In Traffic, Steven Soderbergh illustrates the inefficiency of the war on drugs. Two female characters, Helena Ayala and Caroline Wakefield, are challenged and affected by the complexity of drug trafficking. At six months pregnant, Helena Ayala, chooses to involve herself in the illicit drug trading business ,in which her husband ran. Caroline Wakefield is an intelligent sixteen-year-old girl, third in her class, and the daughter of the drug czar of the United States; she, too, is challenged with making a critical decision affecting the way drugs impact her life. Soderbergh's portrayal of women in Traffic highlights and demonstrates the negative impact of drug trafficking businesses on all members of society. Through the critical decisions they make, their unique forms of addiction, and the complexity of their characters, Soderbergh portrays the role of women as players in the game drug trading.
Helena Ayala, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, makes a decision to become involved with drug trafficking, which negatively impacts her family. Once her husband is arrested for drug trafficking, Ayala is alienated by her country club friends and harassed by the press along with the DEA. Helena desperately longs to get back to the lavish suburban life she had before her husband was sent to jail. Driven by her desires, Helena is forced to make a critical decision when she is threatened to pay three million dollars or have her son kidnapped. This threat motivates her to do whatever she can to save her family. Helena's decision to continue her husband's work means she is willing to put her family in more jeopardy. Drugs had a negative impact on Helena's life. She transformed from a happily married wife with a family, to a drug dealer, supporting her husband's business. The negative impact drugs had on her was portrayed through her decision to set aside her morality for only one thing--her materialistic, high-class lifestyle.