’s characterization “black Hermione,” instead of just “Hermione.” Rowling has explicitly defended the casting, saying she “loves black Hermione.”
Hermione Granger, Harry and Ron’s academic friend at Hogwarts, was played by Emma Watson in the Warner Bros film adaptations of JK Rowling’s books. Rowling never described Hermione’s race in the books, but only that she had “bushy brown hair and brown eyes”, as well as very large front teeth.
Hermione’s race has long been a topic of discussion among fans, with people posing long, considered answers for each side of the argument on websites such as Quora and Reddit. Among the Tumblr blogging community, fans have posted drawings of a black Hermione for years. – The Telegraph
Race in *Star Wars: The Force Awakens* – A similar conflict is occurring over the casting of John Bodega as black Storm Trooper, Finn — an extension of a longtime conflict over race in Star Wars. The discussion initiated by Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution, though, is of particular interest, because Cowen interrogates the dimensionality of Finn’s character, particularly his (in)ability to be morally ambiguous. Cowen suggests that when Finn joins the Resistance, it is a fantasy of “integration,” wherein the black character simply turns over his allegiance to the white characters and “assimilates” without contemplation or concern. In other words, a discussion about whether the diversity of the casting and the characterization is intentionally and independently complex and meaningful, or simply complicit in power defined and characterized by whiteness.
He becomes a fleshed out character – if that is what you should call it – only after teaming up with the white guys. We are not allowed to think that, working as a storm trooper, he might ever have killed anybody. We are told explicitly that, when he refuses to kill innocent people, he had never ever killed anyone before. Later we learn that he worked in the sanitation department of the First Order. Unlike many of the white characters who inhabit the series, he is never allowed to have brutality or even ambiguity in his past or for that matter his future. (Don’t forget the burden of Lando Calrissian, who worked for the Empire, for a while rather gladly, can’t have both black characters with such mixed records.) – Marginal Revolution
DEADPOOL 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS: EMOJIS – Emojis seem to be the new thing (Kim Kardashian’s nearly broke the Apple Store yesterday), and if you’re a Deadpool fan, you can get a special set from either the Apple App Store or Google Play. Although these were so popular that they were crashing the “emoji servers,” too. Deadpool doesn’t even release until February. – Cosmic Book News