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You Can’t Avoid Politics in Art, Nor Should You

Scroll through any comment section on YouTube  and complaints about the political undertone of a video or song are unavoidable. But here’s the thing: art has always been, and will always be, political. When you consume a movie, a song, or an art piece, you absorb the messages the artists worked to portray about society. In fact, some of history’s most notable songs include a political message. Paul Mccartney penned “Blackbird” as a nod to the Civil Rights Movement, meanwhile many of Shakespeare’s historical plays illustrate his idea of the ideal English society.

Most recently, there have been many artistic parallels drawn between the survivors of the Parkland school shooting and the theater world. In a February article in The New Yorker, writer Michael Schulman discusses “The Spring Awakening of the Stoneman Douglas Theater Kids”, drawing close parallels between the groundbreaking teen-centered rock musical to the “awakening” of the newest generation of activists.

Sunday night, infamous Hamilton creator Lin Manuel Miranda teamed up with actor and Tony-Winner Ben Platt to create a mashup combining messages in the songs “The Story of Tonight” from “Hamilton” and “You Will Be Found” from “Dear Evan Hansen.” The song, dedicated to “The Kids” serves as an anthem for the newest generation of activists. A portion of the proceeds from downloads going to March For Our Lives initiative. Created by the student survivors of the Parkland tragedy, the student-led movement is focused on ending gun violence, and has organized marches in Washington D.C. and across the country on Saturday. 

Shortly after it’s release midnight on Sunday, the song’s accompanying music video was quickly trending at number one on Youtube, and now has over two million views. Regardless of personal politics, it is hard to ignore the passion behind the lyrics, as Platt (A.K.A. Benji from Pitch Perfect) croons: We may not yet have reached our glory, But I will gladly join the fight, And when our children tell their story, They’ll tell the story of tonight.”

It is worth a listen.

As the next generation of changemakers political competence and a general understanding of social commentary is not a choice but a necessity. Rather than merely stating opinions in the form of an article, art provides a platform to explore political issues in a creative way from the perspective of those affected by them. Not only can you find amazing content and entertainment, you might end up learning something as well. Next time you are scrolling through Spotify, Youtube or any social media site, I encourage you not to disregard the political messages you find within your favorite song or video, but to actively seek them out.

Bethany Irvine

Georgetown '21

Bethany is a second year graduate student based in Washington D.C. When she's not enjoying the sights and sounds of downtown D.C. she's busy studying the intersection between politics and communication.
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