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.