After listening to all of the group presentations from the past few classes last week, I became particularly intrigued by how audiences have perceived certain telenovelas and thematic material. The presentation concerning the consumption of narconovelas (telenovelas that concentrate on the effects of drug smuggling in Latin America and abroad) left me particularly captivated. Even though the programs mentioned in this presentation demonstrate seemingly unrelated television genres (Narcos, a Netflix drama and Pablo Escobar: El Patrón del Mal, a Telemundo telenovela), both address the topic of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, albeit from markedly diverse angles.
As discussed in class, Narcos explores Escobar and the problem of narcotics in Columbia from the 1970s to the 1990s. It does this with a large budget, but within the constraints of ten episodes per season. In terms of how Narcos handles the thematic material it unfortunately presents an ethnocentric perspective by focusing only on how the United States handled Escobar. Based on the trailer, it comes as no surprise that this North American drama is presented mostly in English… combined with some moments of terribly acted Spanish dialogue. The more Narcos had been explained in-depth, like how the show misrepresents Columbia through stereotypes, the more disappointed I became. At times, I wondered: Did the team behind Narcos even try to research the topic for the program in order to strive for historical or cultural accuracy, at least with how it portrayed this area of Latin America? My guess is, probably not.
On the other hand, after watching the trailer for Pablo Escobar: El Patrón del Mal (a telenovela lasting over one-hundred episodes, with a substantially smaller budget), I had found that this program offers a much better interpretation of the same subject. This stems from the fact that the telenovela had been created in Columbia, specifically for Columbian audiences who remembered Escobar and the brutality of his power. Even though El patron del mal probably leaves bits of information out for the sake of time, I still feel that it pays more attention to detail when compared to Narcos. Also, El Patrón del Mal devotes more time (and effort) to Pablo Escobar by exploring his life and the dangerous causes and effects of the wealth that he acquired. However, this telenovela does not attempt to glorify him in any way. Instead, it serves as a reflection on Columbia’s dark past and hope for a better future. To me, that sounds like a more effective and significant approach.