Article by Sayler Allen
Graphic by Samantha Corbett
CW: Mentions of sexual assault on television
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to start watching Netflix’s popular series, Narcos. It’s one of those “raw, gritty, original” crime dramas, that explores the lives of drug kingpins in 1980sColombia. I’ve been taking Spanish language courses this year and figured I could learn more of the language and culture by watching a series based in South America.
There were some really great things about the show; it was riveting, had some quality acting, and held political intrigue. I binged the first three episodes and found that there were very few women characters, each of whom had very little screen time, and were either kidnapped, wives or sex workers. Within the first few episodes of the series, one of these characters was horrifically gang raped.
The rape scene was brutal, it was incredibly violent, and it took an incredibly long time. The whole point of it was to heighten the drama of the scene, as each time the heroes would find out more about her location would cut back to a different man using her. It would oscillate from concerned heroes to “That little girl doesn’t move… like a dead cow”, heroes decide to find her to “What, did you kill her? It’s my turn now”, car chase to “Let me have a little more fun”, to heroes storming the building with guns blazing and finding her, and the scene finally ends. This traumatic experience, which will impact her for the rest of her life, was reduced to a tension building device.
In the aftermath, the hero asks, “Is she going to be ok?” to which the cop replies “Physically, yeah. Mentally? I haven’t got a fucking clue.” They change the subject, the drug war continues, and she instantly fades into redundancy. They have no use now for her bruised body to further the importance of their cause.
I’m curled up on my couch, tea forgotten on the coffee table, with blanket wrapped around me in a warmth that is cloying, because I can feel my cold sweat sticking to the blankets fur. The episode has ended but my heart is still racing. I choose something else to watch; something light, something to take my mind off the trauma I just watched for entertainment. I have a shower, go to bed, and try to sleep, but my mind keeps going back to her. I don’t even remember her name.
I think of her and I think of me, and I think of myself in that situation and suddenly my heart rate climbs. I have a pressure on my chest and I’m so, so tired of being constantly reminded of the pain that men can inflict upon me.
What did she do afterwards? They may have written her off, in value and the screen, but it’s her story I need to hear. We don’t just stop existing after we’ve been brutalised. How did she endure?
I haven’t watched Narcos since. I don’t want to.
I don’t want to think about it. Her name was Helena and I think of her and I think of me.