Who Are The Bad Guys In Homeland?

Posted on by TheLastPsychiatrist and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

I see two people who are mentally ill, what a coincidence


There are no bad guys and good guys in “intelligent” TV dramas like Homeland, or so they say.  But.


Exhibit A:

Midway in the show, the 16 yo daughter, Dana, and her classmates are attending a Quaker meeting at her prep school:  a person stands, says whatever he wants about anything, and everyone else sits silently and contemplates.  When he’s finished, another person may stand, and either respond or move on.

George Bush Jr. Jr. stands and repeats what liberal TV writers think conservatives think, e.g. about Iran: “The Arabs just hate us for our freedoms, so we should take the fight to them.”  Dana,  fresh from a public school, rolls her eyes at him and hits him with reality: “Hey, douche, Iranians aren’t Arabs, they’re Persians.”

Does it look like the bad guy is Ignorance and Prejudice?  That’s who it is supposed to be, yes, but if you watch closely you’ll observe what Dana doesn’t do: she doesn’t stand up to speak– she stays slouched on the bench.  She’s doesn’t speak in a considerate manner, she curses the kid out.  A teacher explains about respect and procedure at a Quaker meeting, but the daughter isn’t interested in that nonsense, she’s interested only in combating lies and prejudice.


Exhibit B:

Fast forward and watch the scene where Brody’s wife learns Brody has “converted” to Islam, which she assumes means “brainwashed.”   “This isn’t you! These are the people who tortured you!” During the argument, she knocks his Koran out of his hands and Brody scrambles after it.  “It’s not supposed to touch the ground!” he yells.  She looks at him the way a wife looks at her husband if he says, “well Tiffany thinks I deserve to spend a little money on myself!”  “Did you just say that?

Exhibit C:

The final scene is this: the father/terrorist/survivor Brody wraps his Koran in a towel and while everyone sleeps, goes outside to bury it.   “It’s been desecrated,” he explains to his daughter who catches him.  She senses this is an important moment for him, and helps him.


What is not obvious– and I have no doubt the writers never considered this, to them the emotions in these scenes were the most natural imaginable– is that Dana was more respectful with the Islam she knew nothing about than she was with the Quakers– or her mother– that are part of her life.

Ok, say the vocal conservatives, there’s your liberal bias: it’s ok to make fun of Christianity/America, but you can’t disrespect Islam.  Except the show does disrespect Islam– it threw a Koran on the ground and made Brody a nut.

The real bad guys for “intelligent TV viewers” are anyone who believes anything too strongly.  The daughter is allowed to respect and defend Islam because she doesn’t believe in it at all, it’s not hers, but she damn well better distance herself from those nutty Quakers she’s part of.  Brody can’t even let the Koran fall to the ground because, as his wife points out, he’s insane.

The bad guys are people who let their beliefs rule them, the only maniacal loyalty that is acceptable nowadays is to sports teams and political parties, because they are meaningless.

The problem with this view isn’t that excess belief isn’t dangerous, but that everyone always has excess belief about something.  It defines you, and everyone else can see it.  When you think you are without a blinding ideology, it only means you’ve found something else even more blinding: consumerism, narcissism, scientism.  “Religion is for weak minded people,” says the guy who knows better than to tempt fate or press 13 on an elevator, oh, look, they saved you from having to prove to yourself you don’t believe in that.  Ideology abhors a vacuum, and it will get filled with whatever is the opposite of what was vacuumed.

