Now we've got to wonder: Does anyone on the production crew of "Homeland" speak Arabic? Just visible in the background of Sunday night's episode are graffiti messages trashing the show.
Its production company hired a group of graffiti artists who go by the nickname "Arabian Street Artists" to lend authenticity to the set of a Syrian refugee camp for the new season. As the artists explain on one of the members' website, they were shown images of pro-Assad graffiti ("apparently natural in a Syrian refugee camp," they quip) as inspiration, but instructed to make their tags apolitical -- although not areligious. In the busy atmosphere of prepping for the shoot, no one noticed the messages they'd actually written:
"'Homeland' is racist"
"This show does not represent the views of the artists"
"'Homeland' is a joke, and it didn't make us laugh"
Other messages, like "'Homeland' is a watermelon," make certain cultural references -- watermelons are "often used to indicate that something is a sham or not to be taken seriously," the group explains.
This isn't the first time "Homeland" has been criticized for its portrayal of Middle Eastern nations and people. In a long and thoughtful explanation, the group explained their problem with the series:
What’s wrong with "Homeland’s" political message? The very first season of “Homeland” explained to the American public that Al Qaida is actually an Iranian venture. According to the storyline, they are not only closely tied to Hezbollah, but Al Qaida even sought revenge against the US on behalf of Iran. This dangerous phantasm has become mainstream ‘knowledge’ in the US and has been repeated as fact by many mass media outlets. Five seasons later, the plot has come a long way, but the thinly veiled propaganda is no less blatant. ... The series has garnered the reputation of being the most bigoted show on television for its inaccurate, undifferentiated and highly biased depiction of Arabs, Pakistanis, and Afghans, as well as its gross misrepresentations of the cities of Beirut, Islamabad- and the so-called Muslim world in general. For four seasons, and entering its fifth, “Homeland” has maintained the dichotomy of the photogenic, mainly white, mostly American protector versus the evil and backwards Muslim threat.
You can read the whole thing on their site.
Deadline reports that showrunners are less than pleased, but respect the group's chutzpah.
"We wish we’d caught these images before they made it to air," showrunner Alex Gansa told Deadline. "However, as 'Homeland' always strives to be subversive in its own right and a stimulus for conversation, we can’t help but admire this act of artistic sabotage."
Whether production crew will be ordered to digitally alter the graffiti in future episodes, or for the DVD release, remains unknown.
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