There were more exciting twists and turns this week as we wrap up season two of Homeland. Abu Nazir is finally dead, Brody is surely having some severe home-movie regrets, and Carrie falls back into her usual pattern of prioritizing work over all else. Carrie’s decision is, in fact, what I would like to focus on this week. Carrie always seems to have to make the choice between family and career (she essentially did this at the beginning of the season as well) but what does that say about Homeland and its relation to feminism?
After Brody tells Carrie that he is “all in,” she lets him know that she is going to need a bit of time to consider his offer. Carrie’s job is essentially her whole life at this point. After Brody gas-lit her last season into thinking she was crazy and Carrie getting kicked out of the CIA, she had to earn her way back into the agency even after evidence proved she was right about Brody’s terrorist ties all along. As early as season one, she reflects with Saul, realizing that her job is one that will relegate her to perpetual loneliness. The demand of her job and her steadfast commitment to it is unlikely to allow her to find a partner that will put up with continually coming second place to her career. It is not necessarily what she wants, but she lives with this reality. The depiction of Saul’s strained marriage in season one works well to highlight the legitimacy of this point and serves to justify Carrie’s choice to avoid romantic commitments. Like Saul, Carrie is steadfastly committed to her career, but unlike him seems resolved to suffer the single life that is inevitably tied to that choice.
For women in film, the conflict that emerges between family and career often come to a head, disallowing a female protagonist from having the best of both worlds. This has often been the case for Carrie and, with Brody finally leaving his family, Carrie is presented with the option to choose a “normal” family life with the man she has come to love. However, it is made clear that choosing Brody means abandoning the career to which she has been so unabashedly faithful. There is no way for Carrie to stay with the CIA while simultaneously bedding a reformed Al-Qaeda sympathizer and collaborator.
Near the end of season 2, episode 12, Carrie has resolved to abandon her career and commit fully to a relationship with Brody. However, her plan to pursue a relationship with Brody becomes thwarted once Langley is rocked by a bomb blast that originates from Brody’s car and Brody’s suicide tape is released to the media. Although Carrie believes Brody to be innocent and ultimately assists him in escaping the U.S. before the authorities can bring him in, she leaves Brody in his pursuit for the Canadian border and reveals that she no longer feels that she can abandon her job, which will need her now more than ever.
Homeland appears to be perpetuating the female centered myth that women cannot “have it all.” Carrie’s choice to to be with Brody and then her complete reversal of that decision seems to indicate that there is no possible compromise between these competing factors. Although Homeland empowers its main character to be abrasive and a “force of nature” within a largely male environment (i.e. The CIA), promise of a feminist friendly character, at least in some ways, seems to come up a bit short. After all, was it not some of the bigger feminist names that called for a better balance between home and career *(e.g. Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique)?
I might be writing a different kind of analysis here if it were Carrie’s only desire to work and have no kind of family life, however that is not the case. The audience of Homeland is made aware from season one that Carrie does, in fact, have some sense of yearning for, or at least a sadness of the impossibility of, the presence of a long-term romantic entanglement. What is it that seems to make this balance so difficult for women in media?
To be fair, there is perhaps at least something positive to be said about the way that Carrie resolves the conflict at the end of season two. Although the western narrative ideal tends to include a heteronormative “pairing off,” Carrie rejects this in favor of her career. However, that does not mean that her inability to create a balance between her two desires is not still somewhat problematic. There should be no reason that having a career should mean “spinsterhood” just as having a relationship should not mean a sentence that equates to living as “just” a housewife.
Although this topic may need to be revisited once this rewatch project gets around to later seasons, at least for now, this seemingly progressive show still appears to toe the common line in demonstrating that women still cannot have it all no matter how bad-ass they are or how much their patriotism might warrant it.