West Side Story: Anyone’s trans identity makes the original better
The 2021 remake of West Side Story features the trans character Anybodys, whose new identity adds meaning and nuance to the original character.
from nobody West Side Story The 2021 remake update saw the character played by non-binary actor Iris Menas, and the supporting character was changed from a girl to a trans man, fixing a major issue with the character in the original. The musical turned into a movie West Side Story It takes the story of Romeo and Juliet and sets it in New York City in 1957, as tensions rise between the sharks of Puerto Rico and the white American planes. It follows the main characters, Tony and Maria, as they fall in love despite being on opposite sides of the struggle.
Steven Spielberg’s 2021 remake West Side Story differs greatly from the original 1961 film version, directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, mainly to appeal to a modern audience. Spielberg added a few characters, such as Valentina played by Rita Moreno from the 1961 film, and changed the order and staging of some of the songs. Most importantly, many of his changes add the sociopolitical context necessary to understand the nuance of the musical. One such change is taking the tomboy character Anybodys and making him a trans man, which fixes the issues with the character in the original film.
from nobody West Side Story The role of the original doesn’t make much sense, and that’s mostly because it doesn’t serve much of a purpose. While other characters have direct roots from Romeo and Juliet characters, Anybodys has no equivalent, so the addition of his character was a choice that Ernest Lehman actively made in the original, but did nothing of substance with her. In the original 1961 version West Side Story, she doesn’t sing, and its subplot of a girl trying to join a boy gang is played for laughs. The gang is terribly rude to her, declaring that she is a girl and will always be a girl, and they exclude her from their group even though she is desperate for acceptance. He eventually earns their respect by warning of Chino’s plan to kill Tony, but then immediately participates in the terrible things the Jets do, questioning whether earning their respect was even worth it. In the end, she is exiled from the Jets again to protect her from the other guys in the gang, ending her story right where it started. The character is an odd choice in the original film.
Anybodys’ Trans Identity in Westside Story 2021 adds depth and purpose
In the 2021 remake West Side Storydirector Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner decided to make Anybodys’ West Side Story character a trans man. This decision fixes many of the problems with the original character by adding meaning and nuance to his subplot. Instead of playing the story for laughs as a girl trying to be one of the boys, it’s a serious and heartfelt story of a trans man seeking acceptance and trying to prove himself to the Jets. The Jets’ rejection of calling Anybodys a girl who will always be a girl is no longer funny but cruel and abusive, especially from a group that Anybodys trusted and loved. When Anybodys alerts Chino’s Jets to the plan to kill Tony, he is recognized and validated not just as a member of the gang but as a man. In one of the biggest differences of the remake compared to the original West Side Story, Anybodys not exiled by the group. Instead, his story ends in a better place than he started as an accepted member of the gang, and actually has a character arc.
By making Anybodys a trans character, West Side Story it adds a layer of representation that wasn’t there before. Spielberg’s affirmation of Anybodys identity validates what viewers already related to, as the LGBTQ community felt a connection to the gender nonconforming character of Anybodys in the original, and for many, the character already he was trans Without these changes, Anybodys character would be a throwaway joke like the original.
Why letting someone sing “Cool” would have been a step up
Spielberg’s adaptation of the musical offers a solid update by making Anybodys trans, though West Side Story The 2021 songs could have done even more to make him a fully developed character with purpose. While many of the characters in the film, especially Tony, have many songs in their repertoire, Anybodys doesn’t, but it easily could. The song “Cool” would have been a perfect time to highlight more Anybodys, as they could have been the voice of reason for the Jets telling them to cool off before the rumble with the Sharks. This song already has a history of tweaks to accommodate different iterations West Side Story, so making this update would have seemed perfectly natural. As it is, while West Side Story In 2021 he provided trans visibility with Anybodys, the film could have ventured much further to make him a more prominent character in the story.
Next: West Side Story 2021 ending explained
Batgirl directors respond to WB’s cancellation of their DC film