Body Comodification in Maria Full of Grace

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Writer and director Joshua Marston’s film “Maria Full of Grace” chronicles the titular character’s foray into the drug trade. The young girl, in desperate circumstances, wagers that the money promised to her by her drug running employers against the plethora of possible unfortunate outcomes, and when she accepts the job, her body effectively becomes commodified. Maria, in the film, is reduced by her employers from a daughter, sister and expectant mother to little more than a human container, a clandestine vessel to facilitate the import of cocaine into the United States from Columbia.

“Maria Full of Grace” exposes the methods that drug cartels use to ensure that their shipments arrive to their destinations. The mules are made to swallow pellets of cocaine, and, upon arriving in the United States, excrete them to be sold. This method of delivery is fraught with danger. There is, of course, the possibility that the mules will be discovered by authorities on either side of the border, and smuggling such large quantities of narcotics carries hefty penalties that could see them locked up for life. Another, even more serious threat is that the pellets could, at any time, rupture inside of the mule’s body, which is tantamount to a death sentence. With these dangers being considered, it can be difficult to imagine how someone could allow themselves to be used in such a way, but, luckily, the film includes the necessary motivations.

Maria is prompted to become a drug mule when she loses her job de-thorning roses. She had been keeping her struggling family afloat with this occupation, and was in desperate need of employment, especially considering she was pregnant. While all drug mules have various reasons for choosing to use their bodies to transport drugs, most of those reasons are to escape desperate circumstances. The mules are given the opportunity to feed their starving families, to find some solace from their impoverished lives. The mules hold no...
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