Look beyond male machismo

Much attention has turned towards the Netflix original series Narcos, about the rise of Colombia’s most notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar. While the male characters are complex on their own, it is the female characters that really drive the sophistication of this show.

For all of the deviant activity occurring in Colombia during the 1980s, the goals of each male character is simple: to overpower your enemies. It is in the roles of the females characters that the complexity of the show is developed. These ambiguous yet sophisticated goals go hand in hand with the politics surrounding drug trafficking in Colombia.

Unlike typical western television shows, Narcos tends to portray the female characters as being less powerful than their male counterparts. In the first season of Narcos, Escobar’s wife Tata Escobar is a seemingly meek character, even getting sent home by her husband’s mistress. Although she may seem submissive, do not be fooled, she is just as unnerving as her husband.

Tata’s surface level humility withers in the second season as she gently goads him into committing some of his most notorious acts, urging him to do whatever it takes to protect their children and cement their superior status and power. Escobar may be Colombia’s most notorious drug dealer, but the way that Tata shows her darkest desires under the persona of a weak housewife is far more discomforting.

Another example of this female complexity comes from the character Judy Moncada (Cristina Umana). Judy’s husband Kiko was a former of the Medellin cartel, but after being convicted of holding out on Pablo he is killed by Escobar. Now, Judy wants blood.

Her fierce desire to take down Escobar involves cutthroat ploys and ruthless tactics, doing whatever it takes to avenge her late husband. Like Escobar, Judy demonstrates a self-centered disregard for bloodshed, and is willing to kill anyone who stands in her way.

While typical hispanic shows portray female characters as flat and meek, Narcos females combat this machismo as instrumental characters. They are the chess players, not the pieces.

Once you start, Narcos gets its hooks in and is hard to stop watching. Viewers will be sure to binge watch with an enthusiasm similar to the clients that snorted up Escobar’s finely produced powder. 

Photo courtesy of Ori Singer, Featured image courtesy of Televisione Streaming on Flickr