Yes, “Griselda” On Netflix Is Bisexual — But Does That Matter?

Generally speaking, I love a queenpin. A fictional one, I mean. On television. I love a queenpin.

I was familiar enough with Griselda Blanco — the very real life drug lord depicted by Sofia Vergara in Netflix’s latest limited series Griselda — that when Google trends alerted us that people were searching for “Griselda Blanco LGBT” over the weekend, I was surprised. It felt like if Griselda Blanco, the madrina (godmother) of the cocaine trade, had been into women, that certainly would’ve come up in my life as a part of her lore before now.

Sofia Vergara dancing bisexually with a woman in Netflix's Griselda

I was wrong, because Griselda Blanco was in fact bisexual. Well, Griselda eschewed labels, but she had sex with men and women. Traditionally speaking, based on my television habits, finding out that a glamorous gun toting badass being played by Sofía Vergara was going to kiss women, that’s enough for me to sprint for a remote. Instead, I’ve found myself cold.

In Griselda there’s a lot of luxury fabrics, oversized sunglasses, gold, gemstones, and stacks of money. Sofía Vergara is magnetic; it’s impossible to take your eyes off of her. To that end, there’s more than enough homoerotic glances and gentle touches between Griselda and her friends/the sex workers she hires to be her drug carriers to go around. At one party, Blanco grinds with one of these women as they sensually breath each other’s air, and yes it is hot. I’d argue hotter than later in the series when Griselda finally kisses a woman or two.

In her real life, Blanco was known to have play parties with both men and women lovers. She did not refer to herself as bisexual that we know of, but again neither did a lot of women in the ‘70s and ‘80s. She married three times and is believed to have been involved in the murder of all three of those husbands (she’s known as the Black Widow, among other nicknames).

Presumably one of the reasons that “Griselda LGBT” began to trend last weekend comes from a 2017 Catherine Zeta-Jones Lifetime biopic of Blanco, Cocaine Godmother, in which her version of Griselda is shown to have a girlfriend for many years. Though in my research, I could find no verifiable proof this person ever existed and I think she may have overall been fictional representation created by the director to depict Blanco’s bisexuality on screen.

A 2017 Lifetime movie, a 2006 HBO documentary Cocaine Cowboys, and multiple telenovelas (2014’s La viuda negra and 20212’s Pablo Escobar, el patrón del mal) — the mythos surrounding Griselda Blanco has only grown larger in recent years. “She is all the things we look for in storytelling and dynamic characters — notorious, ambitious, conniving, chilling” said Jennifer Lopez in 2019, after signing on to play Blanco in a biopic that’s currently lost in preproduction. For her own version of Blanco, Vergara (who is also a producer on the Netflix series) wanted “to take time to uncover the deeper story of Griselda, how beyond all odds, a poor, uneducated woman from Colombia managed to create a massive, multi-billion dollar empire in a male-dominated industry, in a country that was not her own, through tactics that she devised that were both ingenious and cruel.”

The thing is, at her root, Griselda is not fictional, admirable anti-heroine. To put it mildly, Griselda was… a very bad dude. Of course, she’s the archetype that other queenpins are built from. So, on some level, it feels like a certain amount of senseless violence should be a given going in. And again, I am a fan of the genre! I am not here to argue against the adrenaline thumping, suspense-laden, edge-of-your-seat fun that can come with watching someone scrape their way to the top of a drug empire.

Sofia Vergara in Griselda on Netflix

In the very first seconds of the Netflix series, none other than the infamous Pablo Escobar is quoted as saying “the only man I was ever afraid of was a woman named Griselda Blanco.” Blanco’s attached to the murders of over 200 people, including being convicted of putting out a hit that resulted in the death of a two-year-old. Known for her strategy and cleverness, obsessive paranoia and revenge lust, but more than anything, for her utter brutality — Griselda Blanco was the drug lord that scared other drug lords.

And so, it’s worth asking, what is gained from depicting Griselda Blanco’s life on screen? What’s the line between the raw knuckled ambition of greed and capitalism that are at the root of crime genres, and the slimy, glamorous girlboss-ification of a notorious killer? Because Sofía Vergara’s often incredible performance aside, that is what we are watching. Griselda works overtime to portray its protagonist as empathetic, a single mother of three (later, four) who fled domestic abuse and outsmarts her enemies before losing it all. They wait until halfway through the series before bloodshed truly begins to spill, and when Blanco ultimately commits assault (sexual and physical), it’s tied to her paranoia and increased drug use, not unlike Scarface, as if those are excuses for her increasingly erratic behavior. As if her upsetting behavior in and of itself is a detour in her quest for emancipation and power, and not the core of her story on its own.

In Griselda, Griselda Blanco flees from her husband after he abuses her, forcing her to kill him during an argument as a part of her escape from Colombia. She was left with no other choice, immediately making the audience compassionate to her plight. In reality, while the nature of her argument with her husband is debated by those who study Blanco’s history, the most common lore is that she murdered him, bringing along with her a crew of other men who pulled up to the occasion in limousines, because he was stealing money from her empire. In Griselda, the accident death of a two-year-old at her command sends Griselda into a spiraling crisis of consciousness, ultimately pulling her out of her drug haze and setting her sights on a new future out west with her family. However, in real life, when Blanco learned of the little boy’s passing, it is reported that she delighted in his death. According to her advisor and hitman Jorge “Rivi” Ayala, “At first she was real mad ’cause we missed the father. But when she heard we had gotten the son by accident, she said she was glad, that they were even.” She was gleeful knowing that she had hurt her enemy in the ultimate way possible. That’s the woman that they call The Godmother.

I’ve seen other Latine critics discussing what it means that once again when there’s a big name Latine show with an even bigger name Latina star, obviously once again it’s playing into stereotypes of drug dealers and narcos. Last fall, the University of Southern California’s Anneberg Inclusion Initiative found that Latine representation on screen has remained functionally stagnant over the last 16 years — with more than half (57.8%) of Latines on screen being depicted as criminals, and nearly half (46.2%) as violent criminals. I can see Sofía Vergara being in an early Emmy consideration for her performance, if for no other reason it’s so far against type from the role that white Americans most know her for. But is trading one stereotypical role for the other (and she really is excellent in Griselda) worth it? And sure, it’s not necessarily breaking news that there’s yet another buzzy Netflix drama about Latine drug dealers, but even then — Griselda Blanco, specifically, is responsible for the deaths of just an untold amount of Latine families. It’s not that Netflix obfuscates Blanco’s reign of terror, it’s that her actual crimes were somehow still… worse.

All of this makes it difficult to write about Griselda for a website like Autostraddle, to be honest. Queer people shouldn’t be expected to some greater moral standard; sometimes we’re just terrible people like everyone else. Still it is difficult to square the realities of who Griselda Blanco was with the clickbaity hot tip that she was bisexual. Here’s where we lay. Griselda Blanco was bisexual, and ultimately, does that even matter?

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!
Related:

Carmen Phillips

Carmen is Autostraddle's Editor-in-Chief and a Black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 715 articles for us.

1 Comment

  1. As a poc person, I totally get what you’re saying about enforcing stereotypes (about drugs or cartel for latinx representation for example)
    as a woman and a storyteller though, I really really love complex female characters and even monstruous, horrible ones : those are still pretty rare especially well crafted and compelling portrayals…
    Hope others will understand this struggle ^^

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!