Sean Penn raised a furor in the world of journalism when Rolling Stone revealed it had sent the noted actor to South America to meet with the notorious drug kingpin Joaquin Guzman, known worldwide as “El Chapo,” a nickname translating back as “shorty” due to his slight stature. The article may not have been the soundest piece of reporting, but it did reignite public interest in this larger-than-life figure considered by many to be the most wanted man on the planet. El Chapo has ascended to the realm of mythical figures, and mythical figures need immortalizing by bards.
It’s in that spirit that Deadline brings the news of a dramatized TV series about the life and times of Guzman, to be titled #Cartel. From Chris Brancato, the co-creator of Netflix’s similar-sounding Narcos, #Cartel will use Guzman as a point of entry through which the show can speak to larger realities about the global war between international criminal enterprises. Specifically, as suggested by the goofy title, the show will focus on the weird-but-true practice of cartels that expand their presence by cultivating a #brand on social media, threatening rivals and attracting new recruits on Twitter and the like. El Chapo was an oddity even among his fellow drug-runners due to his deep connections in the entertainment industry. He was like the typical Vine personality of the international drug community, ceaselessly promoting his own presence and insinuating himself as a star in his own right.
Brancato plans to take a sociological approach to this material, with Deadline quoting him as saying, “The show is a metaphor for the lives we present on the internet, the secret selves we reveal in supposedly private communication, and the risks of not-so-humble bragging on social media.” Indeed; that one friend who won’t stop posting pictures of all the health food they make for themselves is a threat on par with Joaquin Guzman.