Although I admit that I have spent quite a lot of time focusing on the women of Homeland during my time writing through this Homeland rewatch project, I think it is important to understand how a show like this one deals with a strong female lead protagonist and how this protagonist aligns not only with other women in media, but also with other women within the show. As a result, I will be taking up this topic again this week as it relates to the strong comparisons that are coming up between both Carrie and Jessica in the first episode of the third season.
Season three, episode one creates some strong parallels between both Carrie and Jessica. Where these characters, in past episodes, have stood largely as contrasting feminine entities, this particular episode is keen to illustrate the similarities that exist between these two women’s lives. This is important because even in Carrie’s masculinized characterization, she is more fully being understood as a maternal figure through these paralells with Jessica. Perhaps Carrie has never given birth (at least at this point in the series), but her instincts and reactions to ills inflicted upon her home(land) and those within it are easily understood to align with the reactions of maternal figures particularly as her story begins to take on such close ties with the main (literal) mother-figure within the story.
In this first episode both Jessica and Carrie are dealing with the aftermath of violence in their homes (Carrie’s being the metaphorical “home” in the form of the “homeland” and Jessica, her literal home). Dana attempted suicide after Brody’s “confession” tape was released to the public, meaning that Jessica has been left to pick up the pieces and rebuild her home (quite literally in that she was forced to renovate her bathroom to remove the blood stains that resulted from Dana’s suicide attempt), and Carrie, on the other hand, is dealing with the trauma of having experienced a bombing at Langley.
Within this episode, both of these women are shown to have failed to live up to the western expectation of mothers who “lovingly [anticipate] and [meet] the child’s every need” (Bassin 2-3). Each of these characters has failed to anticipate the degree of protection needed to save their charges from experiencing any harm. As a result, each of these characters is depicted as a mother (or a “mother,” in Carrie’s case) who is experiencing the guilt of having “missed” the signs that these traumatic events were about to take place in their respective “homes” and not taking the necessary steps to prevent them from happening at all.
In her hearing, Carrie admits that Abu Nazir outsmarted her and the guilt from this failure is one from from which she will never recover. This sentiment is immediately followed by a shot at Langley that simultaneously depicts the wreckage from Nazir’s attack and stands as a symbol for the destruction that the bombing has had on the CIA and the “homeland,” in general. Although Saul and Carrie are attempting to put their house back in order, it is clear that there is doubt as to the efficacy of the agency. The following scene reiterates this disintegration through Carrie’s loss of control in her hearing and resurfacing manifestations of her bipolar disorder.
Jessica on the other hand, has to be told by Dana’s doctor that she “missed” the signs that her daughter was contemplating self harm, causing Jessica to experience a similar degree of maternal guilt. In addition, with the loss of Brody and his military benefits, Jessica is struggling to reenvision a way forward for both herself and her children. Even though she has taken on the role of single parent in the past, this current iteration of the role lacks the financial security that it came with before. In addition to the financial woes, Jessica is continuing to lose control of Dana and is even ceding some control of her own home over to her mother.
But what does all this mean? Although Carrie has arguably been likened (albeit loosely) to a “mother” figure in the past, these parallel experiences between Carrie and Jessica really drive that point home (pun mostly intended). Although Carrie is often seen as a very different kind of female protagonist, I am curious how my readers feel about the fact that this paralleling of Carrie’s character effectively brings her back into the realm of a typical female media type. Does this change how we should view her character? I am not necessarily convinced that it should, but I am curious to know the thoughts of others.
Bassin, Donna, Margaret Honey, and Meryle Mahrer Kaplan. “Introduction.” Representations of Motherhood. Eds. Donna Bassin, Margaret Honey, and Meryle Mahrer Kaplan. New Haven: Yale UP, 1994.
7 thoughts on “The Mother Type (Homeland Rewatch S3.01-S3.04)”
When I think about the way in which Carrie has approached interrogations show us that she can utilize both sides of her feminine identity i.e. more intense and masculinized with the Saudi diplomat but caring and understanding with Roya Hammad. In addition, will Mike’s presence change Dana’s approach in any way?
You made a very interesting analogy. I noticed in Season Two, the manner that Carrie interrogated Brody. It was more “feminine”, in that she was gentile, calm, and relied on emotional appeal to draw out a confession from Brody. She tried to appeal to Roya as a woman (by trying to appeal to her by discussing bad romantic relationships) when she was interrogated her. While I did not make the same connection between Carrie and Jessica while watching the first four episodes of Season Three, I understand what you are asking. Personally, I don’t think this will change the way I view her character, but then again I never thought Carrie had some masculine traits.
Marilyn you address and bring up an interesting comparison between Carrie and Jessica. I thought it was interesting in how they were handling/coping with the aftermath differently, yet very similarly. It had to be difficult for Jessica to ask Carrie for help. I thought it was interesting how various government agencies treated Jessica even though she had nothing to do with the bombing.
I wonder if the show will continue to focus on Jessica or will it turn to focus and introduce new characters.
I’m not sure how far this brings Carrie back to the “typical female media” type, especially since she is contiguously experiencing external punishment from the government in an extensively classified operation. This makes her fit much more closely to a typically masculine character-type, one that is on the furthermost “inside” of a dangerous government operation. She is, likewise, presented in, by Hollywood standards, un-flattering ways for a female character in her dress, actions, and even speech (think of the big “f-you Saul” after being drugged up in the clinic). So, I’m not sure Carrie’s “mothering” of the homeland brings her very far back into normalized female media portrayal territory, if at all.
That was very interesting, but as I was watching these four episodes I felt stronger parallels between Carrie and two other characters. First, Dana has this rather dangerous sexual liaison with Leo that is threatening to her stability and his–isn’t that a parallel to Carrie’s dangerous liaison with Brody? But more strongly, I felt a parallel between Carrie and Brody. They are both dealing with substances that threaten to take them over: Carrie the meds she is given at the hospital, Brody the opium/heroin/whatever that the pederast doctor is trying to hook him on. They are both in captivity, Carrie the hospital, Brody the slums. They are both subject to unfair public scrutiny via the press, Congress, their co-workers. I feel like Jessica is fading as a sub-plot, e.g. we don’t really know what her relationship with Mike is now, the mother just kind of appears out of the blue. Jessica also seems much more self-contained that the frenetic Carrie. Certainly, though, this show is about different layers and feelings connected with femininity.
I really enjoyed this post! You draw some interesting comparisons between the two characters. I personally felt more similarities between Dana and Carrie, but I like your approach to these four episodes. While I agree with your point that there is something “maternal,” about Carrie, I still don’t think that Carrie fits into a stereotypical female portrayal. But that’s part of what makes her character interesting and complex. She contains a lot of the contradictions of what it means to be female.
Even though it seems that Carrie and Jessica have failed or haven’t reached the expectations of a mother, I don’t think of it negatively. Honestly their mistakes and missed perceptions while dealing with their own lives show that they are just human like everyone else. Everyone makes mistakes. Yes their mistakes led to some rather dire and stronger consequences, but still everyone makes it. With everything else they were dealing with is it no surprise that they might have missed something?