Narcos and the Promotion of an U.S. (Informal) Cultural Empire Based on Processes of Stereotyping and Comparison

Claudia Hachenberger, FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg:

According to postcolonial critic Edward Said, European imperialism was not only based on arms; it was also based on forms of knowledge affiliated with domination and on a vocabulary that constructed and promoted the inferior Other. Contemporary practices of imperialism may be more subtle but are no less powerful. After the end of traditional and formal European colonization, the Unit-ed States is still exerting influence on other countries, particularly Latin American countries, either in a formal, political, and interventional way, or, as I propose, in an informal way that privileges cultural ideological strategies and knowledge production. By reformulating and readapting Said’s concept of Orientalism, my paper suggests that the concept of Latinism illuminates the workings of an imperialist gaze in representations of Latinos in the media. By its promotion, the U.S. informal cultural empire introduces and installs negative portrayals of Latinos as the perceived ethnic Other. This presentation of stereotypes can influence the audience’s view on Latinos and thus poses an undesirable factor obstructing constructive tendencies in a globalized world, an argument I elaborate on by focusing on the first two seasons of the Netflix exclusive series Narcos. The series’ presentation of stereotypes is accomplished by different practices of comparing on the visual, verbal, and structural/productional levels. By exploring the construction of Latino Otherness on these three levels, I assert that cinematic stereotypes are used to depict the Latino Other in an inferior way in the majority of the cases, simultaneously representing the U.S.-American characters and culture as superior.

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