In the decade since Bolaño’s passing, cable television has become expert in telling a particular kind of story, one in which it takes a transgressive setting — the Mafia, a funeral home, Baltimore — and uses it as a cursed mirror to reflect on some greater truth about American society.
The best dramas have forced us to recognize the darkness in ourselves and ourselves in darkness. But even during its vaunted Golden Age, television has shied away from telling a particularly hellish tale, one with tendrils that reach into the backlots and boardrooms of Hollywood. TV isn’t the only medium to mostly ignore the violence that has ravaged Mexico, of course,2 or treat the country as a garishly lit3 other populated solely with scrabbling hard cases or subservient poolboys.
It’s just the most unfortunate because television, with its expansiveness of time, character, and tone, is uniquely suited to capture the blood-streaked shades of gray Mexico’s rough recent history demands. (Still dubious? Watch Traffic again. I’ll wait.) What’s more is that, when entrusted to the right hands, a story about Mexico in 2013 is, invariably, a story about us.