You know that joke about someone showing off a Chinese tattoo that they think says “peace” when it really says “worm”? That has more or less become a reality for the producers of Homeland, who hired artists to create graffiti in a Syrian refugee camp set featuring pro-Assad messages. Instead, the artists used the opportunity to denounce Homeland for its portrayal of Muslim culture.
According to The Guardian, in Season 5’s second episode, “The Tradition of Hospitality,” Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) is seen walking around the camp, with the Arabic graffiti behind her saying things like “Homeland is racist,” “Homeland is a joke and it didn’t make us laugh,” even “#blacklivesmatter.” The artists — Heba Amin, Caram Kapp, and Stone — published a statement online alerting viewers to their handiwork.
The producers had been looking to add authenticity to the set, but no one actually checked in on what the artists had written, it seems. Though Showtime hasn’t made an official statement, the show’s creator an executive producer Alex Gansa told Deadline that,
We wish we’d caught these images before they made it to air. 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.
So, is Homeland racist? The Washington Post thinks so, and Pakistani officials spoke out after Season 4’s controversial depiction of their country. And it’s true, the show does have a fairly one-sided view of Muslim culture, one that serves its dramatic plot points (which are extremely engaging to watch).
So let us know what you think about the “hack,” as it were (also appropriate for this season), and what you’re feeling about the season so far. There’s no word yet about whether the images will be digitally altered for repeat broadcasts. Ultimately though, it appears seems like the show was looking for authenticity, and got it. Of course, without the statement, most viewers would never have known that it happened at all. Which is kind of the point, I suppose.