America On The West Side Analysis

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In America on the West Side West Side Story has long been on my list of films to watch. After reading Broadway, 1957, I expected to easily pick out the negative depictions of Puerto Ricans in the film rendition of West Side Story. Rubin and Melnick strongly object to Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents depiction of Puerto Ricans and the conflict portrayed on the stage as Puerto Ricans navigated assimilation into mainstream, mainland American society. While the musical as it was performed on Broadway painted Puerto Ricans in a negative light, several scores in the film version were changed to highlight the difficulty that Puerto Ricans faced in America in a more sensitive and sympathetic manner. The song “America” is central…show more content…
In the original verses Anita, who is Puerto Rican, even goes as far as to suggest that if Rosalia likes Puerto Rico so much, she should go back on a boat. The lyrical content in the film version has been changed significantly from the original version, thus its impact on the viewer is also affected. On screen Anita and Bernardo sing about the wonders and woes of America. Anita praises America including the material pleasures of the country and the freedom which one, especially women have in the country. Bernardo on the other hand sings about the difficulties one faces in America as a Puerto Rican including racism, job discrimination and even the crumbling social conditions widespread in America. Towards the end of the song, in the stage version Anita maliciously sings, “when you will shut up and get gone,” suggesting that Rosalia (and in essence all Puerto Ricans) should go back to Puerto Rico (America). The film rendition has had the lyrics and connotation change, Bernardo sings about willingly and eagerly returning to the easy life in Puerto…show more content…
The costumes, the actors and the set design are all chosen deliberately to have an impact on the audience. The visual setting of the scene “America” begins with Anita and Bernardo bickering as they walk up the stairs. The scene shifts to a dark rooftop where Anita and Bernardo join the rest of the gang. In the background we see signs of decay, forlorn walls with grime and graffiti. Bernardo is costumed in a contrasting light-dark tuxedo, the hues of the backdrop accentuating the hues found in his outfit. Some of the male singers outfits are darker, while some are brightly colored. The woman, who sing of the positive aspects of America are clothed in brightly colored garments. The singers are grouped according to gender and sing to each other, almost as if they are “against” each other which is subtle reflection of the struggles in America at this time as woman began to question there role in society in relation to there gender. The use of bright, electric colors in stark contrast with visually and emotionally dark scenes is a significant and reoccurring element in the film. A look at another set, Marias apartment also follows this pattern. Many dramatic and pivotal moments take place in her bedroom, yet the décor including her doors are of brightly colored mosaics. This is but one example of the way in which the director chooses to signify set and mood but also heritage and

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