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West Side His-Story

A period piece that needed to be buried deep into the Hollywood archives.

It’s been 60 years since the original West Side Story when all of America and the world was painted an image of Puerto Ricans that has defined an entire generation with stereotypical images equipped with heavy accents, violent men and promiscuous women. I, as many fellow Puerto Ricans had to work extra hard to dispel that image that West Side Story ingrained into the minds of millions of people many of whom had never met someone of Puerto Rican decent before so to them the movie became their reality. To us it was classic Hollywood glorifying racism all under the guise of a love story kindled by creative expression and freedom. It provided no societal value in 1961 and it provides even less in 2021.

It’s typical Hollywood telling a classic love story while glorifying and promoting racial stero-types all under the guise of creative expression.

This is what happens when someone outside of the culture controls the narrative and thus the perception. I for one could never tell the story of someone else’s cultural experience in America because I would not be able to truly relate to or understand it, that would be audacious of me. I don’t hold that level of entitlement, privilege or creative license. I really don’t quite understand why Steven Spielberg decided it was a good idea to revisit the exact same stereotypes and narrative that tainted an entire generation in the 60’s during the height of the civil rights movement?

Perhaps the objective was to keep it alive, but of course no one would ever admit to it. Well at least no one who is beholden to the powers that be. I also find the timing of this so-called remake very questionable. It comes at the beginning of the next election cycle and at a time when America is at its most polarized.

This is what happens when someone outside of the culture controls the narrative and thus the perception.

What made this rendition worse, is the use of Latin actors as accomplices under the cover of inclusion

One thing is for certain; those who control media have a tendency to keep a certain racial system in order. So rather than modernize the original West Side Story, the studio decided to keep it as it was in 1962 because it serves their own interests of control. Remember who owns 20th Century Fox. To add insult to injury, Spielberg made sure he had buffers against any possible backlash by making sure the actors casted were Latin so they can play a part in their own demise all under the spirit of inclusion. A classic Hollywood move.

But the ultimate cherry on top was inserting Rita Moreno as executive producer. Brilliant! Now he can hide and place her squarely in the line of fire…once again. I wonder why Rita did not graciously pass this time around? It is not often you get a second chance to rewrite your history. As the adage goes; fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. The fact is Puerto Ricans are not homogeneous. Our experiences and diversity is rich. West Side Story is a one-dimensional script that needed to be buried in the archives, but that would not be consistent with Hollywood’s objective or intention, so the cycle continues. As for me I did not bear to watch the entire original movie and I sure as hell don’t intend to watch any of the “new” version, because I simply refuse to be an accomplice. My soul and my love for my people is priceless.

Words by Felipe Campos

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