Nothing about Showtime’s critical darling “Homeland” excuses its reductive and biased portrayal of Muslisms as perpetual terrorists or victims—not its criticism of American foreign policy, not its powerful and acclaimed performances, nothing.
This criticism of the show was in the heads of acclaimed graffiti artists Heba Amin, Caram Kapp and Stone when the show commissioned them to help make an abandoned building complex in Germany look like a Syrian refugee camp. As the artists said in a statement on Amin’s website, they wanted to use the opportunity to make a point about the show’s racial and ethnic bias:
At the beginning of June 2015, we received a phone call from a friend who has been active in the graffiti and street art scene in Germany for the past 30 years and has researched graffiti in the Middle East extensively. He had been contacted by “Homeland’s” set production company who were looking for “Arabian street artists” to lend graffiti authenticity to a film set of a Syrian refugee camp on the Lebanese/Syrian border for their new season. Given the series’ reputation we were not easily convinced, until we considered what a moment of intervention could relay about our own and many others’ political discontent with the series. It was our moment to make our point by subverting the message using the show itself.
The result, as seen on brilliant display in this week’s episode, is a lot of Arab-language graffiti critical of the show, reading “Homeland is NOT a series,” ”#BlackLivesMatter,” and “Homeland is racist,” among other critical slogans that stand in defiance of the show’s message.
The statement further explained the circumstances under which they could get away with such a large-scale deception—namely, producers’ ignorance and preoccupation with other details:
Set designers were too frantic to pay any attention to us; they were busy constructing a hyper-realistic set that addressed everything from the plastic laundry pins to the frayed edges of outdoor plastic curtains. It looked very Middle Eastern and the summer sun and heat helped heighten that illusion. The content of what was written on the walls, however, was of no concern. 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. The show has thus created a chain of causality with Arabs at its beginning and as its outcome—their own victims and executioners at the same time. As was briefly written on the walls of a make-believe Syrian refugee camp in a former Futterphosphatfabrik (animal feed plant) in the outskirts of Berlin, the situation is not to be trusted—الموضوع فيه أن.
Click here to read the artists’ statement in full.
(H/t The Guardian)