If you’ve been following Homeland, the Showtime adaptation of an Israeli drama over the last three seasons, perhaps you have noticed a significant narrative arc. Since its inception, the show’s focus has been on Islamic terrorism, beginning in wartime Iraq and worming its way through modern day Middle Eastern miasma. The main character, Brody, seems to be a loose fictionalization of the real Israeli prisoner of war, Gilad Shalit, who had been held for five years by Hamas, and since, released in a prisoner swap. Of course, the biggest fear for any service person is being killed or captured. As the US has service men in the Middle East and dispersed throughout the world in high conflict regions, this plot line naturally plays at the center of popular fears.
Over the years, there have been several plot twists that highlighted its decidedly pro-Israeli bias: making the head of Al Qaeda a Palestinian refugee, displaying Arabs as terrorists, shooting in Tel Aviv while calling it Beirut. The most interesting seems to be this sudden connection between Al Qaeda and Iran, which defies reason and understanding of the region. It relies on the viewers ignorance of the region, the different cultural and political environments, and even geography. It assumes that most Americans do not know the difference between, Arab and Persian, Sunni and Shia, or Hamas and Hezbollah. It counts on the viewers indifference to the cultural, religious, ethnic, and regional milieu, and preys on that deep-seeded xenophobia. Essentially, the show assumes our ignorance, and plays it against us.
However, the trajectory of the story line seemed to be going right along with reality and a certain interpretation of historical events: there is an Al Qaeda; the possibility of a jihadi Marine becoming a representative is slim, but still engaging.
Again, this season’s twist–Blame Iran–is a bit of a stretch, but the writing was still good enough to keep people’s attention, facts or logic be damned. Al Qaeda operatives usually are not buddy-buddy with the Mullahs: that whole Sunni-Shia schism in Islam has divided Sunni and Shia Muslims for a thousand years makes this an unlikely marriage (for example: Iran is a predominantly Shia country, while Iraq is a predominantly Sunni country, hence the ability for the US and USSR to capitalize on an already frothy hatred between and involve both countries in a proxy-war against each other during the 80’s). Nonetheless, watching former Representative-Marine-Jihadi Brody become a junkie was captivating, and Carrie’s pregnant madness brought back a resurgence of lunatics and hysterical women taking over the asylum.
The audience could have watched this entire season in all its bigoted bias and not once questioned Saul’s thinly veiled loathing of the Persian-American accountant and her falling hijab. We could watch as this CIA attempts yet another coup in Iran (the first one being in 1953 when we helped overthrow the Premier Mohammad Mossaddeq). We could have rooted for the ex-junky-jihadi-returned-Marine-Brody to infiltrate the upper levels of Iranian intelligence, take out the number two guy, and return home to his suicidal daughter, becoming the man, the father, the role model we hoped he would be in season one.
The only problem: Reality. As I watched this past Sunday’s episode–resurrecting Brody from the dead, sending him back into the lion’s den to do one last mission, a last-ditch effort that will likely have him killed (oh, the drama) -it dawned on me (and not for the first time, but in a much more profound and significant way): this is nonsense. This show does not represent the current American diplomatic position as it relates to Iran. This Hail Mary coup de’tat fantasy may be an Israeli dream, and perhaps that of more than a few hawkish Americans, but it does not reflect the current state of affairs.
President Obama just reopened lines of communication with Iran. The two countries recently reached an agreement. On sanctions. On nuclear proliferation. It is unprecedented. For more than thirty years, these two countries have been at complete odds. There have been major propaganda movements against each other, many diplomatic incidents (including the current imprisonment of an American preacher that Iran believes to be a spy). Many fear where this will go. Many believe that this agreement destabilizes the region. That this, diplomacy, only makes it easier for Iran to build a nuclear program unchecked.
I do not know and have nothing to say on that. We cannot predict where this would go, because six months ago, few would have predicted this type of agreement between the US and Iran. Just six months ago, the US faced the possibility of air strikes and combat in Syria, an Iranian ally and neighbor. Just six months ago, we were ready to drone strike another sovereign nation at the behest of Israel.
Things change. Nobody saw the US entering into peace talks with a sworn enemy, when our reaction over the last decade has been less than diplomatic. Time to roll with it. The definition of insanity is repeating the same mistake over again, and four decades of sanctions and silence have proved ineffective. In the real world, where real lives are at stake, and real people get torn to bits by drone bombs, perhaps we should be enter conflict with caution.
As for the show, it finds itself in uncharted territory of being completely off the trail. In defense, it is difficult to predict when politicians stop politicking and start working in the best interests of their own people, thus, impossible for fickle television producers to bank on a story-line that seemed stranger than fiction. Nonetheless, in this case, it seems that the show jumped the shark. Good luck, next season, Homeland, trying to account for diplomacy instead bigotry and fear-mongering.