The Year Of Lin Manuel Miranda

Orla Newstead

2021 was an incredible year for Lin Manuel Miranda, having five films hit our screens to entertain us. Last year, he was on a creative rollercoaster with Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It, followed by In the Heights, then Vivo, then Tick, Tick…Boom!, and finally, Encanto. But why is Miranda experiencing such success right now? And how much is too much? Orla Newstead gives her take.

The majority of audiences will be familiar with Miranda from his creation of the musical masterpiece Hamilton, which earned a record 16 nominations at the 70th Tony Awards, a record breaking number beating the previous joint title holders Billy Elliott and The Producers. The fast-paced lyrics, toe-tapping tunes, and provocative characters compel us across the Atlantic to take an interest in a crucial period of American history that many audiences may have known little, if nothing, about without it.

it may feel like he is taking over the cinematic environment

It is impossible to deny what a successful year he had. However, it is arguable that due to his constant output of entertainment, he is over-saturating the film landscape. It seems everywhere you look his name is attached to a project, particularly during the pandemic when film production slowed down. As a fan of Miranda, the volume of his output actively excited me, but I can imagine for those who do not like his work it may feel like he is taking over the cinematic environment.

Miranda has an unbeatable talent for creating catchy songs, and his work is filled to the brim with them: of the five films released in 2021, three were musical based. Consequently, it is arguable that he has finessed a formula which he overuses.

However, each film has a different target audience. For example, Encanto is a Disney production that is aimed towards young children whereas Tick, Tick…Boom! is aimed at an older audience for people familiar with the life and career of Jonathan Larson. Miranda’s work ranges from biopic to fantasy to documentary, and because of this, to say he has a set formula is erroneous. He merely uses his strengths to create work that everybody wants to watch and enjoy, therefore I imagine it would be near impossible to find someone who does not enjoy at least one of his films.

he brings cinema into the twenty-first century by representing wider audiences

Perhaps most crucially, Miranda effectively and emotively brings Central American culture to a predominantly North American, ethnocentric audience. Miranda is of Puerto Rican and Mexican ancestry, and he brings this into his work by using Spanish language and setting stories in foreign countries. For example Vivo is set in Havana, Cuba.

Using these aspects sensitively in Disney is a relatively new concept- take Moana, and Coco as examples of foreign culture in American cinema being portrayed in a delicate way. This greatly contrasts to the film Pocahontas, released during the 1990s, which distastefully whitewashes and romanticises a turbulent period of American and imperialist history for the purpose of entertainment.

By creating more than just one film in a year with ethnic diversity, Lin-Manuel Miranda becomes such an important filmmaker. He brings cinema into the twenty-first century by representing wider audiences, a characteristic that more filmmakers must take inspiration from.

Orla Newstead

Featured Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In-article trailer courtesy of Walt Disney Animation Studios via @youtube.com. No changes were made to this video.

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