In the world of TV, the shorthand for character development frequently comes down to good versus evil. On the good side is us. On the bad side is them. But one series has been acclaimed for blurring those lines: “Homeland,” on Showtime, which cleaned up at last month’s Emmys. “Homeland” focuses on Carrie Mathison, a CIA operative and Nicholas Brody, the U.S. Soldier turned terrorist turned politician that she’s monitoring.
Still, a closer look has some social critics wondering: is the show really so nuanced and layered? Or is it yet another show that relies on the shorthand of us and them; American and foreigner; sane and insane? Naif Al-Mutawa, is a fan of the show “Homeland,” as well as a Muslim, mental health professional, and media maker. He’s the creator of the comic book series “The 99.”
"It's an entertaining show," Al-Mutawa says, but he adds: "I don't agree with the politics of it."
"The only Muslim that seems to have any conscience is the one that actually has been turned, and is trying to sabotage the U.S. government," he points out. His concern is that the vast majority of people watching this show do not know very much about Muslims, and will not understand that the characters on the show are not a representative sample.
"You're talking about a world that's a third Muslim," he says. "You're going to have your good apples, you're going to have your bad apples, you're going to have confused apples who think they're oranges." Still, he does concede that the show is fiction, and, as a clinical psychologist, he appreciates the representation of mental illness in Claire Danes' character.
"It's fiction, and if people like it then they watch it, if they don't then they won't." As the creator of a comic book series, Al-Mutawa is no stranger to controversy himself, and he respects the right of Homeland to portray any kind of character they wish. "I believe that's the natural life of any media property, that's the bottom line."