On Friday, September 1, the long-awaited third season of Netflix‘s hit series Narcos starts streaming. While many will use their three-day weekend to binge watch the continuation of the Colombian crime saga, I’m still standing by my morals and not watching the show.
The show retells the story of Pablo Escobar, the infamous Colombian drug king pin who became a billionaire, making and selling cocaine in the late ’70s. The story depicts his rise and fall and the investigation of his cartel. But most importantly, it depicts Latinx men as thugs, Latinx women as sexual objects, and white men as—you guessed it, saviors.
So many people see media as a mirror, when in reality it is a distorted magnifying glass.
Throughout history, Latinx people have been portrayed in the light of many stereotypes, but there is perhaps none as persistent as the gang member-slash-drug dealer. His presence tells others that we are unable to imagine a life for ourselves as successful, law abiding citizens. But no one is talking about how the Latinx high school dropout rate has reached record lows in the past 25 years. No one is talking about how, according to a 2014 National Journal poll, 66 percent of Hispanics who got a job or entered the military directly after high school cited the need to help support their family as a reason for not going to college.
So many people see media as a mirror, when in reality it is a distorted magnifying glass. Television and movie writers are not painting an accurate picture of what is actually going on in Latinx communities, in large part due to the significant lack of Latinxs given space in the Hollywood. But what’s most alarming is that these antiquated distortions are typically what sell. General market audiences (read: mostly white people) buy into and watch these representations because they are “edgy” and different from their own lives. This also leads to an “othering” that occurs between communities, leading us to believe that white, Black and brown communities have nothing in common. Rather than building a raw, diverse narrative around people of color, our people are demonized and hung out to dry.
So what do we do? Shows like East Los High and The Get Down—streaming series that aimed to focus on the very layered and honest experiences of Latinx folks—were cancelled earlier this year. We still have shows like One Day at a Time that focuses on the white Cuban-American experience, but that doesn’t even begin to hit on all of the ways in which Latinxs are impacted and in turn impact the world. Even Nuyorican comedian and actor John Leguizamo recently penned a heartfelt call to action in Billboard about Latinxs being continuously left out of the media conversation even when we’re achieving peak excellence with our work.
We can’t afford to be complacent anymore or grateful for tiny handouts. We need to start showing up for what’s right and calling the fuck out of what’s wrong. I’m not watching Narcos because I know that we’re better than this, and we deserve so much more than a crooked representation of our culture.