It would be pretty surprising at this point if you hadn’t heard about Hamilton: An American Musical — the Broadway show that chronicles the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. It has become a cultural phenomenon, winning awards left and right and selling out performances months — even years — in advance.
The craze got some Hamilton fans here at We ❤︎ Health Literacy Headquarters thinking about what makes it so special — and why it resonates so much with us. What we came up with, dear readers, is that Hamilton has quite a bit in common with plain language. (Stick with us — we got this.)
Hamilton is in a category of its own when it comes to musicals. Instead of typical show tunes, it uses hip-hop to transport the audience to Alexander Hamilton’s world. It applies familiar terms from today’s culture to 18th-century American history. It uses casting to make the story relevant (most characters in Hamilton are played by people of color, regardless of the historical figure’s actual race).
Essentially, Hamilton reminds us that if you present information in a way that’s engaging and accessible, it resonates with people — which helps them understand it in a way they didn’t before. Case in point: do you think most kids learning about American history in school would rather read about Hamilton in a textbook or listen as his story unfolds through an intricate web of exceedingly clever rap verses?
These days, readers have a lot of choices when it comes to the health information they choose to rely on. If they don’t find what they need in your health materials, no big deal — they’ll move on to the next. This sets the bar high for presenting information in the most engaging, accessible and innovative way you can.
And you know what Hamilton would say about that — he’d tell you not to throw away your shot.
The bottom line: What do Hamilton: An American Musical and health communication have in common? More than you think.