I understood why Saving Private Ryan began with a closeup of a billowing, wind-flapping, desaturated U.S. flag. But what do the stars and stripes have do with Tony and Maria‘s love story in Steven Spielberg‘s West Side Story? Seriously, what is this?

Has Spielberg shifted the locale to Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton? Is Tony a U.S. Army recruiter? Do Tony and Maria initially bond over their patriotic love of our country? Will West Side Story begin with the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner”? Will there be a 21-gun salute on the night of the big premiere?

The last time I checked West Side Story was not about the U.S. of A. or any uniquely American issue or theme. It’s a story about tribalism, racism, prejudice, territoriality and the glorious madness of hormonal love.

Arthur Brooke‘s “The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet“, set in Verona, was published in 1562. William Shakespeare‘s English-language version, also set in northern Italy, was written between 1591 and 1595. Until now no one has ever claimed that it’s a particularly American-type story.

Please explain why the red white and blue is mixed up in this…seriously, I’m lost.

The best I can come up with (and I’m just spitballing here) is that Spielberg and the Disney marketers are telling us that the above-mentioned bad stuff (racism, etc.) has a particular resonance with United States culture right now and that the citizenry needs to pay particular attention. We have to “woke” ourselves up to the problem and address it with progressive measures.