Thursday, September 3, 2015

Breaking the Mold: Pablo Escobar, El Patrón de Mal

Although I hate to admit it – I too was one of the many who held stereotypical beliefs about telenovelas. I was ready to embrace the drama, kitsch and B-list actors I anticipated. Everyone needs a guilty pleasure TV show, right? However, I quickly learned my preconceived notions were wholly incorrect. Telenovelas are not simply soap operas in Spanish; they are a lens through which one can better understand the culture from which the show emerges.

These highly addictive shows have transformed from the typical “Maria” story to plots of drugs, crime and science-fiction. For example, I have chosen to watch "Escobar: El Pátron de Mal" as my telenovela for the semester. This series totally breaks the mold of the rosa story; Pablo Escobar is a drug lord in Colombia who lives his life based on the ideology that if you’re going to do something bad, you should do it well.

As the telenovela develops, I will be better informed, but initially it seems the love story here will truly be between a man and the desire for power and greatness (although I know there will be traditional love stories intertwined). Through researching the telenovela, I found that the plot is primarily an interplay between Escobar's desire to be a good man while also desiring power and glory only possible through illegal activities.

This telenovela also breaks the rosa mold by boldly commenting on societal issues from the country it reflects. According to The International Crisis Guide, Colombia has been home to four major drug trafficking cartels and several bandas criminales (or BACRIMs). These groups gained so much power that they essentially created a new social class that influenced Colombian culture and politics.

In this way, the telenovela serves as a social commentary and a way to discuss socio-political issues in broader society – even outside of Colombia. As we have discussed in class, telenovelas serve as a lens, a mirror or a window. “Escobar” is a lens: it magnifies an issue within Colombian society and perhaps over-exaggerates certain aspects to draw attention to the problem. It is a mirror: it reflects aspects of society and allows us to feel we are seeing a near-exact replica of the dark side of Colombia. Finally, it is a window: as it forces the viewer to focus in on certain aspects of Colombia, they miss some of the more beautiful and positive aspects of Colombia.

Like most television, it is truth and fiction all at once; it opens up discussion in ways a non-fiction documentary often cannot by drawing the viewer in, capturing their attention (and much of their time) as only a telenovela can. I think Dr. A summarized the inherent power of telenovelas when she said, “No one is immune to telenovelas.” I think this is essential to the power of telenovelas as social commentary: if telenovelas were merely soap operas, they could not – and would not – affect society the way they do.

1 comment:

  1. Callie,

    I really appreciate your analysis of "Escobar: El Pátron de Mal" and the way that the telenovela mixes truth of history and current elements of fiction. I have chosen to watch"La Reina del Sur" for our class, but I could not stop myself from watching the first episode of "Escobar." I was so intrigued by the suspense presented in the previews of this "narconovela" and I wanted to see the story of Pablo Escobar play out in the drama of "Narcos." The first episode did not leave me disappointed. I loved how the producers showed both the perspective of Escobar and that of the DEA agent after him. When I am done with the story of Teresa Mendoza, I definitely want to start watching "Narcos!"