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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Sofia Vergara transforms into the Queenpin: “Griselda”

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Elizabeth Morris/Netflix

This article contains spoilers. 

“The only man I was ever afraid of was a woman named Griselda Blanco” -Pablo Escobar 

The quote appears across a black screen amid foreboding music to open the 2024 Netflix limited series “Griselda,” which began streaming on Jan. 25. The six-episode saga stars Colombian actress Sofia Vergara as Griselda Blanco alongside fellow Colombian and Reggaeton artist Karol G as Carla, directed by Andres Baiz, also of Colombia. 

The show’s plot follows the rise and fall of notorious drug lord Blanco, showcasing her flee from her home in Medellin, Colombia, and the creation of her drug empire in Miami in the 1970s. The show follows a legacy of popular shows surrounding the lives and dramas of drug lords, such as “Narcos,” whose creators also made “Griselda.” 

Most of these shows that focus on drug trafficking in Colombia feature the life of infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar, whose name has come to dominate and characterize this era of cocaine pushing into the United States. 

Griselda Blanco was a name considered lesser-known before this show was announced, which opens up the concept of the hidden female stories within this period. Blanco faces specific obstacles from other drug dealers in Miami because she is a woman, and the show does not shy away from portraying the rampant sexism of the era. 

The show serves as a landmark role for lead actress Vergara. Her career has been made up of primarily comedic and somewhat stereotypical roles, most notably as Gloria Pritchett in the TV series “Modern Family.” Seeing her take on this dramatic role that might finally score her an Emmy for her performance is a turning point for her as an actress.

Vergara has been defined by her ability to provide comedic relief besides other dramatic performances. Given that she also served as a producer for this show, Vergara seems eager to showcase her capabilities in a lead dramatic role. This particular show has a personal stake for her, as she revealed in an interview with Jimmy Fallon that she grew up in Colombia during this volatile period and therefore had firsthand experience of its effects.

The series is a standout saga that hooks the viewer from the moment the first episode begins. Much of the dialogue is in Spanish, which immerses the viewer in the narrative. The show involves two interwoven plot lines: the story of Blanco’s cocaine empire and the story of the Miami police department working to take Blanco down. 

Juliana Aiden Martinez plays Detective June Hawkins, who comes to lead the fight against Blanco throughout the episodes. She presents a compelling foil to Blanco herself. Both become paranoid and obsessed with the other, Griselda working to maintain her empire despite the fear of an informant and Hawkins working to finally catch Griselda after years of work to track her down. 

Both characters have come to leadership positions in male-dominated fields and dealt with sexism from their male colleagues. Pitting the characters as two sides of the same coin makes for an evocative exploration of the effects of fighting your way to the top and what the women in question will do to stay there. 

The show explores the ruthless world of Colombian cartels and the murder and violence that sustained them. Such representation begs the question of whether such shows put Colombian stories in the drug-related box and if those stories are the only kind seen in the media. As a Colombian myself, the question isn’t wholly black-and-white. 

The drug history of the country is incredibly dark and yet of incredible public fascination. Exploring uncharted stories from that world, such as the one of Griselda Blanco, gives Colombian actors like Vergara a chance to shed light on such topics and represent them for the totality of what they were: brutal in their complexity and effects on the individuals who experienced their reigns of terror. And as I have stated, Escobar and his life are topics of interest. Why not Griselda Blanco?

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About the Contributor
Danielle Bartholet, Assistant Living Arts Editor
Danielle Bartholet has been passionate about writing as long as she can remember, writing on her high school newspaper and then for the Berkeley Beacon since 2023. She is currently a freshman at Emerson as a WLP major and a marketing communications minor. She is from Houston, TX, and enjoys reading and writing, as well theatre.

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