Being a mother is hard. Balancing work and childcare, as well as the emotional and mental burden of the household – work that is traditionally “feminine” and often the responsibility of women – feels impossible.
As the leader of a drug cartel, those stressors are magnified because the stakes are much higher when your only option is to kill or be killed. At least, that’s what Netflix’s new limited series Griselda adheres to.
Gender is a dominating theme in the six-episode series, which stars Sofía Vergara in a fictional dramatization of Griselda Blanco, the Colombian drug kingpin who created one of the most powerful drug cartels in history in 1970s and ’80s Miami. Motherhood grounds the series and seeks to add emotional complexity to Vergara’s character.
“Griselda” uses sexism and motherhood to cast Griselda as a more relatable anti-heroine for viewers and a symbol for her followers — the prostitutes and vulnerable immigrants she “protects” as “Godmother” by offering money and jobs, and a twisted version of hope. However, as the series progresses, it becomes clear that viewers who root for the female narcotic to show other drug lords that she is more than just a “girlfriend,” “housewife,” or “headache,” have fallen into the same depraved rabbit hole. . hole as Griselda’s maid.
The first episode opens with a quote from Pablo Escobar – “The only man I ever feared was a woman named Griselda Blanco” – before cutting to a scene of Griselda stumbling into her dark house, throwing her purse on the entryway table and limping away. quickly climb the stairs. From his heavy, shaky breathing and blood-stained hands, it was clear that he had experienced something traumatic.
After bandaging his bleeding stomach, he calls a woman named Carmen (Vanessa Ferlito) and tells her that something happened to her husband, Alberto (Alberto Ammann), and he needs help. She was leaving Colombia with her three children tomorrow and had to stay in Carmen’s small guest room until she figured out what to do next.
Griselda’s “help” is actually a demand because she doesn’t give Carmen a chance to refuse. In the first three minutes of the show, it appears Griselda is taking what she deems necessary to protect her children. As a viewer without context, without knowing what happened to Alberto and why he ran, I found myself trying to escape.
However, even without knowing the backstory of the horrific violence that the real-life Griselda ordered and oversaw during Miami’s drug war, it quickly becomes clear that the depiction of Griselda as a single mother who entered a life of crime to protect her children is a mischaracterization. He was already involved in drug trafficking in New York with Alberto.
When Carmen offers Griselda the chance to start over, to work at her travel agency, Griselda is unwilling to do so. To quote Carmen’s character, she will “leave men behind, not life.”
Griselda is not Nancy Botwin from Weeds, or Beth Boland, Ruby Hill, or Annie Marks from Good Girls. Evil is not a “last resort” or an alien world. It was the only life he knew. He has become addicted to the dangerous lifestyle that ensnares the female leads.From left: Griselda’s son Jose Velazquez as Uber, Orlando Pineda as Dixon, and Martin Fajardo as Ozzy in the Griselda scene.
He didn’t want to answer the phone at the travel agency; he wanted to find someone to buy a kilo of uncut cocaine he had smuggled into the country in his son’s suitcase.
“As a woman, I was fascinated, how he could be more cruel, more terrible than any man,” Vergara said in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning.
That’s the true story of Griselda.
The real Griselda allegedly ordered the murder of hundreds of people, and while the show didn’t shy away from the horrific power struggles, drive-bys, and paranoid murders of her reign, the toll was much lower than real-life estimates. (Blanco’s family is suing Vergara and Netflix for using their likeness without proper permission.)
For most of the Netflix series, these murders also seem to have a moral impact. This is important for Vergara to gain the respect and power needed to protect her family – both her biological children and her employees.
And that protection comes at a cost. This is seen through the juxtaposition between parenting and violence. Griselda’s third son usually appears on screen holding a teddy bear or watching TV, after he orders someone’s death.
It’s in balancing this line between mother and monster that Vergara’s acting shines, but her own character development is questionable. I never believed that Griselda was simply a bad mother or that her actions were simply a selfish attempt to gain money and power.
Instead, I wish more time had been spent on the dichotomy between Griselda and June (Juliana Aidén Martinez), one of the detectives investigating her case. These are two different sides – mothers being underdogs in the fight against sexism in the workplace – one simply fighting against evil, and the other spreading it.
But the show isn’t willing to give up enough of Griselda’s strengths to be a true cat-and-mouse story, even if expanding that storyline could add a necessary level of depth and emotional resonance. This would also take the burden off Vergara of running the entire show, which she did successfully but to the detriment of the series.
Although Vergara’s performance steals the show, I wish the series had leaned more into its fictional dramatization. It relies on her femininity and motherhood to add depth, but those elements don’t come into play enough. This makes parts of the series feel as artificial as the strange “Godmother” hand gesture Vergara repeatedly makes with one of her many cigarettes.
Ultimately, being a mother and having children to feed becomes a tiresome justification, and, by the end of six episodes, I was as tired of Griselda as her own children.