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When it comes to older films that are tricky, sticky, or straight-up problematic, the same question usually applies: what can you take, and what can you leave? Being mindful of the content you watch doesn’t make you a wet blanket; it makes you a thoughtful viewer. And being a thoughtful viewer is critical when it comes to revisiting old films.
West Side Story, which won 10 (10!) Academy Awards in 1962, is a musical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet set in the slums of the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where two gangs of rival teens compete to “own” the neighborhood. The film features some pretty egregious brownface, but its themes of racism, corruption, and injustice remain eerily spot on almost sixty years later because, in case you hadn’t heard, systemic racism is still very much alive today.
In her second video unpacking West Side Story, LadyJenevia breaks down how West Side Story depicts a racist and corrupt police presence and unpacks the queer-coded complexity of Anybodys (who, in a very dope casting move, is to be played by trans non-binary actor Ezra Menas in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming remake).
You can watch “West Side Story Revisited: Police, Privilege, and Pride ” here:
Who made this?
LadyJenevia is a Japan-based reporter and YouTuber with a Master’s Degree in Cross-Cultural Psychology. She reviews recent cinematic releases, creates video essays on older releases, and covers events, conventions, and interviews. You can follow LadyJenevia on YouTube here. And you can follow her on Twitter here.
More Videos Like This
- Here’s LadyJenevia on how to fix the disasterpiece Cats
- Cher did a version of West Side Story where she played all the roles because of course, she did
- A case for why leitmotifs prove West Side Story is a musical masterpiece
- Inside the Score has a video on the ways in which the racial tension in West Side Story manifests in the film’s score
- The 2016 TV movie West Side Stories: The Making of a Classic
- Leonard Bernstein’s life-long friend and collaborator Sid Ramin on orchestrating West Side Story both for the Broadway show and the film
- And here’s Leonard Bernstein conducting George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with the New York Philharmonic in 1976
- Here’s Stephen Sondheim on editing swear words out of the lyrics of West Side Story
- Lindsay Ellis on the death of the Hollywood Movie Musical
- An analysis of the success of West Side Story by Howard Goodall, extracted from the TV show “Twentieth Century Greats”
- Kyle Kallgren covered West Side Story during his Summer of Shakespeare back in 2015 and teases out how The Bard fares as a New Yorker