I want to start with the truth: I love Hamilton. I loved it from the moment I first heard it and I’ll love it for the rest of my life, even if you don’t respond to this letter. In fact, I’m listening to it right now. “I swear your pride will be the death of us all; beware, it goes before the fall.”
No great work of art is flawless, and though Hamilton comes close, there is one major flaw that I want to bring to your attention. It’s this line: “Madison you’re mad as a hatter so take your medicine.” The problem? This is clearly an insult, and mental illness should never be used in such a way. This is clearly ableism. I’ll break it down for you.
First, “mad” is considered a slur by many. I don’t know if I would go as far as to label it as such, but I do know that it has a negative connotation and has been used throughout history to describe mentally ill people. Mental illness already has a bad rep, and by using it as an insult you aren’t helping. You must know how popular your show is amongst teenagers. When teenagers hear this, it may prevent them from admitting they have a mental illness and getting the help they need.
Second, medicine for mental illnesses should never be described negatively. Never. So much stigma surrounds them already, and that stigma stops people from getting the help they desperately need. I can honestly say that antidepressants saved my life, but I almost didn’t get them because my parents bought into all the stigma surrounding them. Other people, again, especially teenagers, may hear this line and think that taking medicine is only for people who are “crazy.” They won’t reach out and get the help they need for fear as being labeled as such.
You’re Lin-Manuel Miranda. I know you can think of another insult to put in its place. I recognize that the writing process is difficult, that time and effort went into crafting this line, and that it may be special to you. But this is more important. Lives could be affected. I also realize that you may not be able to change the lyrics in the show at this point, but simply acknowledging the problem and publicly denouncing the line would go a long way.
This show has done wonders for my mental health. It’s something to listen to when things get bad. But this one line bothers me more and more the longer I listen. I’d like to be able to go all the way through the soundtrack without cringing. Every second of this show is a gift from you to us. I’d like for the children and teenagers listening to not have ableism gifted to them. On behalf of the mentally ill community, I ask you to change this line.