How Arab Artists Trolled Homeland Writers on Their Very Own Show
Keep an eye out for subversive graffiti clandestinely left around the hit TV show’s sets.
"Homeland is racist" reads the graffiti on an episode that aired earlier this week.
Homeland, the very popular Showtime drama featuring Claire Danes as a rogue CIA agent performing counter-terrorism operations in the Middle East and the U.S., has been subject to much criticism for its depictions of its Arab and Muslim characters. When, last summer, a group of Arab artists in Berlin were contacted by Homeland set designers to help make one of their sets, a Syrian refugee camp in Lebnanon, look more authentic with Arabic anti-regime graffiti, they agreed—but they splayed the walls with anti-Homeland graffiti instead, attempting, they said, to “subvert” the show’s message.
The artists— Heba Amin, Caram Kapp and Stone, who comprise a group called Arabian Street Artists— adorned the Homeland set with Arabic graffiti that read “Homeland is racist” and “Homeland is not a show”. They were originally commissioned to graffiti “apolitical” messages, although they were given images of Syrian pro-Assad graffiti to use as an example. Their
The episode in which their graffiti appears aired earlier this week, visible as Danes’ character, Carrie, walks through the refugee camp. How did the renegade artists, get away with it? The artists write:
“The set decoration had to be completed in two days, for filming on the third. 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.”
Just last year, writer Laura Durkay published a scathing critique of the show in the Washington Post, calling Homeland the most bigoted show on television, accusing the makers of “carelessly trafficking in absurd and damaging stereotypes”. Rolling Stone called it “the left wing’s favorite right-wing propaganda”. Laila Al-Arian wrote for Salon that the show “demonstrated ad nauseam that anyone marked as “Muslim” by race or creed can never be trusted”. Homeland’s creators may have been able to avoid confronting these criticisms in the past, but now they mark the very walls of their show’s set.