The Great ‘West Side Story’ Debate
DEL VALLE SCHORSKE Audiences are taught what should resonate with them — nothing becomes a “cultural touchstone” by accident — and the more a certain narrative gets repeated, the more sentimental associations it accrues. “West Side Story” might not be a Confederate monument, but it is a monument to the authority of white Americans to dominate the conversation about who Puerto Ricans are. And each revival renews that authority and co-signs the narrative for a new generation.
GREEN All art is political, yes, and deserves to be judged as such. But art is not just political, and deserves to be judged on other grounds, too. If there is no pleasure to be had in “West Side Story” then it cannot possibly overcome the problems we’re discussing. But if it does offer pleasure, then we, as individuals, are free to weigh it against those problems. The balance will be different for different people, not necessarily corresponding with identity.