Thursday, October 25th, 2012

The Least Fun Criticism of "Homeland" Ever

You know I love me some cultural studies wonkery. And yet sometimes it goes a bit off the rails! The incredibly esteemed Joseph Massad, of Columbia, may maintain a tricky position against the creation of "the homosexual" as a class in the "Arab world" (quite complicated backstory here, but, for a less nuanced take, "gayness as identity is Western and therefore colonialist, so we shouldn't support people there who choose to identify as gay even when they are, you know, getting murdered by state actors"), but his work overall is brilliant.

But also he is now revealed as the least fun TV critic OF ALL TIME, as he has now taken on "Homeland." He's… likely right in general? (Though that he always refers to the Jewish CIA agent as "the Jewish Berenson" is, uh….) So, how unfun is it? Well there's this: "The second season opens with Goebbels-like propaganda." Hee! And: "The racialist structure of the show is reflective of American and Israeli fantasies of anti-Muslim American multiculturalism." (I mean, TRUE.) He makes fun of WHITE TERRORIST Brody's accent in Arabic, comparing it to Benjamin Netanyahu's. And then….

At some point during his capture, the Al-Qaida leader, a man named Abu Nazir (sometimes pronounced by different characters as Abu Nasir though it is most likely Abu Nadhir), puts him in charge of educating his 10 year-old son who is strangely named “Aisa,” which is not an Arabic name at all and is most likely an Israeli corruption of the common Arabic name ‘Isa, meaning “Jesus”! Indeed, as Abu Nazir is the major Bin Ladenesque villain on the show, the producers should have spent an extra $100 to have an Arab consultant tell them that the name of “Abu Nazir” itself means “father of Nazir,” Nazir being his eldest son, so that they would refrain from making the elementary and laughable mistake of referring to “Abu” as his first name and “Nazir” as his last name! Lest you think Israeli anti-Palestinianism is absent from the show, the second season’s first episode reveals to us that Abu Nazir is indeed Palestinian!

Ha, well, yeah.

BUT in a bizarre twist, he ends on this:

Since autobiography is what informs Obama’s taste in television shows, as a half-black president who always reminded the (white) public that he was raised by his white mother and her family, one can safely bet that his favorite television shows growing up must have been “Different Strokes” [SIC] and “Webster.”

Man. Talk about trashing your whole case on the way out. Given that Obama started college in 1979, and "Diff'rent Strokes" only started airing in 1978, while "Webster" didn't even begin airing until 1983—the year Obama graduated Columbia!—I can safely rebut that.

20 Comments / Post A Comment

I don't know about all of the rest of it, but the stuff about the son's name is just wrong. It was spelled "Issa", which I was pretty sure was in the show (maybe in subtitles or something), and it is spelled that way in IMDB.

fried mars bar (#3,055)

@major disaster Yeah, I always heard the characters as saying "Eessa"

I also don't remember them ever referring to Abu Nazir as "Abu," though it's possible they have. I think they have called him "Nazir."

Anonymoose (#235,202)

@major disaster What's even more frustrating about that is that many people in AQ and other terrorist organizations go by psuedonyms, see e.g. Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki of Al Shabaab, taken on for the purpose of identification inside the organization and not their actual name. That's pretty clearly what they're doing with Abu Nazir.
I've read the links provided; I have no clue why Sicha thinks this guy is brilliant. Perhaps useful in that he's against the dominant paradigm, but his work as represented here is derivative and hacktastic and not founded in any understanding of history as it occurred. Others are doing what he does, and better.
Moreover, if his review of Homeland is even the slightest indication of his actual work he's got so many virulent unacknowledged biases that his work negates itself.

@major disaster Ooh these are very good points.

This work, to be sure, is PRETTY DARN TERRIBLE. (His "academic work" though is rewarding!) But… yeah. Woof.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

Well, if you really want to be no fun, you could say that the show is so xenophobic that in its world "terrorism" is not even an ideology (as opposed to a strategy), but apparently an infectious disease that people can contract by living in middle east and then bring it here with them.

Anonymoose (#235,202)

@Niko Bellic Sure, if you want to pull a Massad and shoehorn in whatever interpretations you need to prove that unfounded point while ignoring the much greater evidence that the show's point is how stupid that worldview is.

I mean, Homeland has it's issues but hot damn it doesn't deserve this.

@Niko Bellic It isn't??? (JK.) I mean one thing I LIKE about "Homeland" is the idea that you could change your point of view so radically. (Well, to be radicalized.) I mean, what do you think most Americans would do if drones were killing their favorite kids? Knowing Americans, they'd be flying planes into IRS buildings.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@Anonymoose Per Homeland, the Soviets had that shit figured out: anyone who gets captured by the enemy, upon being released or rescued gets sent straight to Gulags – just to be safe. Stupid US instead promotes such people into heroes, which worked great in the wars of the past (even Vietnam where we were really the bad guys, and the potential for soldiers turning was much greater), but not with this one. Middle east is a whole lot scarier, because there is some shit there that has the power of turn our soldiers into anti-American zombies.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@Choire Sicha@facebook IRS buildings – exactly. Because everyone already hates the IRS, this would just give them an excuse. To use an example of something I'm familiar with: when US bombs were wrecking collateral damage in Serbia, some Serbs raged against US, but still many raged against Milosevic (and overthrew him the next year). So, I don't think that rage makes you turn, I think it merely makes you become more radical in what you've already believed in.

But look, I'd be fine with this show taking a different view on that if it just cared enough to give it more than a lip service. Getting "Issa" right is far less important in Homeland than getting the various streets and interest points in DC called correctly.

Anonymoose (#235,202)

@Niko Bellic Good shoehorning!

Your "[SIC]" indicating Massad's improper reference to "Diff'rent Strokes" is quite possibly my favorite editorial correction, anywhere, ever.

jfruh (#713)

@Setec Astrology yes this I come to give all the up-fists in words I can since I can only give one in up-fist form

Massad seems to think that blowing up the VP (and self, and others) in revenge for the death of a surrogate son is Sane and Sensible but not killing yourself and others for the sake of an actual daughter is pathological. And he's clearing up our misconceptions how?

Furthermore such a pathology would be Electral (or even Agamemnal) not Oedipal if it were anything other than sound parenting, which it isn't. But I wouldn't expect a TV critic to know that.

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

We all know Obama was raised on Sanford and Son.

Haha, "The Jewish Berenson." It will be even funnier when we find out that Saul Berenson is not his real name.

@Lindsay Robertson Rockwell Stonington IV

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

Basically, you are all for critical theory until it is applied to the ethnic group that you happen to identify with.

Matt Cornell (#8,797)

So is there a critique of HOMELAND that isn't problematic? Because that show is hella right wing & Islamophobic. It's basically the Obama-era 24.

Snood (#238,940)

I'm surprised no one called bullshit on Massad for the Sesame Street reference. It's an urban legend:

Irvine Jay@facebook (#239,105)

This article is full of boloney. First, I grew up in an Arabic country, and Aissa (spell it however you want in English, it's Arabic, as long as the phonetics works) is a fairly common male first name, especially within the Suni population. Second, anyone who says the show is racist has only read the Cliff notes and hasn't really been following the series. Sure it depicts Americans who says racist things at times, but they also show someone telling them their behavior or attitude is stupid or racist. The show is far from islamophobic.

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