In high school, the only people hornier than band geeks were the theater nerds. As an aspiring writer, I hated them with my life. Now that clowning on a horny theater kid is in vogue, however I feel like I made a horrid wish on a monkey's paw.
I can't open up Twitter dot com without seeing Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the musicals Hamilton and In The Heights, biting his lip. I have such a visceral reaction to this image that it has made me close my tab as a reflex at least once. The weaponizing of these images—there are so, so many pictures of Miranda doing this—was born out of criticism of the man's work, but has turned into something so much worse.
How we got here is complicated. Part of it has to do with Hamilton, which was released as a cast recording on Disney+ on July 3. Although the musical reached the height of its popularity during the 2016 election, the release of this recorded version brought some of the discourse about it back to the forefront. While Hamilton was a groundbreaking musical in terms of making sure that black and brown actors on Broadway could have the same kind of career making roles that their white peers have, its treatment of history has been an issue for some critics. While Alexander Hamilton's personal story, of immigrating to America from nothing and then having a seat in its place of power through just your wits alone, has similarities with classic stories of hip hop, Hamilton owned slaves. While marginalized actors are playing the lead roles, marginalized people aren't given a voice at the turn of the century.
When faced with unending discourse, some people will write their takes and move on, whether it be on Twitter, a Tumblr blog, or the opinion pages. But as the discourse dies down, the undercurrent of that serious criticism will rise to the surface. After all the serious conversation had been exhausted, only the dunks remained. And by mid July, the most entertaining rebuttal to anything Hamilton, and by extension Miranda, was a picture of Miranda biting his lip.
Let's be real for a second: he's not my cup of tea, but Miranda's pretty good looking. Still, there's a reason why people post a picture of someone's selfies in the replies to a tweet they disagree with: in a different context, you can twist someone's confidence and turn it into shame.
The thing about this particular pose is that Miranda does it a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. And again, there's nothing wrong with that, or with Miranda's looks. It's just easy to make fun of someone for trying too hard, which, if you look at the sheer amount of pictures, Miranda most definitely is. You can even see it in his work. Hamilton, as a piece of fiction is not only trying to rehabilitate a historical figure, but bring rap to broadway and revolutionize its racial landscape; basically, it's doing the most. Personally, I think that trying too hard is what makes musical theater charming when it's good—and abysmal when it's bad. Musical theater is posting cringe, the artform, and some have higher tolerance for that than others.
Like most internet jokes, while shaming Miranda might have been the original goal, it's been iterated upon so much that now the image on its own is considered funny. Miranda biting his lip has even taken on a life of its own on TikTok, where the meme is often accompanied by commentary on Miranda's singing ability.
Miranda locked his Twitter account when Hamilton was released on Disney+, though he returned after a few weeks. When the shitposting reached its height on July 17, Miranda had also locked his Twitter account again. In the replies to the announcement of his Twitter break, someone posted a picture of Miranda biting his lip. Miranda has since unlocked his account.
Part of the reason why Miranda has become such a target is not just the goofiness of musical theater, but the political space Hamilton now occupies. Even bigger than the show is its relationship to liberal politics, in particular the 2016 presidential campaign of Hilary Clinton. To some the musical has become emblematic of the failures of liberal thought that skirts over the criticisms of the marginalized in order to serve a rich elite. It's those people that will keep posting Miranda biting his lip until the cows come home. Although these people can make Miranda lock his Twitter, Miranda is the one taking pictures with a former presidential candidate. He's feeling himself in those pictures, too. I'm just glad he's not biting his lip.