Musicals can be magical. Usually this magic is not literal. Sure, it might look like Fred Astaire or Ryan Gosling from La La Land break the laws of physics within the movie worlds they inhabit, but often these are just soaring highs amid largely realistic surroundings. Not Lin-Manuel Miranda’s stories, if you ask me.
Perhaps the most outrageous moment from the new film adaptation of his musical, In the heightsBenny (Corey Hawkins) and Nina (Leslie Grace) dance by the side of her house. It’s a scene that either moves you to tears or makes you reach for a vomit bag, but no matter how you feel, it’s magical.
And what if the magic was real in all of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s music films? What if these characters manipulate our laws of nature and are witches, warlocks, necromancers, and the like? Including and above all Abuela Claudia, who is clearly the most powerful female caster in the world?
In a new installment of Polygons Galaxy brains, Jonah Ray and I are there Comedian and host of the hyphenated podcast, Joanna Hausmannto untangle the Lin-Manuel Mirandaverse and decide whether or not Abuela can wield magical powers. Failed? May be. But as Joanna carefully points out, the reason anyone might discover a “Mirandaverse” in the first place may be even more important than it actually exists. Here is an excerpt from our conversation (which was edited for the sake of clarity):
Dave: The death of Abuela Claudia is a major plot point in the play and in this film version of In the heights. There is also an important grandmother character in Moana. Lin-Manuel Miranda also wrote the music for the ultimate space grandma himself, Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. What’s wrong with that guy and grannies?
Johanna: He is latino! Latino culture is full of machismo, but also a very matriarchal society. So grandmothers are seen as people who are adored in the family, the people who need the most respect. They are like the gods, the demigods. This grandma is basically a demigod in Moana. in the In the heights, she’s also a kind of demigod. She is the mother of everything. Not even mother. I don’t even know what it is. She is more than a mother.
Jonah: She is the virgin mary. She never had children of her own, but she has all of these children.
Johanna: Oh, bingo. It’s the Virgin Mary and Latin culture is very Catholic. So it all has to do with this kind of perfect motherhood idea that isn’t a Hollywood trope. It’s a trope within Latino culture.
Dave: Would it be fair to say that Abuela is magical too?
Johanna: I think it’s magical because who wants to hang out with a random person? There are so many people who say Oh my god I love Abuela. And in the movie it’s like Okay, but what did she do??
Dave: She is like the godfather. She is like Don Vito Corleone. Everyone tries to get an audience with her all the time. “I don’t know what to do with my bodega? ”“ Should I go to the Dominican Republic? ”“ Would you like to come with me, Abuela? ”“ Yes, why not? I can put my feet in the sand and all that. ”You has, as you said, a semi-divine vibe, she’s the most important person in this community.
Johanna: And when she dies, the vigil looks like a religious procession.
Dave: We do not worship the elderly in American society. Usually we see it as a burden rather than a source of wisdom. And I think that’s really unfortunate because boy we could use some wisdom in our culture right now.
Jonah: I also know that they just got a lost George Romero movie from the 70s called. have found The amusement park, which is essentially about how the elderly are tossed aside. It’s like an old folks horror movie where they’re just in that amusement park and it’s too much for them and it escalates from there. But it’s like a thing that has been happening for a very long time and a culture that is so youthful.
For a deep insight into In the heights, or to hear our episodes on A quiet place part II Take all the wrong lessons from John Carpenter Cruella‘s Disney-recognized punk endeavors, Josie and the pussycats as the anti-capitalist masterpiece, the animated soul of Star Wars and the pro-wrestling soul of Mortal Kombat, check out the Galaxy Brains feed, wherever you get your podcasts.