Ever since the recording of Hamilton was released on Disney+ earlier this month, fans have been rediscovering their love for the hit musical. According to Variety, Disney+ app downloads increased that weekend by 74% in the US, but also 46.6% globally.
Amidst this international re-reckoning, Hamilton-mania seems to have hit China especially hard. This past week, Hamilton became a trending search on Douban, a Chinese IMDB-like forum with notoriously hard-to-please users. It quickly garnered a rating of 9.5 out of 32,000 reviews, scoring higher than 99% of all other historical films and musicals on the website.
The 82.1% of reviewers who gave the musical a five-star rating praise its emotional soundtrack, inspiring story, and unconventional mode of storytelling.
Many claim it brought them to tears, or even that Hamilton is the first thing they watch when they wake up. Their enthusiasm about the musical mirrors what their American contemporaries love about it: its refrain of constant revolution and forward progress.
It may come as a shock that so many Chinese fans have taken ownership over a musical that reimagines a more obscure part of American history. However, considering China’s and the US’s long history together (intensified by recent events), it should not be surprising that Chinese people are keenly interested in America’s political history.
This becomes abundantly clear when reading the few one-star reviews. They almost all mention, strangely, Barack Obama, and how the musical is an anachronistic distortion of history encouraged by his values. Specifically, they seem to be put off by the fact that the musical casted mostly non-white actors.
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According to Sixth Tone‘s Yi Yang, strict adherence to historical narrative is paramount in Chinese media, which may be the reason that so many Chinese viewers see Hamilton as so novel.
In all the comments, however, reviewers use an astute historical lens, drawing parallels between the musical and modern American politics. China’s passion for Hamilton should teach us that good storytelling will inspire people regardless of language or culture. Or, more importantly, that people are always paying attention to history.
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