Homeland (US, 2011)

American TV dealing with the Other!

Although Homeland included some longueurs in its 12 parts, they were more than justified by the gripping feature-length final episode. But what was particularly extraordinary about the programme, co-produced by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation’s Fox 21, is that it actually dramatised why someone might become a terrorist. Whether the character of the conflict-full antagonist, Brody, was too politically sensitive for an American actor or not I don’t know, but Brit Damien Lewis was particularly brilliant. The British, it seems, do good villains!

Also innovative was the bipolar disposition of the the protagonist played superbly by Clare Danes. Not only female but also mentally ill leaving us with a delicious denouement in penultimate episode where the only person who knew what was going on was thought to be ‘mad’. Coincidentally another female lead, Saga Noren in The Bridge (Bron/Broen, Sweden-Denmark, 2011), is clearly autistic. It’s good to see drama ‘interrogating’ unusual mental ‘conditions which, hopefully, will allow people to understand them more.

It’s striking that one of the largest media corporations in the world is backing a slightly subversive drama. In creating a convincing characterisation, where a marine can be portrayed sympathetically as a converted Muslim, Homeland is offering an unusual representation of American’s great Other, Al Qaeda. However, this is diluted somewhat in focusing upon a particularly bad ‘apple’, in the form of the Vice President. America itself isn’t quite in the sights of the programme. That would be asking too much, even of a programme on the cable station Showtime.

Incidentally, it seems that gratuitous nudity was built into the script as a way of distinguishing cable content from network TV. I think it was in the second episode that, after an ad break, we went straight into a nude scene that was entirely unnecessary; I thought I’d accidentally switched channels (though to what station I do not know).




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