Do We Really Need Another Mexican Drug Cartel Series? — Here’s the Latest

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The Border is an upcoming TV drama based on the bestselling book of the same name by crime novelist Don Winslow. According to Deadline, a pilot has been ordered by FX Networks. E.J. Bonilla (The Old Man) has been cast to star in the lead role of the series, which is scheduled to start production in Mexico next year.

Winslow’s book is the third from his “Cartel series.” One of his best-known books is his 2010 crime novel Savages, which was adapted into a movie and featured Benicio del Toro as a Mexican drug cartel enforcer.

Deadline describes The Border as “an epic saga that reveals the dark truths about America’s failed 50-year war on drugs” that will take viewers “from the streets of New York to the poppy fields of Mexico [and] jungles of Central America.” Additionally, it “explores the myths of the drug war through the intertwining narratives of characters on both sides of the Mexican-American border.”

But are these places Latine audiences want to go again, or have the drug cartel narratives in Latine-themed TV series overstayed their welcome?

We’re not here to argue that drug cartel content isn’t popular, especially in the TV industry with shows like Narcos and Narcos: Mexico leading the way on Netflix. The Narcos franchise, of course, is far from the only narco TV series to premiere in recent years. Other drug cartel projects with Latine characters include Queen of the South, Better Call Saul, El Chapo, Pablo Escobar: El Patrón del Mal and The Snitch Cartel: Origins, just to name a few.

From a business standpoint, no one should be surprised at the amount of drug cartel content out there. Every TV network and film studio is trying to find a way to cash in. They all want to create something as impactful as Breaking Bad. But at what cost, especially when Latine people are always the focus? How many drug cartel movies and TV shows is enough, and what does that say about Hollywood when studios heads are canceling projects like Gordita Chronicles, Gentefied, One Day at a Time, and On My Block, but greenlighting another where the main character is a Mexican or Colombian drug lord?

Hollywood must do a better job of identifying the types of shows they’re giving prominence to.

Ultimately, this isn’t an issue of quality, but, instead, quantity. The Border, based on the Don Winslow book, could end up being a great show. The incredible Jayro Bustamante (La Llorona) is directing the pilot, so it’s already putting its best foot forward. But without a better balance and without giving those Latine-led, non-narco shows a better chance at succeeding, the optics coming from Hollywood and how it views Latine talent (or who we are as a people in general) and what they can bring to the table is extremely flawed.