Homeland Accidentally Airs Controversial Graffiti, Showtime Responds

Photo: Stephan Rabold/SHOWTIME.

Since it premiered in 2011, Showtime’s Homeland has been racking up awards and making a name for itself as appointment television. Its storylines, which follow now-former counter terrorism expert in the CIA Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), deal with very topical issues. In trying to do so, however, many critics have noticed that for all the praise being heaped on the show, there’s another narrative to be told. The entire issue comes to a head on the series’ October 11 episode.

Now in its fifth season, Homeland has relocated Mathison to Berlin, where she works as a security advisor to a German humanitarian. One storyline this season involves a refugee camp on the Syrian-Lebanese border, for which production designers created a set to resemble what such a camp might look like. To lend authenticity to the set, they reportedly reached out to three “Arabian street artists,” Heba Amin, Caram Kapp, and Stone — the artists who would end up doing the work — wrote in a statement published on Amin’s website.

Amin, Kapp, and Stone were hesitant, but then they realized that they could use the opportunity to write messages that would disrupt the show itself. They were given images of pro-Assad graffiti that would normally appear in a Syrian refugee camp to work from. Instead of using that as their template, the three artists scrawled messages in Arabic on the walls that said things including, “Homeland is racist,” “Homeland is watermelon” (a slang term meaning that something is a sham), “There is no Homeland,” and “#blacklivesmatter.”

According to the artists, no one checked their work after they’d finished. “In their eyes, Arabic script is merely a supplementary visual that completes the horror-fantasy of the Middle East, a poster image dehumanizing an entire region to human-less figures in black burkas and moreover, this season, to refugees,” they write on Amin’s site.

In an interview with The Guardian published today, Amin adds, “We think the show perpetuates dangerous stereotypes by diminishing an entire region into a farce through the gross misrepresentations that feed into a narrative of political propaganda. It is clear they don’t know the region they are attempting to represent. And yet, we suffer the consequences of such shallow and misguided representation.”

When reached for comment, Homeland co-creator and showrunner Alex Gansa had this to say about the artists’ actions and graffiti: “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.”

You can see images of the graffiti on Amin’s site, and also on the second episode of Homeland‘s fifth season.

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