Revisiting the Police Presence in 'West Side Story'

Almost sixty years later, 'West Side Story' is as vital and relevant as the day it was released.

West Side Story Cops
United Artists

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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.

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