The whole show is exactly what happens when you stop believing in things, when you pathologize excessive belief: paranoia.  No wonder that the protagonist, Carrie, who in theory has something called “bipolar disorder” yet manifests few symptoms of a mood disorder, is on Clozaril: she suffers from a thought disorder, a psychosis.  It’s America that’s bipolar, not Carrie: outward displays of tolerance, like getting sassy in a Quaker meeting or intoning that not all Muslims are terrorists (the good Muslims are the ones who don’t believe too much); but hidden acts of covert aggression, like bombing Iran or throwing your husband’s Koran to the floor.  Violence is always ok if it’s anti-ideological.  Brody comes home from captivity looking ripped, which Americans see as a sign of inner strength.  Duh…

But even at the level of the writers and viewers their paranoia is right there in the structure of the show: dumb, bad, or sick people believe in ideological nonsense, and believe it strongly; but behind them are diabolically evil people pulling the strings…

The scary thing about Brody isn’t that he’s a Muslim terrorist who may become Vice President– change it to Christian fundamentalist– what’s scary is that someone would, could, become Vice President and have some higher interest than Vice Presidenting– whether it be Islam, Mormonism, Christianity, or money– even excessive patriotism is not permitted in a leader.  That’s the public need behind identifying Obama as a socialist or Bush as a Christian or Cheney as an oil tycoon. “That’s the real reason…”

But history is nothing but the passing shifts of ideology through the usual mechanisms (war, new technology, famine, etc); in times of prosperity you get the abstract ones, like paedeia and psychoanalysis and in the tough times you get ethnic strife or religioisity, which is why I can say with confidence that in 100 years the number of Mormons will be greater than the number of atheists, unless there’s enough prosperity in America to fill our souls with consumer products.

There aren’t many guideposts in life, but I have one that is 100% reliable, you may write it on a sticky note and affix it to your rear view mirror, God knows you don’t use it anyway: if you are doing something in the dead of night, and your 16 year old daughter is all in, she’s not helping– you’re using her.  But if you believe strongly enough, then everyone is expendable.  Which is the point.




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10 Responses to Who Are The Bad Guys In Homeland?

  1. Guy Fox says:

    Haven’t seen the show, but the image of the girl’s interjection at the meeting is striking. The interruption didn’t even consist of any substantial point, like the questionable utility of mass violence, the burden another war would put on future generations, or the slippery meaning of ‘freedoms’, but a Wikipedian factoid that isn’t even entirely accurate and is meant only to discredit the speaker rather than respond to the speech. Some of the worst receptions of Darwinism/evolution come from new atheists and for the same reason: factoid memorized as ammo against the bad guys. It’s the mentality that would lead people to read a translation of the Critique of Pure Reason and bitch about Kant’s comma use.

    • alexft7 says:

      Just watched that particular episode and immediately tried to find somewhere where I can discuss the Quaker meeting scene.. so came across this blog.
      Guy, if you watched the scene you would see the girl’s initial point correcting the stereotypical barking conservative nutter is only her first interjection. She goes on to condemn his opinion on nuclear action against Iran as mass murder, among other things.
      Also, she is almost entirely accurate. Iranians are Persians. There are obviously some Arabs in Iran, as there are some Jews. But calling Iranians, ‘Arabs’ is like calling the Irish, ‘British’ or Bulgarians, ‘Turks’.
      What I’m confused about is the fact this ill informed discussion is taking place in a Quaker meeting. Are Quakers different in America? I’m honestly asking if this is the case, cos it’s possible they’re a completely different church.
      In the UK Quakers are militant pacifists and would never even consider putting forward any view defending the use of military force. Also, they definitely don’t run fee-paying schools here. All Quakers I’ve met have been hard left, peace activist, hippies. It’s interesting how there is such a difference. Or have the programme makers just made a massive mistake?

      Regarding Brody’s ‘ideology’.. it seems to me he has lost a loved one from arbitrary military force and has vowed to take revenge. Rather than buying into the entire anti-western islamist creed, he is angry at the drone strike on the school that killed that kid he was tutoring. This kind of tit-for-tat quest for vengeance and honour is the driving force behind most conflict today..along with money and power. Religion and ideology are used as smokescreens to hide the real agenda behind all sides manoeuvring.
      Maybe this is what the programme-makers are trying to put across.

  2. JohnJ says:

    Hater-haters gonna hate haters.

