If you’ve ever participated in theater—or even just been exposed to theater—you’ve probably heard the phrase “the show must go on.” And while this is usually applied to when a star singer loses her voice or an actor breaks his toe while performing a stunt on stage, Disney took these words to heart during this coronavirus season.
Hamilton is now streaming on Disney+, providing musical theater enthusiasts everywhere with the opportunity to see a Broadway show, even though Broadway has shut its doors until 2021.
Now, those who’ve heard a bit about the show, and are thinking of letting their children watch, might be a bit concerned about the harsh language and content. It’s rough. As Plugged In’s Paul Asay wrote, “Hamilton’s sexual dalliances are a matter of historical record… The language is refreshingly contemporary but often crude, too.” The original show had three f-words, at least five s-words, along with half a dozen other profanities. Granted, “some of the dialogue gets a bit blurry amid rapid-fire raps,” said Asay, but “we can’t forget that when [Lin-Manuel] Miranda brought Hamilton into the 21st century, he slathered on some very 21st-century issues.”
Which is probably why when Disney brought Hamilton to its streaming platform, it decided to cover some of these issues up.
Lin-Manuel Miranda (who wrote the show and starred as Alexander Hamilton in the original Broadway cast and Disney+ version) tweeted that he “literally gave two f—s so the kids could see it.” And viewers watching the show on Disney+ will find that, indeed, the show is sans two of its profanities. Miranda’s justification was that the MPAA’s rule about language would have given the show an automatic “R” rating for having more than one f-word.
And he’s not wrong. Plugged In director Adam Holz said in a podcast earlier this year that “Typically, you can get away with two f-words in a PG-13 movie. That’s why we’ll often see an actioner that has one or two really obviously placed f-bombs that are there for effect. But if you get up to three or four or more, it’s almost an automatic R rating.”
However, cutting two words out of a show doesn’t necessarily make it clean.
In fact, when watching Hamilton myself, it was glaringly obvious where the words had been replaced. Yes, the audio is cut out and if you’ve never listened to the soundtrack before, it’s feasible that you might miss it. But if you’re anything like me and watched the movie with subtitles (because I didn’t want to miss any of those “rapid-fire raps”), you could still catch the four stars that replaced the word on screen.
Essentially, it’s not about how many f-bombs is too many. It’s about whether or not the content as a whole is something you want to expose your family to. For more on media discernment, check out Episode 33 of The Plugged In Show: Media Discernment in Action. And as Asay said in the Plugged In review of the show, “Take a page from the musical’s Washington: Weigh the evidence, think of the benefits but consider the cost.”