Homeland: Political Critique or Political Propaganda?

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Tv shows will always divide an audience to a certain extent. While certain fundamentals such as acting, editing, and script-writing will determine a viewer’s response, there are sometimes broader factors at play which dissuade people from watching a particular show. Crime series’ such as The Soprano’s and Love/Hate attracted many viewers, but were also ignored by others due to a perceived ‘glorification of crime’. As it concludes its 5th season, the political thriller ‘Homeland’ also continues to divide audiences.

Has homeland always been controversial?

Since its first broadcast in 2011, homeland has been a source of debate for many around the globe. With the storyline originally focusing on a U.S. prisoner of war returning from Iraq, the show has developed into a fictional CIA and U.S. foreign policy narrative. Here lies the controversy: Some people reject the show on all grounds, seeing it as an explicit attempt by American TV to promote U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle-East; others see the show as attempting to critique U.S. foreign policy and to paint it in a negative light.

One of the main arguments made by the former is that homeland promotes Islam as ‘the enemy’. Advocates of this view believe the show portrays Muslims in a negative light, by consistently having Muslims as terrorists. Opponents of this view believe that, rather than promoting Muslims as ‘the enemy’, the show highlights the evil in both sides. The decision by top CIA officials to carry out drone strikes on civilian targets in the Middle-East was one of the key sub-storylines in the 1st season, leaving the viewer conflicted when deciding who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. The 4th season, which was set in Pakistan, also created a similar moral dilemma for the viewer. While the Pakistan intelligence services were portrayed as co-operating with the Taliban, the stage was set for this by a CIA drone strike which killed a number of innocent Pakistani civilians – something which was made clear in the script.

Islamophobia

The broader issue of Islamophobia also appears in the show. Bigoted views towards the Muslim faith are highlighted, but these are also effectively challenged. One of the most notable scenes in this regard was in the 2nd season when a schoolgirl tried to educate her classmates after they made a number of sweeping generalizations about Muslims. Indeed, it can be argued that in the first couple of seasons, the show explicitly highlighted the ignorant attitudes some Americans have towards the Muslim faith.
As the 5th season of the show reaches its conclusion, the narrative remains similar. While the CIA try to prevent an Islamic-state terror attack in Berlin, they also have to deal with a journalist who is planning on releasing classified CIA documents – documents which will reveal some less than savory facts about the CIA organization.
Overall, it can be said that homeland has shown us both sides of the so-called ‘war on terror’.