Citation
Culture Through Color Perception In "West Side Story"

Material Information

Title:
Culture Through Color Perception In "West Side Story"
Series Title:
19th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium
Creator:
Secades, Marissa
Language:
English
Physical Description:
Undetermined

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Subjects / Keywords:
Center for Undergraduate Research
Center for Undergraduate Research
Genre:
Conference papers and proceedings
Poster

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Abstract:
My project focuses on the use of color theory to clearly characterize members of rival ethnic gangs in the 1961 film adaptation of "West Side Story", which captured audiences with its groundbreaking innovation in choreography and music and earned praise from critics for delving into issues like immigration and gang-related violence. While much of the existing research focuses on the film’s references to vying cultures made explicitly through song and dance, this research instead focuses on the non-verbal representations of these cultures that are expressed through color in the film. By studying its iconic art direction and investigating audiences’ subsequent perceptions of characters, I argue that the colors featured in the costume designs are used to denote a culturally-charged power structure between the Jets and the Sharks. Based on close examination of various designs, its overall color palette, and published scholarship, I conclude that "West Side Story”'s non-verbal references are uniquely dangerous to its explicit references, as they subliminally promote harmful stereotypes and suggest that gang violence brings life to an otherwise drab city. Studying the connection between color theory and culture ultimately illuminates the historical roots of society's perceptions of colors and their seemingly inherent associations to certain traits. ( en )
General Note:
Research authors: Marissa Secades - University of Florida
General Note:
University Scholars Program
General Note:
Faculty Mentor: My project focuses on the use of color theory to clearly characterize members of rival ethnic gangs in the 1961 film adaptation of "West Side Story", which captured audiences with its groundbreaking innovation in choreography and music and earned praise from critics for delving into issues like immigration and gang-related violence. While much of the existing research focuses on the film’s references to vying cultures made explicitly through song and dance, this research instead focuses on the non-verbal representations of these cultures that are expressed through color in the film. By studying its iconic art direction and investigating audiences’ subsequent perceptions of characters, I argue that the colors featured in the costume designs are used to denote a culturally-charged power structure between the Jets and the Sharks. Based on close examination of various designs, its overall color palette, and published scholarship, I conclude that "West Side Story”'s non-verbal references are uniquely dangerous to its explicit references, as they subliminally promote harmful stereotypes and suggest that gang violence brings life to an otherwise drab city. Studying the connection between color theory and culture ultimately illuminates the historical roots of society's perceptions of colors and their seemingly inherent associations to certain traits.  - Center for Undergraduate Research, University Scholars Program

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University of Florida
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Copyright Marissa Secades. Permission granted to University of Florida to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.

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Culture through color Perception in "west side story" Marissa Secades, Dr. Barbara Mennel Department of English, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida Abstract Conclusions Fashion at the Forefront Selected References Riff and the Jets versus the Sharks Sharaff's choice of color palettes play an instrumental role in creating the film's iconic images, but the acclaimed status of West Side Story in hand with the visual communication ability of colors makes her choices dangerous, as they convey subliminal, biased messages about the Sharks in particular The contrasting color palettes seen onscreen visually strengthen the me versus them narrative between the Jets and the Sharks that is already well established offscreen before the start of the film's storyline This narrative becomes more dangerous as West Side Story continues to become immortalized as a representation of Puerto Ricans who, in truth, are misrepresented in the lens of white American directors and designers as the overtly aggressive, sexually spirited "other" gang 1, 2, and 3 Fehrman, Kenneth, and Cherie Fehrman. Color: The Secret Influence Upper Saddle River, N.J: Prentice Hall, 2000. Print. Photos "West Side Story (1961) Photo Gallery." IMDb IMDb.com n.d. Web. Sharaff uses purples and reds to clearly separate the Sharks' girls from the Jets' girls and also further exotify Anita and the Sharks' girls when compared to the softer colored, conservative dresses of the Jets' girls Maria is a bold exception to Sharaff's own style guide for the Sharks' girls, as she dresses more like a Jets' girl with a color palette featuring whites yellows and blues which exude innocence and naivety If Maria were to wear a red dress like Anita, it would suggest that she has stepped into womanhood with sexual desires looking to be explored, which will not be tolerated by Anita or Bernardo Still, she wears a red waistband, a nod to her coming of age and a clue of her forthcoming loss of virginal innocence Common Color Perceptions in Western society This project focuses on the use of color theory to clearly characterize members of rival ethnic gangs in the 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story Originally a 1957 Broadway musical, West Side Story captured audiences with its groundbreaking innovation in choreography and music, while earning praise from critics for delving into contemporary issues like immigration and gang related violence While much of the existing research on West Side Story focuses on references of vying cultures made explicitly through song and dance, this research instead focuses on the non verbal representations of these cultures that are expressed through color in the film By studying the film's iconic art direction and investigating audiences' subsequent perceptions of characters and settings, I argue that the colors featured in the costume designs are used to denote a culturally charged power structure between the Jets and the Sharks Based on close examination of these various designs, the film's overall color palette, and published scholarship, I conclude that West Side Story 's non verbal references are uniquely dangerous to its explicit references, as they subliminally promote harmful stereotypes and suggest that gang violence brings life to an otherwise drab city Studying the connection between color theory and culture ultimately illuminates the historical roots of society's perceptions of colors and their seemingly inherent associations to certain traits The Jets and the Sharks shirts with simple patterns, casual pants or jeans, and clean sneakers Christian Dior's "New Look" silhouette revolutionized the fashion industry and led the world into a new era of postwar fashion Men and women slowly reintroduced a multitude of colors into their wardrobes During World War II, fashion and subsequently costume design, changed drastically as manufacturing restrictions were heavily instituted by the United States War Production Board in an effort to conserve and recycle materials needed for the war 1950s 1940s 1947 The strict wartime regulations of the 1940 s were a distant memory as rock n roll's domination of the 1950 s seeped into the fashion industry, prompting women to wear full skirts once again, along with ruffled petticoats and brightly painted lips Anita versus Maria The color palette for the Jets' costumes featured lighter shades of yellows oranges and blues that emphasized their boyish looks and their softer side, an affect that is absent in the Sharks' costumes Costume designer Irene Sharaff believed the Sharks' physicality and semblance were naturally more aggressive than the Jets', so their color palette featured colors that were more visually and psychologically striking, like reds purples and blacks Red signifies strength, aggression, anger, lust, and even love due to its presence in the natural world as fire and blood 3 Yellow "is the most luminous of all colors It is the first noticed, the loudest and brightest" 1 Orange "expresses radiation and communication It is the color of action Receptive and warm, it characterizes a fire burning the hearth and symbolizes generosity" 2 Blue is l ikeable color with receptive and calming qualities resulting from assoications with clear, blue skies Purple dyes were accessible only to the royal and wealthy and held symbolic importance to Judeo Christian religions ; in modern times, however, it often elicits sentiments of lust and sensuality Black is associated with the lack of light or the consumption of darkness in totality ; its darkness implies a sense of mystery towards the unknown, similar to the mystery surrounding the Sharks as the "other" White signifies innocence, purity, and peace