Cinema and Media Studies Homeland
by
Jeffrey Chown, Ace Henricks, Marilyn Lorch, Bryan Mead
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0276

Introduction

Homeland debuted on 2 October 2011 for the Showtime cable network. Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, who had been producers of Fox Television’s 24, developed the project as an adaptation of the Israeli series Hatufim, produced by Gideon Raff. Homeland has been a critical/financial success, and Showtime has announced plans for a seventh and eighth season. As of 2017, Internet Movie Database (IMDb) lists it as receiving nominations for 157 major awards with fifty-four wins, including two Best Actress Emmys for Claire Danes and one Best Actor for Damian Lewis. Besides the popular acclaim, Homeland also received robust scholarly attention through the first six seasons. The feature of a strong, female protagonist working in a male-dominated environment has attracted attention in the Gender area. Claire Danes has done extensive research on the character’s bipolar disorder, which has occasioned comment by scholars in the Gender and Mental Health: Personal and Societal sections. Homeland has provided fertile ground for scholars working in Philosophy and Ethics disciplines, particularly those concerned with modernity and technology. The Central Intelligence Agency’s role in contemporary international Politics is a dominant theme of the series, which has invited attention from scholars from political science. Cultural theorists have been particularly interested in Post-9/11 Neoliberal Security State emotional aftershocks in popular culture and frequently cite Homeland as cutting edge. As a consequence of this attention, a body of work has emerged on Homeland and the Representation of Muslims. Some of this commentary is strongly critical of the show’s representational choices. Additionally, Homeland is theorized as operating squarely in recent innovations to TV Form exemplified by such shows as The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones, which fuel what Jason Mittell has called “narratively complex television.”

Gender

Homeland features a strong, multidimensional female protagonist, leading to many discussions related to gender representation within the show. Negra and Lagerwey 2015 introduces a special section of Cinema Journal that has feminist insights. Shih 2013 debates whether the representation of women in Homeland is indicative of progress, while Murray 2013 outlines the way in which women in traditionally masculine roles end up punished for subverting acceptable feminine traditions. Dolan 2013 provides interesting commentary on the roles of Jessica Brody and Helen Walker in their role of preserving family. Steenberg and Tasker 2015 centers Homeland within greater conversations about crime television, focusing on the use of a female protagonist in relation to questions of surveillance. Wessels 2016 poses Carrie as a product of neoliberalism, which plays into ideas related to affective labor.

  • Dolan, Jill. “Homeland.” In The Feminist Spectator in Action: Feminist Criticism for the Stage and Screen. By Jill Dolan, 119–122. New York: Palgrave, 2013.

    E-mail Citation »

    In an early appraisal of the series, Dolan argues the producers “try to keep twisting the narrative so that the binary of American/good, Middle Eastern/bad won’t maintain. But the visual scenario tells a different story” (p. 120). She then lists the many examples in the series of nonwhite characters being brutalized. Interesting take on women preserving families while their husbands are elsewhere; exemplified in Jessica Brody and Tom Walker’s wife.

  • Murray, Shelby C. “The Deceptions of Powerful Female Roles: A Feminist Critique of Homeland.” San Luis Obispo: California Polytechnic State University, 2013.

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    Murray looks at the character Carrie Mathison and finds she conforms to Damean’s assertion that women in traditionally masculine positions on television are sabotaged by narratives that foreground issues in their personal lives. She argues that Mathison’s characterization works more to support male hegemony than features a positive representation of a powerful female lead on television.

  • Negra, Diane, and Jorie Lagerwey. “Analyzing Homeland: Introduction.” Cinema Journal 54.4 (2015): 126–131.

    DOI: 10.1353/cj.2015.0057E-mail Citation »

    In this introduction to a special section of Cinema Journal that focuses largely on Homeland, Negra and Lagerwey provide a rich background to the several essays that follow. They touch upon the significance of the show as it relates to issues regarding class, race, culture, gender, and US foreign policy while centering the show as an example of “quality television.” Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Shih, Irene. “Existential Heroines: Zero Dark Thirty and Homeland.” Kennedy School Review 13 (2013): 98–103.

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    Shih looks at the female lead roles in feature film Zero Dark Thirty and the television show Homeland to examine their functions in the narrative. Shih sees progress in representation of women and Muslims but warns that when narrative is focused on marginalized characters, content producers will choose story over social progress.

  • Steenberg, Lindsay, and Yvonne Tasker. “‘Pledge Allegiance’: Gendered Surveillance, Crime Television, and Homeland.” Cinema Journal 54.4 (2015): 132–138.

    DOI: 10.1353/cj.2015.0042E-mail Citation »

    Situates Homeland in the generic context of American crime television, arguing the show utilizes two of this genre’s most prominent tropes: constant vigilance regarding national borders and the vital yet precariously placed female investigator. The authors suggest the rich relationship between the female protagonist and questions of surveillance establishes the show as an important addition to the crime television genre. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Wessels, Emanuelle. “Homeland and Neoliberalism: Text, Paratexts and Treatment of Affective Labor.” Feminist Media Studies 16.3 (2016): 511–526.

    DOI: 10.1080/14680777.2016.1160140E-mail Citation »

    Wessels examines Homeland alongside several paratexts, arguing that meanings produced through the intersection of text and paratexts create a preferred interpretation of Carrie Mathison, which aligns with neoliberal and postfeminist ideologies of affective labor. Therefore, the preferred interpretation of Homeland sees affective labor as positive, and writes off the negative effects as individualized personal issues. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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