West Side Story ‘White people will be mad – good!’ Steven Spielberg’s controversial change

It’s been 60 years since the original West Side Story movie was released in a storyline that saw a Romeo and Juliet romance across two rival street gangs. The white group, the Jets, clashed with the Puerto Ricans, the Sharks, as the film explored the effects of poverty and racism on 1950s New York City. Now Steven Spielberg’s remake is set for release this Christmas and following the premiere last night, a controversial move by the director has been shared by critics.

As would be expected, Spielberg’s West Side Story features scenes with the Sharks speaking in their native Spanish tongue.

However, apparently, almost half the movie is not in English and isn’t supported with any subtitles.

The Globe and Mail’s Barry Hertz tweeted: “Invigorating choice to have subtitle-less Spanish comprise ~40% of dialogue.”

Meanwhile, Entertainment Weekly and The Wrap’s Yolanda Machado celebrated the move with much glee.

.Stephen Sondheim was ‘absolute genius’ and ‘titan of musical theatre’

West Side Story ‘White people will be mad – good!’ Steven Spielberg’s controversial change

West Side Story: ‘White people will be mad!’ Steven Spielberg remake sparks controversy (Image: WB)


  • West Side Story first reactions: ‘Top-tier’ Steven Spielberg

She tweeted: “West Side Story is fantastic. White people gonna be big mad tho and GOOD.

“Bless you Steven Spielberg for not subtitling when our people use our language.

“In a country where nearly 20 per cent of the population speaks Spanish, the subtitles just further keep us othered.”

However, not everyone was convinced with Alton Maine commenting: “It’s not othering to be incomprehensible to 80% of an audience?”

west side story gangs

West Side Story is Steven Spielberg’s first musical (Image: WB)

tony and maria, anita dancing

West Side Story hits cinemas on December 10, 2021 (Image: WB)

Additionally, DavidAndPops wrote: “White here and speak Spanish and not mad.

“I do think it’s a strange flex that removing accessible language to a portion of people watching is something to celebrate.

“As someone who has a family member who is deaf they are fighting every day for things like this.”

Nevertheless, another critic who has seen West Side Story supported Machado in the comments.

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Peggy at the Movies wrote: “It’s so funny you say this as a white woman who saw it with her PR friend tonight . I called this and told her this EXACT thing… luckily I speak Spanish but I told her there are gonna be the white crowd that is pissed by this – so silly. but it WILL happen.”

Interestingly, The Passion of Christ – which is entirely in Hebrew, Latin and reconstructed Aramaic – almost had no subtitles at all.

Mel Gibson felt the biblical storyline was so well known that he could rely on “filmic storytelling”. Although this didn’t happen in the end, perhaps Spielberg was thinking similarly when it came to the much-loved West Side Story?

West Side Story hits cinemas on December 10, 2021.

Read More: Hollywood News


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