WEST SIDE – INSIDE STORY
by David Sisler
with thanks to Stephen Sondheim
In "West Side Story" two gangs fight for control of the streets on the west side of New York City. The "Jets" are white. The "Sharks" are Puerto Ricans. The racial differences provide much of the conflict of the story.
Tony, the former leader of the Jets falls in love with Maria, the sister of a Shark. This modern day retelling of "Romeo and Juliet" ends, as does the original, with death.
In one scene, the Jets have a confrontation with Police Officer Krupke. After Krupke leaves, the members of the gang take the parts of the officer, a judge, a psychologist and a social worker. Stephen Sondheim's lyrics and Leonard Bernstein's music give us a picture of the Jets view of themselves.
"Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke, you gotta understand. It's just our bringing up-ke that gets us outta hand. Our mothers all are junkies, our fathers all are drunks. Golly, Moses, naturally we're punks!
"Gee Officer Krupke, we're very upset. We never had the love that every child oughta get. We ain't no delinquents. We're misunderstood. Deep down inside us there is good.
"There is good, there is good, there is good. There is untapped good. Like, inside the worst of us is good.
"Just tell it to the judge!
"Dear kindly Judge, your Honor. My parents treat me rough. With all the marijuana they won't give me a puff. They didn't wanna have me, but somehow I was had. Leapin' lizards, that's why I'm so bad.
"Why, Officer Krupke, you're real square. This boy don't need a judge. He needs an analyst's care. It's just his neurosis that oughta be curbed. He's psychologically disturbed.
"I'm disturbed. We're disturbed, we're disturbed. We're the most disturbed. Like we're psychologically disturbed.
"Hear ye, hear ye! In the opinion of this court, this child is depraved on account he ain't had a normal home.
"Hey, I'm depraved on accounta I'm deprived!
"So, take him to a head shrinker.
"My daddy beats my mommy. My mommy clobbers me. My grandpa is a Commie. My grandma pushes 'T.' My sister wears a mustache. My brother wears a dress. Goodness, gracious, that's why I'm a mess!
"Yes, Officer Krupke, he shouldn't be here. This boy don't need a couch. He needs a useful career. Society's played him a terrible trick. Sociologically he's sick.
"I am sick. We are sick, we are sick, we are sick, sick, sick. Like we're sociologically sick.
"In my opinion this child does not need to have his head shrunk at all. Juvenile delinquency is purely a social disease.
"Hey, I got a social disease!
"So, take him to a social worker.
"Dear kindly social worker, they tell me get a job. Like be a soda jerker, which means I'd be a slob. It's not I'm antisocial. I'm only antiwork. Glory Osky, that's why I'm a jerk!
"Officer Krupke, you've done it again! This boy don't need a job. He needs a year in the pen. It ain't just a question of misunderstood. Deep down inside him, he's no good!
"I'm no good. We're no good, we're no good. We're no earthly good. Like the best of us is no damn good.
"The trouble is he's lazy. The trouble is he drinks. The trouble is he's crazy. The trouble is he stinks. The trouble is he's growing. The trouble is he's grown.
"Krupke, we've got troubles of our own!
"Officer Krupke, we're down on our knees. Cause no one wants a fellow with a social disease.
"Gee, Officer Krupke, what are we to do..."
When the song, "Gee, Officer Krupke," begins the Jets believe that "inside the worst of us is good." After the judicial system sends them to a psychiatrist they proclaim that they are "sociologically sick." From the couch they go to a social worker from whose care they emerge proclaiming that "the best of us is no damn good."
The trouble is blamed on laziness, drinking, mental instability, lack of positive person grooming habits, and physical development.
The psychiatrist declares, "Society's played [them] a terrible trick."
From lack of love at home, to a tortured home environment, to the failure of the judicial system, to the failure of society in general, Jets blame everyone and every thing but themselves for their actions. They are frustrated in their search for answers.
I don't know if it was Stephen Sondheim's intention that "Gee, Officer Krupke" be a portrait of the causes of society's problems generally and juvenile delinquency specifically. I do know that the downward spiral which the Jets trace is the downward direction of all of our lives.
When the Jets get down on their knees they are heading in the right direction. "Gee, Officer Krupke, what are we to do?" Look up to Jesus. Let Him take the blame of your life and then change the direction of your life. Make it an inside story.
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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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