Season two is already off to an exciting start. We have both Brody and Carrie starting season two, episode one acclimating to new lives, only to have their newly found comfort disrupted by forces from their respective pasts. Each of them is pulled back into the fold of their previous lives and must navigate how this return of the past can feasibly co-mingle with their current lives. Although I could go on in some detail about the interesting parallels of Brody and Carrie and their struggles in navigating the clash of their past and present lives, I was actually much more intrigued this week by the representation of and cooperation among women in these episodes. There appears to be a strong indication that a “community of women” can work together to get things done. Where men, within the show, are often indicated as the instigators or performers of foreign relation faux pas, women (Carrie in particular) are often found to be the ones who take charge and clean things up. However, as empowering as these moments of female commeraderie are, there are still questions that should be asked related to how these moments can be read and if they are as positive as they actually seem.
When Fatima Ali, an asset that Carrie recruited (and also the wife of a Hezzbollah commander) surfaces with information for American intelligence agencies related to Abu Nazir, she refuses to speak with Saul when Carrie is no longer in a position to speak with her. The second episode of season two opens in a female prayer room, where Fatima is performing her Friday morning prayers. Carrie connects with her assets here. This is clearly a place where male agents would have been grossly out of place. It is precisely Carrie’s unquestioned presence in this female place of worship that begins to suggest that Carrie’s gender provides her a certain degree of access that someone like Saul or other male agents would not (and did not) have with this asset. Additionally, Carrie’s connection with Fatima is said to be largely centered on her assisting Fatima through an incredibly abusive domestic situation. After all, Carrie insists that she “practically saved her life” and that she was absolutely certain that this act would pay off in the long run.
Fatima’s act of defying her husband to help Carrie is similar to an event that happens in season one. After the Mosque shooting, where two innocent muslims’ lives were taken, Carrie visits the Imam, hoping he might be able and willing to provide information regarding Tom Walker’s whereabouts and his activities at their mosque. However, it is not the Imam that ends up helping Carrie, it is his wife (Zahira), in something of an act of defiance. She does not want her husband or anyone to know that she met with Carrie to pass on information, but Zahira is protective of her people and wants to help settle the growing animosity between the muslim community and the rest of the world. When she meets with Carrie, she references a piece of the conversation that Carrie had with her and her husband, saying that she “understands what [Carrie] said about [the] country, the knife edge it is on,” alluding to the rising tensions and the balancing act of attempting to lessen that tension. Interestingly, this interaction is one that rests on Carrie’s gendered access. When she visits the Imam in his home, he is not allowed to be alone with Carrie and, as a result, his wife also sits in on their conversation. Zahira recognizes that Carrie wanted her in the room to hear her plea for information, which prompts Zahira to contact Carrie without her husband’s knowledge.
Where women (particularly Carrie with other Muslim women) in this show are seen as “behind the scenes” rectifiers of male created chaos, these relationships that Carrie forms are not without their share of criticism. Carrie’s “saving” of Fatima and taking advantage of the gender specific rules to appeal to Zahira are seen by some as iterations of the white savior complex, whereby Carrie is there to rescue these women or show them the “light” of western gender ideals. Alex Bevan, for example, points out that in representing Carrie in relation to Muslim women in this way, the show Homeland prioritizes western feminist ideas and allows Carrie to remedy their situation with her “superior” western ideology.
Jessica is another interesting case study for this week’s episodes. She is beginning to come under the wing and influence of Vice President Walden’s wife (Cynthia). These women come together to throw a fundraiser for veterans. Although Brody is supposed to give a keynote, Jessica ends up having to take on the task when he ends up MIA as a result of a flat tire/taking care of Abu Nazir’s bomb-maker. Jessica’s speech suggest the importance of supporting women and their families, that perhaps, had she (as a wife) been supported and been more prepared for Brody’s return home, she could have done a better job in handling the challenges that accompanied him. This reply receives a very positive response from the socialites and soldiers alike that are in attendance. By virtue of cozying up with Walden’s wife, Jessica is beginning to find a purpose outside of her own home. However, even this can be understood to have some consequences. Walden’s family is undeniably a part of the DC elite and Cynthia’s influence on Jessica is starting to become all consuming. For example, when Jessica finds out that Dana accused Brody of being a Muslim (and his subsequent confession that it is true), her reactions are largely a respnse to how his conversion will “look” and how it might affect her (and their family’s) ability to be seen among the DC elite.
There is clearly a lot of good that can come out of these female partnerships, but they also call up questions as to who is benefitting from them and at what cost. Jessica is succumbing to the negative qualities of classicism while Carrie is reifying ideas related to western “superiority.”
Bevan, Alex. “The National Body, Women, and Mental Health in Homeland.” In Focus. 54.4 (2015). 145-51.