Sterotypes in West Side Stroy

December 13, 2011
By Rachel Weyers BRONZE, Chicago, Illinois
Rachel Weyers BRONZE, Chicago, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

West Side Story is a classic American movie that has been in American culture since 1961. The movie consists of two gangs named the Jets (a white gang) and the Sharks (a Puerto Rican gang) who live in New York City. They are always fighting and getting into trouble with the police because of their hatred for each other’s race. The movie West Side Story has three major stereotypes about gender and race. Which included lessons teach younger American generation to treat others differently if they are not the same as themselves.

Women in the movie were seen as the house wives that stayed home all day. They cooked, cleaned, and took care of their children. For example, in the movie, you rarely saw a woman of any race outside of her house because they were not allowed to leave without their husband or boyfriend’s permission. In addition, the men told their girlfriends or wives that they were going out to drink, and never did they think that they should invite their wife’s and girl friends because they felt that they were too dumb to go to a gang meeting and it was no place for a woman to be. Moreover, a white girl wanted to join the Jets gang and was told to go home, and that the streets were not a place for women. In comparison to during the fight scenes, the women are brought to watch and cheer on men instead of fighting along side them. The women were portrayed as weak and just entertainment for their men. Some may argue that this movie is a musical and dance is needed, but the women dance in very sexual ways throughout the movie. Lastly, it seems as if the women’s opinion does not matter. As the women sing a song “America” and explain the luxuries about being an American woman, the men, instead of taking the women’s opinion of America into consideration, the men simply mock them and tell them constantly that they are wrong and they have never really experience the hardships of America (New York).

In the movie, white men are seen as the top of the food chain. They boss everyone else around like they are kings and they rule the streets, they are portrayed as what an American man is supposed to look and act like, and because of this image, when the police catch the two gangs fighting, only the Puerto Ricans are called out when the white gang are told to keep a eye on the Puerto Ricans. All white men are seen as good people that do not do anything wrong, and if they do, they simply did not mean any harm. When the Jets are seen doing something wrong ,they are given a warning instead of jail time.

The Puerto Ricans are seen as poor dirt that does not belong in America. Puerto Ricans, Throughout the movie, they are given harsh nicknames by the whites. The policeman stated one thing that really summarizes how the Puerto Ricans are treated like in the movie, he says “Get your friends out of here, Bernardo, and stay out!...Please! Boy, oh, boy…As if this neighborhood wasn't crummy enough." In addition, the gang’s name (the Sharks) is a secret message for bloodthirsty fish with large teeth, also known as ugly filth. They are also treated as criminals because they are never given warnings but taken to jail right away if they “break the law”.

There are many more stereotypes just waiting to be found in the movie. This movie has been in American culture for a long time and probably will stay in our culture for many years to come. Does this movie truly show how we (Americans) treat other races and women in our country? In addition, is this movie teaching younger generations how to treat others differently if they are not they same gender or race as them? You chose what you think, but whether you like it or not, West Side Story is a huge racist stereotypical movie.

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This article has 2 comments.

elacroix02 said...
on Oct. 26 2015 at 4:29 pm
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
hello but you have spelt story wrong

mplo said...
on Oct. 29 2014 at 10:27 pm
It's been quite sometime since I was a teenager, but when I saw West Side Story for the first time, I was still a teen in high school.  I saw absolutely none of the stereotypes that you've mentioned here.  Moreover, I believe that West Side Story, contrary to teaching Americans to treat those who are unlike themselves differently, it sends a message of the senselessness of such treatment of those who differ from ourselves, and its deleterious consequences.   I believe that the women in this film were quite strong, and often disagreed, firmly with their boyfriends.  Velma and Graziella may have been pretty, bubbly and cheerful, but Anybodys, Maria and Anita were quite strong and independent. The fact that Anybodys ultimately gets accepted as an equal in the end, subsequently getting admitted into the Jets gang,  also indicates the strength of the women in this film, also


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