Elizabeth Untama / Gavel Media

Netflix's 'El Club': Mexico, Millennials, and MDMA

On Nov. 15, Netflix premiered another original series called El Club. The series focuses on a trio of young adults from incredibly wealthy families in Mexico City as they struggle to find their own paths of success outside of their parents' shadows. The show begins with the launch of an exclusive dating app created by two of the main characters, Pablo (Alejandro Speitzer) and Matias (Jorge Caballero). The launch party does not go as well as they expected and, in a desperate attempt to bring in more users and increase their popularity, Pablo decides to give out free MDMA to liven up the party. The following day, Matias gets an incredible amount of messages from his dating app of users asking for more MDMA. From this, Pablo gets the idea to introduce a business venture to Matias and his friend Sofia (Minnie West) that will make all their dreams come true: selling MDMA to the rich kids of Mexico City.

The show is in Spanish and puts the world of drugs in a different context than we have previously seen in shows like Narcos. Even though it highlights some consequences of the world of drug-dealing, the show focuses less on violence and instead features a privileged millennial viewpoint of the business. As the trio grows their business, they create personalized packages that make customers feel like they are buying a luxury self-care product instead of an addictive substance. Essentially, the success of their business depends largely on status, and how they are able to be liaisons between the underworld of drugs and their high-class customers without exposing them to any of the ugliness of the business.

However, the narrative of the show is not entirely different from that of other dramas involving drugs. As Pablo and his team become more successful and expand their territory, they begin to steal other cartel’s customers and business becomes dangerous. They soon find it impossible to maintain a clean business if they want to survive. This then becomes an issue that the characters struggle with: the choice to continue business and get their hands dirty, or get out and lose everything. They only planned to be in the game for six months until they could be financially independent. Can they reach this goal? And if they can, do they stop there?

Even though most of the characters are from Mexico's upper class, Pablo’s maid Mary and her nephew Jonas play an important role in the business. The show brings to light the important relationship in Latin American culture between the children of wealthy families and the maids that have large roles in raising these children. Also, it shows how the disparities in Latin America's social classes create a strong sense of classism that then further that divide. However, the relationships between Mary, Jonas, and the rest of the characters blur this separation. The characters illustrate how some people have no problem relating to those from lower classes, but the fear of living in their situation perpetuates the divide, as life in poverty in Latin America comes with many difficulties that are not seen in first-world countries.

El Club’s first season has 25 episodes, each 30 minutes long. Their length makes them easy to binge-watch, and the episodes all have enough drama and excitement to entertain without overwhelming its viewers with violence and overly intricate conflicts. The show does a good job of making the characters likable, enough so that one of their deaths in the finale actually hits home. Besides having a plotline relatively similar to other shows featuring drug deals, the show’s main goal is far from making social commentary and has more to do with providing light entertainment. It’s unlikely viewers will leave with anything new or particularly meaningful about the world of drugs or Latin American culture, but it’s fun to watch nonetheless.

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