Given the Mexican government’s insistence to adopt ruinous neoliberal policies, the government’s attention and funds have been directed away from preventing sexual violence and in turn, normalize an environment of rape culture in Ciudad Juarez. In order to expose the universality and trauma of sexual violence, Carrera villainizes the “everyman. ” By presenting Cutberto’s character development, from benign lover to rapist, Carrera primarily conveys the trauma of femicide by showing graphic scenes of sexual violence.
In the beginning of the film, Cutberto’s innocence is ascribed by his initial unwillingness to have sex with Juana and his subsequent heartbreak when she leaves him. The audience sympathizes with Cutberto until he resorts to violence. After Juana’s initially benign and heartfelt relationship with Cutberto, the audience is subsequently immersed in terror throughout the transition to Juana’s eventual gang rape and death at the hands of disillusioned Cutberto. The rape scene is unapologetic.
In the moving car, Juana’s screams and shrills are scarring and the scene is continuously stitched to juxtapose the group’s thrusting with Cutberto’s palpable grief. The scene of Juana getting gang raped in the back of the car is presented as a hand-held shot and then shifts to a crane shot of her dead body discarded on the side of the road. The first camera angle forces the viewer to adopt the point-of-view of the rapists. By placing the audience at this angle, Carrera shifts the blame to the audience, who through inactivity becomes an accomplice.
While this thriller contains portions that are highly fictionalized and melodramatic like traditional murder mysteries, the audience is mandated to witness the extraordinarily realistic suffocation of Juana. With this scene, Carrera antagonizes the “everyman” and communicates to the viewer that any man, no matter how enamored or seemingly innocent, is capable of femicide. Unlike the archetypal crime fiction plots with a small network of culprits, this film presents a universal villainization of man to establish a sense of distrust, similar to the paranoia the girls in Ciudad Juarez feel, within the audience.
Simply put, Carrera exposes the trauma of rape culture in Ciudad Juarez by making the themes, violence, and masculine aggression so abhorrent and so immediate that they must be remembered. In the process of villainizing the “everyman” to depict the rape culture in Ciudad Juarez, Carrera deviates from the satisfying ending trope found in many murder mysteries. Instead of offering potential solutions to mitigate sexual violence or economic inequality, Carrera concludes the film with statistics corresponding to the prevalence of global femicide.
This exclusion of a comforting ending, which typically occurs once the criminal is discovered and punished, serves to emphasize the severity of this global conflict. However, Carrera’s most effective mode of depressing the final scenes of the film was to introduce his final villain, Detective Bravo. At the conclusion of the thriller, Carrera asks the viewer to question the virtue of Detective Bravo as she murders Mickey Santos, successful entrepreneur and pedophile. The scene begins with Mickey Santos catcalling a young teenager at night and detective Bravo subsequently ambushing him.
Just as the archetypal villain describes his plans to the protagonists in murder mysteries, Carrera purposefully vocalizes Mickey Santos’ internal thoughts to aid the audience’s rationalization of Bravo’s murder. Santos’ surrender and prideful remarks of his “fair deal with the authorities to have a fair trial and fair sentence” reinforce the government’s inability to rectify crime if it hinders economic prosperity. Through his taunting, Detective Bravo is pushed past the point of disillusionment and shoots Santos eight times with tears in her eyes.
The shot then shifts from a crane view of Bravo sobbing to a silent fifteen-second shot of the full moon. This inclusion of a visual and auditory pause helps the audience gauge the gravity of Bravo’s actions. Given Santos’ wealth and power, Detective Bravo recognizes his sentence will be cut short and his immunity will be ensured by the economically dependent Mexican government. However, this killing is still murder and the audience leaves the movie more hopeless than at the introduction.
Through this murder, Carrera suggests the public is too accustomed to the femicide crisis to act and the “heroes” must resort to violence to make a tangible change. This act leads to Bravo’s eventual firing and further contributes to the uncharacteristically sorrowful and unjust ending. By villainizing the protagonist, the audience fully understands Carrera’s main critique of government inadequacy: Mexican economic dependence has led to an apathetic criminal justice system and the rise of femicides.
By deliberately presenting different villains in his murder mystery, Carrera conveys the many contributors to the rise of global sexual violence. While an international audience might initially disagree negative portrayal of neoliberalism in El Traspatio, Carrera’s use of jarring scenes and combinatorial criminalization portrays the sexism and corruption inherent in economically subservient societies. While the film’s depiction as a murder mystery seemingly fictionalizes and isolates the crisis to Ciudad Juarez, femicide is a byproduct of the increased adoption of neoliberal policies and masculine agression.
Throughout the film, Carrera fails to effectively address the real “heroes” of this movement: women and men who speak out against authority and expose the trauma of femicide to incite political change. Like Peralta and Sara, those in gubernatorial and fiscal power must acknowledge Carrera’s argument and make it their responsibility to aid the oppressed even if the crisis of sexual violence festers in a global economy driven by minimizing wages and morality.