Narcos is a Netflix crime web TV series created byCarlo Bernard, Chris Brancato and Duog Miro. The series consists of two seasons that attempt to reconstruct the story and life of the most infamous narco-terrorist Pablo Escobar who was once the seventh richest man in the world from his production and subsequent distribution of cocaine. The interactions of Escobar with other drug kingpins, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents and entities that were seeking revenge for the atrocities that he was guilty of feature largely in the series. Escobar’s character can, therefore, be used to analyze the origins of social constructions such as race, class, and gender, and how these constructions affect Latin America‘s history and politics.
The divisions and class stratification that exist in Colombian society are quite evident from this episode. While drug kingpins such as Pablo Escobar and his adversary Lady Judy Moncada can afford a life of luxury in palatial homes, the majority of Colombians, especially those in Medellin, live in abject poverty. A powerful elite exists in the country as Colombia’s agriculture under Spanish rule was organized according to the hacienda system which was responsible for the creation of “landless peasants,”sharecroppers working for the landlords. Escobar is even able to comfortably send his whole family to Germany to seek asylum with bags full of the United States dollars for their personal expenses.
The race is a sensitive issue for most countries. From this episode, Colombia seems to be a melting pot of different races in the process of integration. Caucasians, Amerindians, and Afro-Colombians mingle and work together to fulfill their organization’s goal. An example is Nelson “Blackie” Harnandez who is Pablo Escobar’s, right-hand man. As an Afro-Colombian, he orders aroundCaucasian and Amerindian sicarios “drug cartel hitmen” when he finds them sleeping in a safe-house in Medellin instead of wiring C4 explosives for Pablo’s bombing campaign. Regarding gender roles, Escobar’s wife, Tata, and mother, Armelinda, have the sole duty of taking care of the household and his children. These two women brave adversities while fleeing the vigilante group Los PEPESto protect and hold the family together.
From a humanistic perspective, the myth that Blackie’s character tries to push is that of a Colombia where everyone shares equal rights to hold any position no matter the race. The element of a black man holding a position of power in Colombia aims to shape the nation’s culture. Culture is the whole complexity of traditional behavior that a human race develops and successively passes on to each generation. Such a myth has the intention of naturalizing the society’s culture making attitudes and beliefs seem completely normal. The signs that the scene portrays stand for conceptual relations that the viewer is meant to carry in their minds to make the meaning system found in our culture.These signs undergo a translation that transforms them into language, enabling us to translate the concepts into words, images, a sound that then operate as a form of language that expresses meanings and communicates certain thoughts to people.Myths often establish a society’s base and the social relationship that exists among the people. A repetition of this message through the conveying of images in TV programs further reinforces this myth.
Tata and Armilanda perform the role that society assigns to them. An exemplification of this notion is in Barthes essay “Novels and Children” in Mythologies. The society often requires a woman to play a submissive role while their male counterparts are dominant in both traditional and contemporary culture. Women here are not subject to direct inclusion in the public domain but are under a system of strict public patriarchy that exercises control over them indirectly and collectively.Barthe posits that there are six structures put in place to control women: in household production, the organization of paid work, male violence, cultural institutions, the state, and heterosexuality (Kosut, 2012, p. 16). In the systematic organization of work, the professional lives of women always seem to be under the control and determination of others. The media has been responsible for diffusion and the sheer “normalization” of this phenomenon by producing movies that are heterosexual in nature where the plot revolves around a man and woman who are in love.
As is the case with Escobar, gender, race, and class rely on one’s social status. Those who oppose the government and regard it as for as a corrupt and oppressive force likely see Escobar as a compassionate character while those supporting the government take Escobar for an enemy. The narco-drama shows how power plays along the line of racism, gender parity and classism in Latin America.