Is Homeland Islamophobic?

In the American television show Homeland, we follow the CIA’s investigations of American soldier Sgt. Nichols Brody, a suspected terrorist.  After being held captive by an al-Qaida leader, Brody returns home a converted Muslim (and potential terrorist).  The show seems to play into American paranoia and fear of the Other by casting almost all Muslims as potential security threats.  Indeed, what the show seems to suggest is that the Muslim living just around the corner from you (and perhaps anyone they are associated with) could turn out to be a terrorist.  What’s more, the show often plays into familiar stereotypes by casting one-dimensional Muslim characters while offering more multi-dimensional white characters.  For the most part, Muslim characters in the show turn out to be spies or terrorists, plotting schemes to kill.  Their motivations?  It’s often unclear, thereby reinforcing a xenophobic viewpoint that all foreigners signal imminent danger.  In the show, the CIA justifies outright racial profiling, and many of the white characters seem to echo familiar prejudices concerning Muslims.  For example, in one episode, Saul (head of the CIA) criticizes and humiliates one of his female Muslim assistants for wearing a headscarf.  What’s worse, she submissively offers no response.  One particularly grievous example of how the show stereotypes Muslim characters appears in the episode “Gerontion,” in which Javadi, a Muslim terrorist, brutally slaughters his daughter-in-law and ex-wife.  When questioned about his motives, he emotionlessly responds that he would have stoned them to death if he had had more time.  Is all of this evidence that the show is Islamophobic?  That depends.  Who exactly are we meant to sympathize with in the show, and who/what does the show demonize?  Are we meant to buy the stereotypes that the show plays with, or criticize them?

STUDENTS:  Post one example of a television show or film that you believe either reinforces or challenges familiar stereotypes concerning race, ethnicity, or religion.  Provide a brief analysis, as I have done above.


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