Border Wars: Narratives and Images of the US-Mexican Border on TV


  • Reece Jones Department of Geography University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa



visual representation, narrative representation, US-Mexico border, Border Wars, television show, borderlands, border, migrant workers, popular geopolitical narratives, reality


This paper analyzes the visual and narrative representation of the US-Mexico border in the National Geographic television show "Border Wars." The show is significant because it brings the hidden and often opaque borderlands into the homes of millions of Americans, and viewers around the world, every week. It transforms the unknown space of the border into a series of images and stories that create a coherent narrative for the viewer. The representation of the border emphasizes threat and danger through the constant repetition of particular phrases (terrorism, war, cartel foot soldiers) and images (guns, high-speed chases, Black Hawk helicopters, Predator drones). Despite the militaristic lead-ins to each episode, the dramatic music, and the heightened drama of the storytelling, in the end most of the episodes present a more prosaic border landscape of poor migrant workers looking for a better life. This disjuncture between the official narrative of the border and the images of what happens in the show provide a crucial insight into the role popular geopolitical narratives play in creating a version of reality and convincing the public that the ‘problem’ of the border needs a securitized and militarized response.


How to Cite

Jones, R. (2015). Border Wars: Narratives and Images of the US-Mexican Border on TV. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 13(3), 530–550.