I don’t think many people have noticed what makes it so zeitgeisty. The reason “Hamilton” is making such a big splash is not just because it is terrific (it is) — diverse, lyrically brilliant, dense, emotional, erudite, cool. It’s because it’s earnest.
Watching it and, now, listening to it, I am struck by its almost complete lack of irony. […]
“Hamilton” is cool because it, yes, looks cool and is cool, but it has wasted no time trying to act as if it does not care, and it (and we) are better for it.
Irony has held us in its stifling tendrils long enough. We’ve exhausted so much effort trying to look like we’re not making an effort. […]
“There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth,” Cynthia Heimel wrote, in one of my favorite quotes ever. “So what the hell? Leap.”
“Hamilton leaps” — and lands. This is its genius.
It is unabashedly dorky. It’s not a “nerd” in quotes. In fact, it never wears air-quotes at all. It is a musical with a capital M, packed densely and lovingly with references — not because making a musical of a historical biography would be silly and ironic, but because that is the perfect format for telling this story.
This is new.
If the success of “Hamilton” signals anything, it is that irony is dead. We have exhausted its creative potential. Making things with quotation marks around them is exhausting. Standing at one remove is over. Put your air-quotes away. You won’t need them anymore.
In fact, put aside everything you ever did to look like you didn’t care. Look at what you can make if you stop wasting that time. Look at “Hamilton.”