Nearly three weeks ago, the cast of Broadway hit Hamilton addressed Vice President-elect Mike Pence after he attended the show. The musical, which is a telling of Alexander Hamilton’s life story by a cast of color, is inherently political—creator Lin-Manuel Miranda explicitly takes a stand on immigration by framing America as a country founded by immigrants.
This year we saw our first black superhero protagonist in Netflix’s Luke Cage, which premiered in September. Actor Mike Colter did not shy away from the symbolism in his portrayal of Cage, especially in a scene where the bulletproof hero walks into gunfire with a black hoodie on, in reference to the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin.
In music, the standout example was Beyoncé’s Lemonade, a visual album spanning multiple genres which was released in April. Although the album empowers the artist herself, the empowerment extends far beyond this definition with singles “Formation” and “Freedom” both serving as unapologetic anthems for black Americans.
In film, the Disney animated movie Zootopia, released in March, discusses prejudice with nuance. The film impressively remains entertaining and lighthearted enough for children to enjoy while still gaining a greater understanding of the dangers of bigotry. The critically acclaimed film Moonlight takes an intimate look at the coming of age of a young black man grappling with his sexuality. By avoiding clichés and stereotypes, director and writer Barry Jenkins sheds light on lives so often ignored and disenfranchised in art and society.
Art inherently reflects the environment it’s in, so it makes sense for recent works on and off campus to talk about timely issues. What is especially notable is the explicit stance some of these artists take on social justice debates. Going into 2017, with a divided nation and controversial president-elect, this trend is only going to continue.