When I traveled to Colombia this summer, I remember driving in front of a big property near the municipality of Necocli (Antioquia), on the coastside of the country. My father told me that the property, named La Virgen del Cobre, belonged to José Antonio Ocampo Obando, known as “Pelusa,” who was a member of the Medellin cartel during the time of Pablo Escobar. Pelusa was killed two years ago and his property was taken by the authorities.
When I learned about the history of the property, a part of me was impressed to find out that many drug lords had stayed there. Still, it was scary to find out that the land belonged once to a narco-trafiquant.
Why did I feel that way?
I had glamorized the image of an outlaw, while watching mafia TV shows and movies. I believe that sometimes, it’s nice to root for the villain that gets away from justice and takes it into his own hands. But the reality is different than what viewers watch on television. The industry has found a way for the public to sensitize with each mafia lord. It tells their tragic backstories. Therefore, viewers can sympathize with them, and their crimes become justifiable.
Also, there is the fact that mafia lords are the protagonists of the shows and movies.
Narcos, just like the Queen of the South, portrays a narco-trafiquant that is being persecuted. The public will most probably be on their side, since they are the main characters of the story. Pablo Escobar, just like Teresa Mendoza, is on the run and ahead of the game.
The Godfather, just like Scarface, portrays certain aspects of the Italian mafia, but the movies glamorize and romanticize the ugly truth of mobsters. Sure, having worldwide businesses, houses, cars and parties all looks divine, but that’s not the case in real life. You can have a glamorous life, without doing the crime.
The mafia lords are portrayed on television with an intimidating attitude. People around them fear them. In some way, it portrays what a person would want to be like: confident, respected, and fearless. The audience can see TV mobsters as role models.
The reality is that we all love a bad guy. TV mafia lords live according to the rules they set, they are on top of the organizations, and know how to get to their enemies. Anybody would want to be this courageous. That is, if you’re brave enough to put your life at risk.
We have to be able to separate fiction from reality. The reality is that the mobster life isn’t the glamorous life. You can be successful without getting your hands dirty. Being the bad guy of the story seems great, but let’s be honest: if we had the opportunity, we would run for the hills immediately.
Graphic by @sundaeghost