‘West Side Story’ banned in 6 countries, critics think they know exactly why


West Side Story created for rave reviews and numerous award nominations. But not everyone will have the chance to see this superb piece of cinema. Steven Spielberg’s tale of a classic tale – itself a retelling of an even older classic tale – will not appear in at least six countries.

While the exact reason for the ban hasn’t always been explicitly stated, fans are pretty sure they got it. the West Side Story the ban has to do with choosing to provide LGBTQ representation in the latest version of The Cursed Lovers Tale.

‘West Side Story’ is a new take on an old tale

(LR) Carol Lawrence, Rachel Zegler and Rita Moreno at a premiere of West Side Story | Jon Kopaloff / WireImage

West Side Story premiered as a Broadway musical in 1957. While the setting may seem nostalgic now, it was actually a modern take on Romeo and Juliet during its premiere. Instead of the Capulets and the Montagues at war, West Side Story places the two lovers on different sides of the teenage street gangs: Puerto Rican Sharks and White Jets.

With catchy tunes and dance numbers that wowed audiences, the original became a flashy movie in 1961 when it won multiple Oscars. When Spielberg was first recognized as an incredible director, he hoped to recreate West Side Story one day.

Fast forward to 2021 and the director has created the highly anticipated remake of the classic story. For a film so loved and decorated, the stakes were high. But critics were largely impressed with Spielberg’s take. Critics noted its continued cultural relevance and praised the supporting actors and dancers.

Several countries have banned “West Side Story”

Despite a mostly positive reception, several countries have banned West Side Story of the first. As Deadline reports, the list of countries banning the film includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. In some of those countries, the release condition involves a list of cuts requested from Disney, which distributed the film. But Disney reportedly refused to make the cuts, so the film will not hit theaters in those countries.

It is widely believed that the cuts and bans relate to the character Anybodys, a transgender character. As ScreenRant reports, Spielberg’s adaptation of Anybodys “played by non-binary actor Iris Menas”. The character “is no longer a tomboy but rather a trans man, solving a major problem with the character of the original”.

While the original character fell flat and didn’t make much sense to many critics, this update turns things around: trans man seeking acceptance and trying to prove himself to the Jets. The inclusion of Anybodys as a trans male is likely the source of the bans.

Other award-winning films have been subject to international bans

West Side Story is far from the only film to receive a ban. The Culture Trip explains that films have been banned for a number of reasons. For example, Ireland and Singapore have banned A clockwork orange for decades due to its violent nature. Similar concerns retained The Texas Chainsaw Massacre from West Germany and Singapore. Sometimes censored versions of the film are allowed instead, but other works are considered unacceptable in any form.

As for works banned for LGBTQ representation, many countries in the Middle East as well as China banned brokeback mountain.

The United Arab Emirates, as Gulf News reports, tends to ban films with excessive sexual content, regardless of the sexual orientation of the characters or actors. When a movie has too much sexual content to be reasonably edited, the country tends to ban it altogether – a fate suffered by Black Swan and Love and other drugs.

RELATED: 15 films banned in the United States


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