  3. BHE says:

    Religion is a shortcut to an ideology, and without it crafting a reasoned ideology takes a lot of mental work. And sticking to that ideology is even tougher, because there is always the prodding thought that none of it really means anything anyway, so it’s OK to cheat a bit sometimes.

    But most who abandon religion or only pay lip service don’t do that mental work–thus the other convenient shortcuts you mentioned that fill in the gaps and leave people with no real understanding of themselves. And thus the hatred of those who have *any* clear ideology, even if it is one passed down from Grandma.

    If you haven’t consciously determined what principles should guide you, and use those principles to determine your daily actions, how can you understand why you do anything? You do what is convenient/self-serving in the moment and apply ideology to action afterward (rationalize). You think those who have embraced religion and live by it are the weak-minded being controlled by the puppet masters, but there you are bitching about Romney on your Twitter while standing in line for your iPhone 5.

    • PC_Geek says:

      Religion is a shortcut to an ideology, and without it crafting a reasoned ideology takes a lot of mental work. And sticking to that ideology is even tougher, because there is always the prodding thought that none of it really means anything anyway, so it’s OK to cheat a bit sometimes.

      The entire history of Western Civilization and western thought utterly put the lie to that statement. Try reading Augustine or Aquinas or the founders of modern science (nearly all of whom were monks or pious laymen) and tell me that religion is just a shortcut for the mentally lazy

      • bbrodriquez says:

        Yeah, I gotta back you on that one – religion is not at all a “shortcut to ideology”.

        Hannah Arendt has a great point about what separates an ideology from a mere belief or an opinion. Consider something like “racism” or “marxism”. The actual subject matter of racism is not race, the actual subject matter of marxism is not Karl Marx, the subject in both cases is _history itself_. An ideology differs from a mere belief in that an ideology claims to explain everything that has happened throughout history.

        Whatever religion is doing, it’s something other than ideology. Though perhaps it’s fair to say that ideology has taken up some “mental real estate” that used to be filled by religion in previous generations or centuries?

    • PC_Geek says:

      Coming back to this much later…I should add that the rest of your post is quite good (where you are talking about how those who have no clear ideology hate those who do, view them as fools, and will easily ‘adjust’ their ideology and rationalize away whatever they want, since there is no transcendent force holding them accountable) . To such people truth is whatever they want it to be at the moment, and ideology is nothing but rationalizing to make them ignore what bit of the truth they understand if it conflicts with their desires. E.g. someone having a guilty conscience, so they know what they did was wrong, but want to do it anyway. So they either adapt an ideology that justifies those desires or invent/modify one out of whole cloth – either way rationalizing their desires rather than earnestly searching for truth.

      It may be getting off topic (not like anyone is reading this forum anymore anyway) but this is the big problem that atheists have with morality – no transcendent Rule Giver means that rules are based on personal preference and whatever society lets you get away with – if your desires conflict with your morality you are free to simply change that morality as it has no objective source. We are seeing the effects of such living in the chaos of the world today.

  4. xylokopos says:

    Never seen an episode of this show, but if your analysis is correct, it would make it the antithetical show to “24”, 8 seasons of the protagonist really, really, really believing in what he was doing with absolute intensity, shooting colleagues in the head and torturing blood relatives, and he was the good guy and a true believer.

    Also, the fellow from Homeland, isn’t he the one from Band of Brothers? Now that was a great series. No fucking existential despair/what do we believe in/who is the good guy there..

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  6. gogo says:

    I´ve seen first two episodes, to see on my own eyes if TLP is true there. It was about Brodys final decision to be terorist after returning home. After return he is desribed like a man without identity. It was better for him to be terorist, because it was too harmful to be a man who betrayed his homeland. At the beginning he was classic Vietnam veteran with trauma known from 80s films, who can´t and don´t want to play hero character demmanded by politics and media. Main woman character is his alterative – he can be hero, but only with antipsychotics. He choosed Islam.