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“The world is more complex, and our understanding of it is more nuanced.” Translation: “America’s not as single-minded and gung-ho anymore about taking down the enemy as it was under Bush immediately after 9/11.” Hollywood, never enthusiastic about the war on terror anyway (until bin Laden died on Obama’s watch; stay tuned for a film about Seal Team Six from The Hurt Locker filmmakers), often disdains “simplistic” depictions of right and wrong, of unconflicted heroism or unadulterated evil. Many filmmakers prefer to present the world in terms of, not black-and-white, but gray – “a gray space of not knowing who the good guys and bad guys are.” As actor Lewis says, Homeland is “asking provocative questions about the nature of good and evil.” Beware when Hollywood gets “provocative” about the nature of good and evil; the moral waters often get muddied and the wrong messages get sent – in this instance, about a war in which we are still very deeply engaged.
Is that what’s happening with Homeland? Is the show playing out in the usual morally relativistic Hollywood fashion regarding the war on terror: blaming American foreign policy for Islamic rage, dismissing national security concerns as paranoia, depicting our military yet again as damaged victims (as in contemporary anti-war films like Home of the Brave, In the Valley of Elah, Brothers, and Stop-Loss)?
Some of the signs aren’t good: for example, the military figures in Homeland, Brody included, aren’t exactly upstanding role models, and Carrie’s invasive, quasi-legal surveillance could be seen as a condemnation of what some consider excesses of the Patriot Act. But thanks to tight, evocative writing and pitch-perfect acting from even the supporting actors like Mandy Patinkin as Carrie’s CIA mentor, the first two episodes have so carefully treaded the minefield of such concerns, keeping the viewer off-balance, that it’s impossible to condemn it outright – or to stop watching. Like Brody’s guilt or innocence, it seems Homeland’s true colors will take time to emerge.
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