It may just be a popular evening pastime with fans, but continuing mistakes and careless inaccuracies that indulge certain stereotypes are starting to cause open discontent amongst viewers
An episode of the hit US TV series ‘Homeland’ which aired on October 11th unwittingly showed graffiti reading ‘Homeland is racist’. The makers of the show had hired artists in order to lend the set a degree of ‘authenticity’ by adding in background graffiti for a set depicting a refugee camp.
Messages also included phrases such as ‘Homeland is not a series’ and ‘Homeland is a watermelon’; a play on an Arabic expression describing something as ‘rubbish’ or ‘insignificant’. When asked, the artists released a statement saying they had initially been reluctant to take the commission but decided to do so in order to express political discontent with the series. The graffiti had remained unchecked before airing as the set designer had been ‘too frantic’ to pay attention and the writing was treated as a ‘supplementary visual’ anyway.
Homeland has received much criticism over its inaccurate and often negative portrayals of locations in the show, such as Beirut and Islamabad. The Lebanese Tourism Minister, Faddy Abboud, threatened to sue the makers of the show for misrepresenting Beirut in an earlier episode. The episode in question was in fact filmed in Israel, and showed militia openly roaming the streets whereas the neighbourhood depicted is actually a popular area full of shops and cafes. Minister Abboud expressed concern that the episode would ‘damage the image of Lebanon‘ and have a negative impact on tourism. The fact that the episode was filmed in Israel was also considered particularly offensive due to the history between the two territories.
Homeland has also angered many Pakistani viewers when a prominent terrorist character was revealed to have the same name as the previous Pakistani ambassador to the US. Fans of the show were also frustrated by inaccurate portrayals of metropolitan Pakistan, as well as incorrect Urdu (Pakistan’s national language) used on the set, mistakes which could have easily been remedied. Furthermore, Pakistani characters were in fact played by Arab actors—perpetuating an incorrect and often offensive stereotype that Pakistanis and Arabs are interchangeable.
While it would be easy to dismiss these mistakes as oversights, Showtime has a responsibility to address the problematic elements of their show. By avoiding the issues and refusing to respond to criticism, they are putting themselves in danger of potentially perpetuating racist attitudes and stereotypes that would wield enormous influence considering the show’s continued popularity.