West Side Story is kind of a big deal.
Here’s the thing: I, a person from Puerto Rico, had never seen West Side Story, which is considered by a lot of people to be a musical with significant Puerto Rican representation.
So I finally watched it, and came to the conclusion that West Side Story is amazing, but it falls short when it comes to accurate Latinx representation. So here are some of the things the film totally nailed, and a few things it could’ve done better.
1. Good: As a movie musical, West Side Story more than achieves its goal and is obviously a classic.
2. Bad: Tony and Maria don’t make very strong leads.
3. Good: Their duets are pretty great.
4. Bad: Most of the Sharks were played by non-Latinx actors.
5. Good: Rita Moreno is spectacular as Anita.
6. Bad: The Sharks are all in brownface.
7. Good: The musical tries to incorporate more modern themes into the source material.
8. Bad: Any kind of commentary on these themes is…lacking.
9. Good: “America” is a terrific song about what it’s like to move to a new place, and captures how a lot of Puerto Ricans feel after leaving the island.
10. Bad: The Jets have way too many songs.
11. Good: The dancing in West Side Story is a one-of-a-kind achievement.
12. Bad: There is very little about this movie that is even remotely Puerto Rican.
13. Good: It hits all the emotional beats of Romeo and Juliet and could be considered the best adaptation of Shakespeare’s work.
14. Bad: The scene in which the Jets sexually assault Anita is entirely unnecessary.
15. Good: The supporting characters make you feel just as invested in the story as the leads (maybe even more).
16. Bad: Even though it’s considered to have Latinx representation, West Side Story is full of stereotypes.
17. Good: The ending is incredibly moving.
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