Money and the representation of crime

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The phrase “money is the root of all evil” comes alive in Narcos and the Big Short, as money plays a critical role in the progression of series of crimes that have equally adverse ramifications. Narcos is a crime thriller drama that chronicles the story of Pablo Escobar, a notorious drug kingpin in Colombia while the Big Short is a biographical comedy drama about the 2007-2008 financial crisis triggered by the housing bubble in the United States. The two films tell different stories with different settings. However, money remains a key factor and plays similar roles in both films by fueling the interest of the key players thus sustaining the growth of the crime and the subsequent implosion of the entire social and economic system.

The first episode of the first season of Narcos reveal Pablo Escobar as an ordinary black marketer. Pablo moved truckloads of illegal products including cigarettes, household appliances and alcohol among others. while the Colombian government had banned such trades, Pablo found ways of making money from the illegal trade. Pablo thus readily come out as a self-made and equally aggressive criminal whose sole concern was making money. He killed several police officers who attempted to intercept his cargo thus portraying him as a ruthless man. When Mateo “Cockroach” Moreno, an underground chemist from Chile pitches to him the idea of selling cocaine, he grabs the opportunity because of its lucrativeness thus the opportunity to make enormous amounts of money. At 25:05 of the first episode, after going through Moreno’s laboratory, Pablo asks “how do we get five kilos across the border?” the question comes as a shocker and a demonstration of his ambition to make money. He comes out as a greedy and self-motivated individual who would not let any opportunity to make money pass.

Similarly, the Big short reveals how the thirst for profits led American banks to lucrative yet risky industries that would later implode thereby initiating a serious global financial crisis. the banks worked towards maximizing profits and the housing industry was the most lucrative market at the time. the banks employed aggressive individual to market its products irrespective of the risks it presented. Corresponding to the greed embodied by the banks, individual greed by employees of the banks and the hedge fund managers further fueled the economic collapse. Jared Vennett, a Deutsche Bank salesman understands Barry’s analysis and learns that the collapse of the sector is inevitable. Instead of cautioning the banks, he sees a business opportunity. He begins selling credit default swaps to firms at a fee. At 32:22, Venett presents the idea to Mark Baum. He argues, “I work for the bank. I don’t think like the bank. Big bank, small bank I like to make money”. His zeal to make money supersedes his moral standards and loyalty to his employers.

In retrospect, money is the common factor in the two films. The greed for money fuels crime. Greedy people make irrational and selfish decisions that cause serious injuries and systemic breakdowns with untold consequences to the public. In Narcos, the desire to make money drives Pablo and his gang. They make irrational decisions that include eliminating any threats to their success as they sell drugs across the border and destroy countless lives. The same is the case in the Big Short in which banks and their employees gamble with the public’s money as they invest in risky markets. Unethical employees misplace their priorities in their quest to make money on the side a feature that results in an economic collapse that leaves millions of people unemployed and homeless.

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  1. Brancato, C., Bernard, C. & Miro, D. (2015). Narcos (season 1). Los Angeles: Netflix.
  2. McKay, A. (2015). The Big Short (film). Los Angeles: Regency Enterprises & Plan B Entertainment.
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