Amanda Skofstad | March 23, 2019
Jason Ruiz, associate professor of American studies at the University of Notre Dame, does a near-perfect impression of Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Steve Murphy, the fictionalized American narrator of Netflix’s “Narcos.”
For those familiar with the series, Ruiz’s take on Murphy’s breathy, legato, Floridian drawl is unmistakable — and dead funny. In a voice-over shot in episode three, Agent Murphy invites the viewer into Pablo Escobar’s perspective:
“Imagine you were born in a poor family, in a poor city, in a poor country, and by the time you were 28 years old, you have so much money you can’t even count it. What do you do? You make your dreams come true.”
Escobar was the kingpin of the Colombian cocaine empire and remains the wealthiest criminal in history. Nationally, more than 46,000 Colombians lost their lives to narco-related violence between 1983 and 1994. Cartel assassinations, many of which were directly ordered by Escobar, included several judges, governors and journalists and at least two Colombian presidential candidates.
Still, the Escobar of “Narcos” is styled as an enterprising, if flawed, American dreamer.
But to hear Ruiz, and several Colombians, describe the impact of uncritical consumption of American pop culture is to sit with dead-serious questions of nationality, race, justice and love of neighbor.
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