Thursday, November 5, 2015

Good People in Narco Novelas

After having seen all of the consumption presentations, I was still left with the impression that Narco novelas, the protagonist in most cases, are still seen and have traits of "good people".
Before deciding to take this class I stumbled upon Pablo Escobar novela on Netflix over the summer, and I thought to myself "Wow, I can't remember the last time I sat down and watched a television show that was in complete Spanish". Let's just say that I really go into the novela and storyline.

The more that I watched, the question of whether the novela was or wasn't historically accurate kept popping into my mind. So I went into some research, and what I found that the novela basically follows the life of Escobar, to a tee, even down to the people that were only speculated to have been killed by him. Obviously as the telenovela progresses and the crime gets worse and the killings become mass killings, Escobars character transforms into an evil one. But there it is, a transformation.

At the beginning of the telenovela, young Pablo Escobar is portrayed as a poor fellow who was able to take advantages of what life gave him and he made money, but without forgetting where he came from. I think that the early part of Escobars story is one that a lot of people can relate to. I found myself relating to his story and happen when he was able to throw parties, give his younger brother a new car, build housing for people in the slums. Pablo Escobar was the saint of the poor people, and I honestly kind of model myself behind his moto. Get to the top but without forgetting your people.

Okay, let me state that I am not in anyway promoting what Escobar did or drugs or crime or murders but, I guess the reasoning behind his pursuit for power was a good one.

I remember reading an article about the telenovela and it's broadcast in Colombia. It said that despite people knowing what Escobar did, people were still able to symphatize with Escobar and see him as a good person. For example one of the early killings, Escobar is throwing a block party and surprises his younger brother with a new car. His younger brother is later gunned down, but us as the audience feel the lost that Escobar feels, he isn't a drug trafficking murder, he is a person that has just lost a loved one. It could be due to the acting, but the point is that even Escobar is seen as a person in small instances in the telenovela. Could this be attributed to the writers? Andres Parra's performance? The structure of a telenovela? I think it is a mixture of all three. Narco novela, despite the topic are able to elicit sympathy for the narco.



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Dina, I think this is a very interesting topic you have chosen to talk about especially because I have thought about it often while watching my telenovela. I am currently watching "La Reina del Sur", which is also a narconovela. During the show I have always thought of the protagonist, Teresa Mendoza, as a good person with good character. Even though she becomes one of the largest drug dealers in Southern Spain, I continue to like her and think of her positively.

    Throughout the show we meet Teresa's multiple lovers (all of whom are involved with drug dealing) and I have liked them all as characters as well. It is interesting to me that the writers don't really portray the characters negatively as people. However, in "La Reina del Sur" they do show bad things happening to these characters. For example, Teresa has to leave her home country and everything she knows and loves behind. She is constantly on the run and always watching her back, never able to relax. I believe the writer does this to show the audience that the drug dealing lifestyle is no way to want to live, but you can still be a good person if you become tied up in it.

    One thing that worries me about this topic is that younger generations may watch the telenovelas and think the "narcos" lifestyle is a glamorous one. How do you feel about this? I know Pablo Escobar is seen as having a lot of money and power, as is Teresa. Do you think some people watch these novels and think they want to live this way too?

    1. Lindsey, yes! I do think that part of the admiration stems from people idolizing the money and power these people have and wanting to emulate that.

  3. I agree 100%! Something that you said that really resonated with me was: "I think that the early part of Escobar's story is one that a lot of people can relate to." I agree, I also think though that is is something that they hold on to. Pablo was a hero for Medellin and his people... at first. And minus the drugs.

    The people of Medellin saw his "good-side" and not just once, but on repeat occasion. As for viewers of the telenovela, they watch Pablo grow up. They see him play pranks on kids in his neighborhood, on his dad, etc. In my opinion, once you see both of those things, whether it be as a viewer or someone who lived it, I think it's hard to hone in on the bad side of someone and disregard the "good." This is weird for me too because to say that Pablo had a good bone in his body is the understatement of the year, but I think that in looking at the way he's portrayed and like you said the combination of all three elements, it's a little understandable as to why there is sympathy or praise surrounding him. Maybe not understandable, but I can see the connection and the train of thought, even though I don't agree with it. At this point I'm a little confused myself, but did this make sense?

    1. Daniella yes it makes sense lol, and yeah I do feel weird when I feel bad for Pablo, but that's the beauty of a telenovela no? The writers are able to give even the worst villians human qualities.

      I'm glad you commented on this I'm always so curious as to what you have to say being that you have a deeper connection to the story of Escobar. Again I don't agree that Pablo was a good man, but I can see how people have the connection.

  4. If you were to profile any given person, you'd likely find some redeeming qualities and an intriguing backstory. What I think is important to remember with respect to narconovelas or any drug-related television, media, etc., is that there are people who are being sold these drugs who, like the drug dealers, have families and loved ones. These people are rarely talked about to the degree traffickers and dealers are for obvious reasons, yet have their lives destroyed by addiction. While I appreciate the lack of polarization regarding the portrayal of Escobar, it is worth noting that everyone has a plight or sad story of some sort. But that in and of itself doesn't make a person worth looking up to.

  5. I agree mostly with Angela about how a sad story doesn't make someone worthy of admiration, but I also want to say that negative qualities don't make someone unworthy, either. I think it's a great thing to present characters in narconovelas as multifaceted, with good and bad qualities - it makes them more realistic. I think Lindsey's right in considering the possibility that showing the good attributes might make it easier to glamorize the "drug lord lifestyle," but hopefully the people watching are able to weigh the positives and negatives and realize that drug trafficking isn't worth it (!!).

    All of our real-life heroes (MLK Jr, Gandhi, etc.) had negative traits, and all of our real-life villains (Hitler, Mussolini, etc.) had positive traits. So why wouldn't our fictional characters reflect that? Vito Corleone (the Godfather) did terrible things, but he was a great family man. So it makes since that the fictional version of a real character (Escobar) would have both positive and negative traits. Not only does it reflect reality, but it also makes for a more compelling story, don't you think?

  6. ^^ Alisa you have a huge point here in saying that we have to look at the full character- the fictional version, the positive and the negative- because that is what draws in people, that is how we connect with Pablo (and maybe its proof that I am drawn in because I'm calling him Pablo).

    I don't think its all about glamorizing the "drug lord lifestyle" because even though that was present- that is not the point of the storytelling. I think there is such a deeper storyline here. One of a hero- or a villan (however you see him). Of a fighter and a man who worked hard to overcome what he saw were his challenges. He represented the grit and "ganas" of a people who live day in and day out, tirelessly for something better. Did he do some awful things? Yes. Did he live in riches with all that money? Of course yes, and that glamorous aspect that Pablo wanted is fun to look at (and often draws in people to the complications of that "profession") but that shouldn't be the main focus.

    I hope that the main and budding focus is not something easily dismissed or deemed as unimportant because I believe that the focus is his story; and whether or not you agree morally with this personaje's story and what person he is or who he is- this story is beautiful, complicated, messy- and what I think is a way we can all relate to in some aspect of our lives or parts of our lives.

    Thanks so much for posting about Pablo! Que viva Colombia!