Politics of the Present, the Past, and the Performing Arts:
Getting Confused about 2016
If you are an American, you are probably tired of hearing about politics right now. I am an American and constantly surrounded by it, so it’s something on my mind, and so something I’m going to talk about. So read at your own risk.
I suppose I am bringing this upon myself, though. I’ve immersed myself in politics - besides just trying to keep up with the current election drama, I’ve also been into politics historical and fictional. I have been listening almost constantly for the past four months to the cast recording of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, a show about none other than our very own first treasury secretary of the United States, Alexander Hamilton. On top of that, I’ve been religiously listening to the podcast Pod4Ham, in which groups of people break down each individual track from the cast recording. Yes, spending like 30 minutes discussing a 2-minute song. I’ve also been binge watching the HBO series Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus. It’s basically about modern U.S. politics, but in an alternate universe.
When I was walking the other day, listening to Pod4Ham, mulling over it all in my brain, I had a strange experience. It was subconscious, so I don’t remember what it was about specifically, but basically I started thinking about the historical American politics that happened at the time of Hamilton in terms of current U.S. politics. After I realized this, I also realized that while I watch the TV show Veep I’m doing the same thing. Basically I am getting confused. Which is an easy thing to get while thinking about US politics this year.
I think it’s happening because there are a scary amount of parallels between our current political climate, the political climate of two centuries ago, and fictionalized political climates people make up for the purpose of humor.
That’s what is really getting me. Veep, a show that - when you get down to it - is really just trying to make you laugh, seems realistic. Julia Louis-Dreyfus has said in multiple interviews I’ve listened to [I’m not obsessed with her, I swear!] that if she had proposed some of the events that have happened during this election cycle as a storyline to the show creators, they would have said it is too ridiculous and unrealistic. And yet, here we are. She’s also said that folks in Washington claim it’s the most accurate portrayal of the world inside U.S. politics they’ve ever seen in mainstream media. This should be concerning to anyone who watches the show.
All of the drama in the show has also given me a little bit of sympathy for our leaders. Although the storylines are completely fictional, you can see how these situations could manifest in some form in the real world, how politicians are constantly scrutinized and how they somehow have to please everyone to keep themselves afloat.
I love Veep because it satirizes our entire political system. The folks working on the show make a point to not assign her to a specific political party, just put her out there as a politician. [I figure she is definitely a Democrat, but that’s a think piece for another day.] As much as I appreciate satirizing the opposite end of the political spectrum of me, I find it wonderful that this show can connect with people on both sides of the aisle. Those on the left think it’s about those on the right, and those on the right think it’s about those on the left. It proves that all politicians are universally slimy. What a pleasant sentiment.
Are we hopeless? How did we possibly get to this point where our current politics are literally stranger than fiction? That’s where Hamilton comes in to ground us. While we are currently a mess, this is nothing new. Don’t worry, America is not going to hell, we’ve always been like this, we’ve always been on the brink. We had an especially rough start. *Spoiler alert,* but Hamilton is killed in a duel with the Aaron Burr, the Vice President of the United States. That really happened folks, the VP killed a man. And didn’t even get in trouble for it. They threatened each other, they blackmailed, they back-stabbed. It’s just the nature of politics, the nature of humans, really.
With that said, I don’t mean that this isn’t a scary time, because it is. I’m just hoping that since we’ve made it this far, we’ll find a way to unite [enough] and get out of the messy situation we’re in now.
All the while, I would recommend to anyone who hasn’t delved into Hamilton or Veep to do so, especially now, while they are more relevant than ever. Hamilton is probably the most brilliant piece of art I have listened to in my life, and Veep is just downright hilarious. And maybe some of the current American politics will start making sense to you too.
Amber Huston is a graduate student studying geology at Kent State University, having completed her undergrad at Thee Ohio State University. When not outdoors playing with rocks, she is hosting her show on Black Squirrel Radio [listen here: http://blacksquirrelradio.com/ ] or wasting time on the internet [follow on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/TheeAmberH uston]. She loves to travel but is restricted by the fact that - as a student - her net worth is a negative number.