“Narcos” and Other Misogynist Subcultures

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Wagner Moura, who plays stoic Pablo Escobar, gives a stoic toast.

I got sucked into the binge vacuum of Netflix’ new quasi-historical series, “Narcos,” about Colombian narcotraficante Pablo Escobar, aka “The King Of Cocaine” or “Mustached Guy Who Could Stand To Do Some Sit Ups” depending on who you talk to.    Along with being a rhinoceros-owning psychopath, Pablo Escobar’s credited atrocities include the bombing of a commercial airplane, the death of 25 Supreme Court Justices, an assassination of a presidential candidate, and the death of thousands of police, civilians, politicians and their children.  “Narcos” is essentially a more destructive and, unfortunately, true version of “The Sopranos” in Spanish with mustaches and lots of references to “putas.”   Like Tony Soprano, Pablo Escobar was a “Patron” who — if we believe the Netflix version —was also a “family man” who adored his wife, mother and daughter (his mistresses and random prostitutes, not so much).  I found this strange since in Real Life the vast majority of violent psychopathic men kill ONLY their wives and girlfriends as at least a third of all women murdered in the US are killed by their partners.

Nonetheless, I, like many Americans, am fascinated with the fictional duplicitous white male psyche (and Pablo E. was no dark skinned man) — the Don Drapers and Walter Whites — at the center of any fictional misogynist subculture (the real ones, not so fun or fascinating). Personally, morality does not interest me so much as the circumstance of being on the receiving end of orders dictated by a dominant and unreasonable male personality whose failed execution has severe consequences.  Caught between fealty and the gut instinct that that there is no such thing as sincerity, support or job security in a drug cartel (Corporate America), the Narco lackey has one option.  Do your crappy job or die.

I have never worked for a drug kingpin but I have worked in advertising.  Except for the “kill or be killed” ethos, the Narco peon seems not so different from, say, a Project Manager.

A few weeks ago, The New York Times ran a now-famous article about Amazon’s brutal and Darwinian work culture that reminded of a) a few jobs I’ve held in the past ten years and b) mafias and drug cartels.  For most of my employed corporate white-collar digital pandering work life, I have felt much like a thug doing my part to help someone of questionable mental health turn a profit. Prioritizing anything in my life other than The Client’s needs has not worked out too well for myself anyone I have known.

Years ago, I worked at an agency where project managers fell like sicarios in a police shoot-out.  One day Pete Campbell (pseudonym) would set up a meeting to discuss The Client direction and the next day I’d show up to find him mysteriously absent.   I remember sitting in a conference waiting for Ken Cosgrove when someone whispered, “Ken is no longer with us” in a hushed tone and we all just stared at each other in silence until upper management carved up his job and gave it to us in little pieces.  This same agency laid me off the day before Thanksgiving. They seem to have job openings. (Yes, I sometimes check).

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