The Truth About The Lin-Manuel Miranda Controversy

There was plenty of joy among members of the Latino community when Lin-Manuel Miranda's "In The Heights" opened on June 11, 2021. There was excitement at the thought of representation, and the idea of seeing their version of the American dream on the big screen. Many were caught up in the music and the dancing, and there were others that celebrated the fact that, at last, there was a movie that didn't show America's Latino community in a negative, stereotypical way (via USA Today).

But as it turned out, not everyone shared those sentiments. There were those who watched the movie and who panned it, because of what they said was a noticeable lack of Afro-Latinx representation. "'In The heights' lacking afro-latinx is about as authentic as 'Friends' showing NYC as all white. I think we have every right to be annoyed," tweeted one unhappy viewer. "WASHINGTON F**** HEIGHTS????????? white/mestizo actors! so....... WHEN? when do u include black latinos????" fumed another on social media. 

And it fell on the shoulders of one of the movie's producers, Lin-Manuel Miranda, to own up to the lack of diversity in the movie's casting. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda said that the film 'fell short' in its casting

In a statement released via Twitter, which received over 71,000 likes as of publication, the Tony-award winning songwriter said he had begun writing "In The Heights" out of a need to be visible, and in the two decades since the musical was written and cast, Lin-Manuel Miranda said, "All I wanted was for us — ALL of us — to feel seen." Yet, he admitted that the movie version of "In The Heights" had failed when it came to casting, as it had been made clear to him since its release that the Afro-Latinx community did not feel adequately represented. 

"In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short," Miranda wrote, expressing his regret. He added that he was "truly sorry" and that he was "learning from the feedback." He thanked critics for bringing up the issue, and that he "was trying to hold space for both the incredible pride in the movie we made and be accountable for our shortcomings."

The actor and producer also thanked his critics for the feedback, and promised to work harder in his future projects to honor "our diverse and vibrant community."

Director Jon Chu revealed that he worked to get the best people for each role

This is not the first time that the cast and crew of "In The Heights" have had to face the issue of colorism within the context of their hit film. Director Jon Chu, as well as actresses Melissa Barrera and Leslie Grace, were asked about the matter during an interview with The Root's Felice Léon, and Chu admitted that it was a matter that they had discussed. Chu admitted during the interview that the issue of colorism was something he needed to be educated on, but admitted, "In the end, when we were looking at the cast, we were trying to get the people who were best for those roles," via People.

Barrera said that Afro-Latinx people were present during the casting, and she added that during the audition process for the film, there was a number of Afro-Latinx performers present. Noting that it was a very long audition process, Barrera said, "There were a lot of Afro-Latinos there. A lot of darker-skinned people, and I think they were looking for just the right people for the roles, for the person that embodied each character in the fullest extent." 

Fans appreciated Lin-Manuel Miranda's candor in addressing the issue

More than a few fans were satisfied by Lin-Manuel Miranda's apology. As one fan tweeted, "I'm absolutely in love with the movie, Lin. As a afro-latina i'm proud. as a brazilian when i saw my flag in "carnaval del barrio" i cried like a baby. Thank you for all you've done in this movie. Thank you." The same Twitter user went on to say that an important aspect of being Latin to them "is about representativity and inclusion," and that they were grateful for the representation they saw in the film. 

Other fans were grateful that Miranda handled the matter in a forthright way. A Boriqua and mom of "African Americans/ Boriquas" tweeted and said that she was appreciative that Miranda handled the situation "head on." She went on to say that she had waited years to see "In The Heights," and it was "everything [she'd] hoped it would be."

But one social media user pointed out that the problem went beyond the movie itself. "I love you and your works and I think you probably have always had good intentions, BUT it's not just the movie you need to address," a Twitter user wrote. "There are those of us that has seen the OG Broadway cast, how do you explain away the lack of representation from the BEGINNING." While Miranda has not spoken about the original Broadway cast of "In The Heights," it's safe to say that some viewers of the film were less than pleased about its lack of true representation.