Monday, October 3, 2011

Is it Okay to Watch Homeland?

Showtime unveiled its new show Homeland last night to rave reviews.

I watched it, and enjoyed it, but I'm not sure I'm comfortable watching it.

Claire Danes plays Carrie Mathison, a CIA agent with a personal secret that could ruin her career. Carrie receives a message that an American prisoner of war (POW) has been "turned". Damian Lewis plays Sgt. Nicholas Brody, a presumed dead POW that was recently found-- the only known living American POW. Carrie immediately assumes Brody is the American turncoat and secretly has Brody's house bugged and rigged with video cameras. Through the episode new information comes to light that forces the viewer to question what they have seen as things aren't always as they seem as Brody tries to re-assimilate into family life. It's a gripping drama, to say the least.

My problem with it is that I'm not sure I want to support its being made at all. Like I said before, I love Showtime's shows (The Big C and Mental Illness), and this one is no exception-- but should this story be being told now?

After the success of Schindler's List Holocaust movies became popular. Then came Titanic and Saving Private Ryan and Forrest Gump and Pearl Harbor. Only 5 years after September 11 World Trade Center came out.

I didn't see World Trade Center, nor do I want to. I'm not a big Nicholas Cage fan, and I think the powers that be in Hollywood were preying on our nation's still-raw nerves. It was too, too soon. At that point we didn't need perspective, we didn't need to see what it was like to live through that day-- we remembered. It's been 10 years and I still remember the necklace I was wearing (My September 11, 2001). It's not like a generation had passed and our children were wondering what happened, or even several generations where 9/11 would have been a distant memory that people were vaguely curious about, like Titanic. World Trade Center served no purpose other than to make money.

So what makes Homeland any different? The angle of a POW returning home after 8 years is interesting (even though Brady's children seem to barely notice), and having him see how things have changed at the house and in his relationship with his wife (who'd recently begun seeing someone else), but Brothers did that.

Come to think of it, so far all of Brody's traumas are those that Tobey Maguire's character suffered in Brothers.

Homeland adds the CIA element, which, while interesting, is so far about the abuses of power committed by Carrie and her mysterious but extremely powerful friend (boss/coworker?) Saul, played by Mandy Patinkin.

It's all hitting a little too close to home.

And if the show succeeds, can we expect more in this vein? The day after the next tragedy are people going to start casting?

It takes the art out of the production, the grace. It's no longer storytelling, it's babbling for money. Writers watching the news and spitting out a story, not taking the time or making the effort to show the audience something unique.

Film is such a powerful medium, but Hollywood is killing it with its greed. Endless sequels and remakes and formulas-- sucking the passion and originality out of everything. Writers are worthless-- who cares what your book was actually about? Yeah, I'm looking at you The Other Boleyn Girl and My Sister's Keeper. Directors are only allowed to follow their heart when they've proven they can make money by following Hollywood's rules, and even then they're on a leash.

And yeah Homeland is good, it plays your emotions like a fiddle: breaking you down, building you up and leaving you wanting more, but does that make it good?

All of this together still leaves me with the question: is it okay to watch Homeland?

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