Is the narco theme over-exploited in the cinema and television?
Some love it and others can not stop seeing it. The truth is that the content on drug trafficking has taken the big and the little, was it enough?
The narconovelas have taken the small screen for some years in Mexico and Colombia. It is hardly normal for these countries to exploit in their television productions a reality that has defined their identity on the international scene. This relatively new genre of film and television has expanded to other countries that have been seduced by the intrigue caused by a plot that revolves around drug trafficking.
Leer en español: ¿Está sobreexplotado el tema del narcotráfico en el cine y en la televisión?
The content of gangsters, however, is not entirely new. There exists a whole time a cinematographic aesthetic that revolves around the Italian mafia in Chicago and New York. This aesthetic, very elegant and sophisticated, is also linked to a content that reflects on honor, family, masculinity, and inheritance in the circuits of illegal traffic in the years of the 1950s.
Very different is the aesthetics of the narconovelas, which in their content and form are associated with the practices of drug traffickers: extravagance, exaggeration, careerism, vulgarity. It makes sense, that when dealing with another problem, which, although very similar to the North American one, is very different in its ways, the ones produced in Latin American countries have all other ways of telling the story of drug trafficking.
Has it been enough?
In November 2016, Senator Zoé Robledo and Deputy Lía Limón of Mexico issued a statement asking the Federal Institute of Telecommunications not to be tolerant of the transmission of narco-versa during family hours. They argued that the content was not suitable for children and that it also attacks the international image of the country. This is not an isolated opinion. It is well known that many think that this type of productions damage the image of the countries before the foreign gaze.
It is curious, however, that no one ever thought the same about the United States after the seventies boom of gangster films. It would seem, then, that there was a concern to please the international public from the Latin American countries. This, at the expense of the denial of a reality, that of drug trafficking. Reality that shames us, of course, but in the end a reality.
Throughout history, it has been normal for nations to use seventh art and literature to reflect on the events that have brought them down. This is the case of Spain, whose post-war literature and film productions that touched on the theme of civil war opened its eyes to the world about the lamentable situation that this country went through in the first half of the 20th century. Now, in times of post-conflict, great narrations and productions of the war that in Colombia lasted more than 50 years will also be expected, and exploration of this topic will be interesting. What, then, is what bothers us?
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The discomfort of seeing us on the screen
As I said before, the Latin American productions that touch on drug trafficking do so with the same aesthetic as the narcos themselves. Everything in the plot is exaggerated, it is melodramatic, there are forced situations and swearwords right and left. These productions, then, directly confront us with this reality that we find shameful and that is a reflection of our society and our culture, and that is why I think we find them so uncomfortable.
On the other hand, many seem to ennoble the figure of the narco, with which I do not agree and also uncomfortable. But remember that it was for a long time. The population saw a hope of social promotion in the figure of the capo, and to deny it would be an attack against the collective memory. So, I think the discomfort generated by the narco theme has also to do with the fact that the Latin American public does not like to recognize itself in the narco.
Let me explain: many of them focus on the history of their family, they show that, for example, Pablo Escobar or the Queen of the South had a family they loved, something that the public can feel identified with. Thus, this identification is dangerous, because there is a risk that the public will sympathize with the mafia boss or justify their actions. But it is also uncomfortable because we as a public see ourselves reflected on the screen. This could also explain why it seems that we can not stop seeing narconovelas, because seeing ourselves can be uncomfortable but also fascinating.
The foreign look
Although the Mexican senator and deputy have been worried about the image of the country abroad, the truth is that foreign countries are also fascinated by the issue of drug trafficking. This is demonstrated by foreign productions that have been launched in recent years. Although the Latin American public has often not received very well the fact that their story is told from the perspective of the other, foreign productions have shown that the problem of drug trafficking is not only Latin America, but involves other nations with it, nations that are also interested in getting involved in the story of the Mafia.
Thus, I consider that insofar as the narcotraffic phenomenon has defined the Latin American identity in a certain way in recent decades, it is hardly normal that the subject be explored in television and film productions and that other countries be involved in the narration of the same, because the more voices, the more complete the story will be.
While I think you should be careful with what is said (well, as I said I do not approve of the exaltation of the figure of the capo), I think there is still much to explore in this issue that can help the formation of a collective memory and self-criticism, because the themes of machismo, corruption, the lust for power and economic uprising are things that can link drug trafficking with our culture and can help us understand it as a phenomenon.
LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Rodríguez Pabón
* La opinión del redactor no representa la del medio
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