20 January, 2013

Nudity in the Homeland

Cable came to our house only on the heels of a Phillies season that had to be watched. I still don’t know how to use it or what to watch. There was a time when the small resident thought that TV meant the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour. She and by then her sisters were quite possibly a handful of mites who watched nightly as a list scrolled on the screen at the end of the program, the names of those killed in the invasion of Iraq. I confess now that I, seeking relief from writing during lunch, often click it on and watch whatever happens to be available – usually re-runs of Old Christine and, presumably new episodes of What Not To Wear, while waiting for the ads to cease on CNBC or CNN.

Even before cable, though, a world of things I didn’t know existed had begun to occupy my headspace, though much of it has come belatedly. We watched ‘The Wire’ on Netflix, and I have come out as a zealot with regard to that show, in person and in a post here. Feel free to ridicule the statements made about Cable therein. More recently – thanks to a Roku Box – we’ve watched ‘Breaking Bad,’ and ‘Downton Abbey’ using the same device. So it seemed only natural that we should also take a look at another one of the shows that “people” rave about, ‘Homeland.’

Granted, with a title like that in the wake of the devastation caused to so many people both overseas and here by the administration that sent the country to war, and began to set up and fight strawmen here (see Amitava Kumar’s excellent article on the controversy of the Ground Zero community center for an example), under the guise of protecting the homeland, complete with the Dept. of Homeland Security, I knew some of what to expect. Still, I was disappointed and, worse, disgusted after watching the first three episodes last night.

Arab speakers and practicing Muslims as potential terrorists or just plain suspicious? Check. Long spells of full frontal female nudity that has nothing to do with anything? Check. Asinine rehashed plot? Check

It is hard to give any show that deals specifically with post-9/11 gung-ho terrorists-are-everywhere! scenarios a star rating after seeing Bigelow’s ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’ Whether you are blown away by it and defend her depiction of torture like Manohla Dargis does for the NYT, or whether you are blown away and condemn her refusal to depict the full truth of it (that torture discloses next to nothing) as Matt Taibbi does for Rolling Stones, that movie has substance. It makes a person – particularly an American person – pause just a little, ponder the average yeah-man-let’s-kick-butt understanding of foreign policy.

As far as ‘Homeland’ the TV show is concerned, there is nothing to make me keep watching. Idiotic portrayals of people who look like they might be Arab-speakers? I see it all the time in the streets and public spaces of America, particularly airports. Rehashed plot? I’ve already seen ‘The Manchurian Candidate.’ Twice. Once with Frank Sinatra and once with Denzel Washington in lead roles. At roughly an hour and a half running time that’s a lot smarter way to spend my time. And breasts. I’ve got those covered in every sense of the word.

Pretty little is as loathsome to me as the exploitation of the naked female body to no greater purpose than to tittilate a population starved of imagination. Well, there’s the abuse of children, the glorification of drugs and Rush Limbaugh, but not by a great divide. McNulty had some good sex in ‘The Wire’ (with his wife, Elena, with his mistress, Ronnie Pearlman), but those scenes, few and far-between, were directly connected to his character as a skirt-chaser. Walt, in ‘Breaking Bad,’ has one sex scene with his wife, Jesse two with his now dead girlfriend. In three episodes of ‘Homeland’ there have been so many long pans of Morena Baccarin’s breasts that I wonder if the perkiness of her chest was the reason she was cast in this role, and it seems imperative that Melissa Benoist is displayed front and rear to full effect – let us not forget the girl-on-girl crotch swipe in this same scene – to no apparent purpose.

It made me think fondly of ‘Downton Abbey,’ where events that are anticipated and the subject of numerous episodes – the wedding between Mary and Matthew for instance – are not overdone. We know there’s a wedding, we see her heading out, and that’s it. No excruciating drag-out of the inevitable in dis-service to the viewing public. We’ve seen weddings, we know what happens, and unless there is something unusual happening at one – Edith jilted at the altar in ‘Downton Abbey,’ – there is no need to bash us over the head with it.

Perhaps it is because I write fiction and love to read books, and I’m acutely aware of over-telling and being over-told-to. There is such a thing as too much information and ‘Homeland’ – with regard to naked women, but also with regard to its prejudices – makes it quite clear that the writers underestimate the viewer. Who wants to be taken for someone whose intellectual capacity is that of the lowest common denominator, the insular, ignorant, porn-fed, American male? Not me.

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4 Responses to “Nudity in the Homeland”

  1. Raashid Riza says:

    Excellent piece, also allow me to shamelessly promote my humble thoughts on Homeland – http://raashidriza.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/the-golden-globes-and-islamophobia/

  2. Sylvie says:

    Exactly!
    I watched the first episode on Roku last night, then ventured into the second episode. I had to shut it off at the ridiculous scene of a woman standing there naked “forever” for no apparent reason other than the obvious.
    I am so tired of this. What ever happened to decency, and as you say, leaving things for the imagination?
    I think fondly of “Downton Abbey” and appreciate to have shows like that in this day and age of reckless and pointless nudity.

  3. Kristy says:

    Last week I started to watch Homeland on Hulu, starting with the first season. Why? Because of the great current work Mandy Patinkin is doing with refugees, I like to support the Art of artists who are using their influence/name/fame to solve real problems (unlike a “We are the World” feel-good concert – where everyone forgets about the people who need help when the show ends and the money runs out).

    Thank you for writing this article; I wondered if I was the only one who noticed… I tried to get into the drama, the characters, the story – but felt almost assaulted, at the least insulted to my intelligence as a viewer, as naked women were displayed in scenes over and over – that didn’t add anything/ made minuscule sense for the story!

    I googled ‘writers of Homeland’ – and there are 7 writers; 6 male, 1 female – that explained a lot. But the bottom line here is: lazy writing, cheap storytelling. I’m removing Homeland from my watchlist…

  4. Ru says:

    6 males, 1 female on the team. Go figure. People wonder why we are on a sinking ship without realizing we helped drill the holes : /

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The Books:

The Books:

On Sal Mal Lane

In the tradition of In the Time of the Butterflies and The Kite Runner, a tender, evocative novel about the years leading up to the Sri Lankan civil war.

A Disobedient Girl

A Disobedient Girl is a compelling map of womanhood, its desires and loyalties, set against the backdrop of beautiful, politically turbulent, Sri Lanka.


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