Film Response: West Side Story vs. Zoot Suit, A Comparison-Contrast.
West Side Story is a 1960’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The film is set in New York City and centers around a feud over turf between two gangs; the Sharks and the Jets…
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In Zoot Suit, Luis Valdez takes us on a journey into the pachuco gang lifestyle that was popular in the barrios of Los Angeles in the 1940s. The film is based on real-life events in which Latinos were persecuted (Zoot Suit Riots and the Sleepy Lagoon murder trial). Thematically, both films explore urban and gang life, racial tensions, family ties, and gender roles. In this paper, the two films: will be compared and explored (as well as what are their similarities and differences); will be analyzed to determine to what extent the directors were successful in addressing real life concerns in telling their stories and why these stories are told; will be analyzed as to how the characters are portrayed (are they real men and women, stereotypes, or mythical figures?); and will be analyzed in terms of the ways how filmmakers employ theatrical and cinematic devices as well as the utilization of dance, music, incorporation of myth, and realism to help tell their stories.
Comparison of West Side Story and Zoot Suit (Similarities and Differences)
West Side Story was primarily based off the hit Broadway musical. The gist of the story is that two people—Tony and Maria—are from two different cultures, Polish and Spanish. Tony used to be a part of the gang the Jets, but isn’t anymore. However, they find love even in the midst of the gang rivalry. “[W]hen Riff's best friend (and former Jet) Tony and Bernardo's younger sister Maria meet at a dance, no one can do anything to stop their love. Maria and Tony begin meeting in secret, planning to run away. Then the Sharks and Jets plan a rumble under the highway - whoever wins gains control of the streets. Maria sends Tony to stop it, hoping it can end the violence.”1 Similarly, Zoot Suit dealt also with gang issues that plagued young Latinos, albeit: the setting was a little different (Los Angeles instead of New York); the movie was based on a play, not a musical; and that this movie did not focus centrally on a love story but more about being in the gang. Unfortunately, the gang talked about in the Zoot Suit movie were unlawfully arrested, with no evidence that a crime had ever been committed by anyone in the gang—at least not the crime to which people were interested in. A Mr. Jose Diaz had been murdered, and the ‘38th Street Gang’ was held responsible. Indeed, “…Henry Leyvas and 24 members of the ‘38th Street Gang’…were arrested and charged with…murder [and there was] a public outcry for ‘justice’ and vengeance against the zoot suiters caused…a[n] [L.A.] roundup of over 600 people on [August 11th and 12th of 1942]. All were charged with [crimes].”2 This was an act of racial discrimination. Those are the ways in which the two movies compare and contrast. III. Addressing Real-Life Concerns and Why These Stories Are Told Why these movies were made was to shed light upon discriminatory practices against Latinos. “Latino directors who made breakthroughs in the early 1980s included Luis Valdez, whose [movie] Zoot Suit (1981)…offered an unsparing look at urban gangs, utilizing turf wars to explore issues of local and national belonging.”3 The real-life concerns portrayed in both of these movies mainly included discrimination faced every day by Latinos—who are looked upon with mistrust in West Side Story. It is obvious that the gang which set off the Zoot Suit Riots definitely were discriminated against by the L.A. cops and for being charged with a murder that they most certainly probably didn’t even commit. The reason these types of stories are told are to show people how discrimination against Latinos does in fact exist and that it is not acceptable behavior. Just like the way African-Americans were discriminate
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“It’s going to be a fair fight!” That’s what Tony believes in when he made the decision to make a deal with the leader of The Sharks. He even believed that after the fight, “everything’s going to be alright.” Yes, everything became all right.
Pachuco appears inform of imaginary character and only the audience and Hank can access this actor. This actor is present in the film from the start to the end1. Valdez uses this style to bring out the struggle of Chicanos to establish cultural identity within dominant culture in United States.
It came about as a result of women studies by scholars which led to a new trend among women’s rights activists. This new trend was based on studying and analysing societal issues regarding a wide range of factors from a feminist point of view. When it came to film, the analysis encompassed the functional role that women played in films and the impact it had on society.
Zoot Suit Riots. The Zoot Suit Riots took place in the city of Los Angeles, California in the early summer of 1943, during the Second World War. The riots drew their name from the Zoot Suits commonly worn by the Latino youth in the city. The riots took place between the US marine soldiers and the white sailors being on one side, and the Mexican Americans, mainly the youth, being the other party.
The Zoot-Suit riot is believed to have begun with a rumor rather than on concrete evidence. What the riots lacked in hard incriminating evidence, they made up for in a plethora of emotions, fantasies, and symbols.
According to PBS, this was a time when Mexicans were not in favor because of the war in the Pacific. It was a time when tensions were high for servicemen and Mexican American youth were experiencing the "zoot suit" as a rebellious fashion statement. The riots were started more so in the media than anywhere else.
The segregation and discrimination of individuals based on their race was the prevalent theme in the riot. The violation of the rights of the citizens especially of Mexican descent was a common practice supported by both the judiciary and the administration.
They happened at a time when the United States was at war, in 1943, and the nation had gained a lot through its war industry. It was a time when many Mexicans had chosen to immigrate to the United States so that they would be able to take advantage of the numerous opportunities that were available in the country.
The film Zoot Suit, starring Daniel Valdez was an acclaimed stage drama with a partial fiction and facts based on the actual Zoot suit riots that swayed Los Angeles in the 1940s. The drama further uses songs, dances and merges narratives based on the Mexican cultures.
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