The student news site of Millbrook High School

Cat Talk

The student news site of Millbrook High School

Cat Talk

The student news site of Millbrook High School

Cat Talk

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Why “West Side Story” Should Be Taught in Schools Instead of “Romeo and Juliet”

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“West Side Story” is the perfect way to teach students the tragic story of “Romeo and Juliet”

The 2021 Steven Spielberg movie “West Side Story” is a remake of the original 1961 film of the same name. That is not where “West Side Story” gets its full origin though; it is inspired by William Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet” which is commonly taught in high school English classes. “West Side Story” has a more relatable take on the tragic story though. “West Side Story” is set in New York during the 50’s where they were dealing with racism, gentrification, sexism, and figuring out sexuality. These are situations students in high school also consistently deal with to this day. This is why “West Side Story” should be taught in schools instead of “Romeo and Juliet.”
“West Side Story” is a brilliant representation of the devastating love story between two people from different backgrounds. In Steven Spielberg’s interpretation of the passion-filled story, he also includes the story of a character named Anybodys, who is a transgender youth. Anybodys persistently tries to join as a member of the gang called the “Jets.” The men in the “Jets” don’t approve of them though and tend to pick on them because they are transgender. Anybodys is also played by openly non-binary actor Iris Menas. Figuring out your sexuality specifically is something a lot of teens in highschool can relate to and understand. Millbrook Theatre teacher, Mr. Kotzian said “I believe that “West Side Story” is a classic musical that does a great job of taking the classic story concept of the ‘ill-fated lovers’ to another generation.”
As well as sexuality “West Side Story” shows how thoughts on race can divide two groups of people. People’s beliefs of what one group of people should and should not do can cause a strain on relationships and even force people from different classes to not enjoy each other’s company. While in “Romeo and Juliet” the families of Juliet and Romeo do not like each other, they do not take it to as deep of a meaning as “West Side Story ” does. “West Side Story” gives the two groups who don’t like each other a reason that people today still deal with. The “Jets” don’t like the “Sharks” because they are from Puerto Rico, and people today unfortunately still get discriminated against because of their race and nationality so they might find some comfort in a movie that shows exactly what they are dealing with. Sophomore Avery Adams said, “I feel like it is a really interesting story with a lot of interesting plot points that face several different issues throughout the world.”
Closer to the end of the sorrowful movie, viewers get to see how some of the “Jets” treat women. They treat their girlfriends very poorly and kick them out of the shop they were in just for sharing their opinion. Then they continue to use a women’s race against her and call her very horrible things. Eventually, they circle her between them and begin to start undressing her. Before they could assault the innocent women they were stopped by another Puerto Rican woman they know that their dear friend loves very much. This really shows how the “Jets” do not respect the women in their lives and the only reason they stopped is because they believed their male friend would be upset with them. Sadly, this happens to women in our country all the time and even high school students. This is something important students should learn, that what the “Jets” did is not okay and neither party should believe that this is something that just happens.
Another reason why “West Side Story” is great for teen audiences is that it also is easier for them to understand. Mr. Kotzian said, “The biggest obstacle with Shakespeare is the language and the style in which it is written.” He is very right about that because a lot of students do not like to read Shakespeare solely because of how difficult it is to understand what he is trying to say.
While there are many other versions of the sad story like the puppet show “The Love Suicides” written by Sonezaki, “West Side Story” is the most suitable for teenage audiences to actually understand and relate to the topic. Adams also said “I feel like a lot of people could find a way to relate to it more since it would be easier to understand than Shakespeare’s complicated writing style. I feel like there could be a lot more engagement with the teaching of that story instead.” I believe that if more students were taught the plot of Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” rather than Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” they would appreciate and enjoy the lesson a lot more.

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About the Contributor
Sadie Kelsey
Sadie Kelsey, Writer
Hey guys! My name is Sadie Kelsey! I'm so excited to be on the Newspaper staff this year! This is my first year in Newspaper, I'm a Sophomore. I am the Founder and President of the Women's Health Outreach Advocates and a part of the Sophomore student council and FCCLA!

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