Bad Mom (Homeland Rewatch S3.09-S3.12)

Carrie Matthison is not a character that fits very neatly into any major female media “type.” She is crude, unapologetic, and unabashedly defies common depictions of femininity. Although her presence in and movement through male dominated spaces does not come without some push back within the narrative space, the first couple of seasons of Homeland do a great job in presenting a complex and non-traditional female heroine. The third season of Homeland becomes an interesting test case in how to present a non-traditional woman like Carrie when she becomes pregnant and will, ultimately, take on one of the most common female roles, that of “mother.” This week, I would like to look a bit at the way that Carrie’s impending motherhood is treated.

Episode nine deals with the aftermath of Carrie’s defiance in the previous episode. She wakes up in the hospital after being treated for the gunshot wound that Quinn delivered to her in an attempt to stop Carrie from derailing a mission. In this hospital scene, Carrie has an interaction with a male doctor. He asks Carrie if she is aware of her pregnancy. She answers in the affirmative and the doctor seems upset that Carrie has failed to inquire about the status of the fetus. He tells her, without her asking, that the “baby should be fine, in case [she’s] wondering.” carrie pregnant 1My readers are welcome to disagree, but this remark from the doctor sounds a bit condescending and judgmental. Clearly, there are very strict cultural ideas about what a mother should act like and how she should feel about her child, and Carrie’s dismissal of these norms seems to rub people the wrong way. It is interesting to note here how this interaction with a male doctor is quite different than only a few episodes earlier in which Carrie interacts with a female doctor and admits to heavy alcohol use in the weeks leading up to her appointment. The female doctor offers a more empathetic response to Carrie’s situation.

Carrie is also receiving tremendous pressure from her family to keep her baby. In the last episode of the season, Carrie is visited by both her sister and father. They have hand-me-down baby gear to offer Carrie to get her ready for the child’s arrival. Carrie admits that she is not sure she can keep the baby. This is understandable, as she has just received a hefty promotion and will be moving half way around the world. One can imagine that it would be hard enough being a single parent as it is, let alone attempting to be a single parent in a foreign country and away from a viable support system. Additionally, Carrie has proven throughout the first three seasons that her work is her first priority. Caring for a child would ultimately challenge the way Carrie has always prioritized her job above all else. However, her father likens her decision to that of her mother, painting any decision Carrie makes that includes giving up the child as selfish and wrong. Carrie’s father’s comments are reminiscent of a more cultural  backlash against women who choose childlessness. For women, often it is assumed that becoming a mother is an inevitability and for those who fail to comply, there are many willing to voice their dissatisfaction regarding this form of feminine dissent. Women can also experience feelings of unnaturalness or failing as a result of not reaching certain culturally defined feminine milestones.

Carrie’s sister is not necessarily any better. She tells Carrie that she feels like a baby will ground her, as though a baby is some magical answer to all of Carrie’s unbalanced behavior. Carrie pregnant 2This reasoning, in some ways, seems antithetical to her sister’s premise. For Carrie, who has traditionally struggled with self care for her mental health, it would seem that bringing a child into the picture might, inevitably, cause more personal chaos. However, Carrie’s sister, a mother herself, seems to naturally balance career, children, and home life. Unfortunately for Carrie, her sister does not seem to realize that she may be pushing her own internalized “norm” which views women as innevitable mothers onto her sister, rather than considering what Carrie really wants.

Because I know what happens with this situation, I will end here and refrain from spoiling anything for my readers and classmates who are going through their first viewing of the series. However, I will say that we are in for some interesting viewing in the coming weeks (and seasons) of the show.


8 thoughts on “Bad Mom (Homeland Rewatch S3.09-S3.12)

  1. Good post! I agree with you 100%! I had the same thoughts about the male doctor when he told Carrie that her baby is healthy “in case you were wondering”. I remember commenting on one of my earlier posts the contrast between Maggie and Carrie and I can only imagine those contrasts will come even more into focus as we view the remaining seasons now that Carrie is a mother.

    I will say it did bother me when Carrie smoked that one cigarette while pregnant, especially when she wasn’t a smoker previously. I can only assume the writers of Homeland used that scene to foreshadow her ambivalence toward motherhood? I also wonder what the backlash from fans would have been if Carrie decided to get an abortion instead of carrying her daughter to term?


  2. Marilyn
    I was curious to see the reactions especially from female classmates in how Carrie is pressured into motherhood. I thought it was strange the dad offered to pitch in considering he is more of hindrance than a helper. I thought Maggie use of the word “ground” could be taken as a punishment for getting pregnant or backlash for being with Brody in the first place. I find it interesting that both the and Peter can tell Carrie has no desire to have a child, yet Peter tells her that one of his biggest regrets is not being involved. I have no idea how the writers are going to work in this aspect of Carrie’s life.


  3. How much can Carrie change and still remain the same old Carrie? Is the audience interested in following Carrie Mathison around the changing table? I think you may have been the one to talk about Carrie’s inability to “have it all” in a previous blog post. This is really going to bring that to the fore and, as you know, the Carrie-baby plot becomes a focal point throughout the next several seasons, and the show has to make some interesting choices to sustain Carrie as the active, CIA-type while balancing some semblance of home life. In fact, we will even see that Carrie has to make a choice between her child and the agency…a choice she then has to make OVER AND OVER again. I’m really interested to hear your take on this moving forward.


  4. Interesting to contrast the male and female doctors’ reactions, although in the real world, I could imagine a female doctor being just as unsympathetic. We go all gooey when we think about baby rights. In that same real world lots of childless couples are desperate to find an infant to adopt (particularly, unfortunately, a white baby). So I think Homeland is kind of courageous in taking on this question of whether Carrie can be a mother and “have it all.” Insofar as her previous life was never very realistic, I doubt there’s any objective way to judge what’s about to happen. I think Claire Danes understands her character well enough to insist that the show not make Carrie into an overly maternal figure. We know the character has no role model in her own family, other than her sister. It will be interesting.


  5. I also wrote about Carrie’s pregnancy but I enjoy your take on it. I did feel rather annoyed about how they were treating Carrie about her response to being pregnant. As many feminist will point out, a child does not make a woman. With or without this child Carrie still is a successful female (sorta). The fact that people expect women to be overjoyed about being pregnant is ridiculous, because *gasp* not all women want kids. I would think that with Carrie’s previous behavior people would think it is best for the baby to be given away to a family that wants and will care for them


  6. How much do the show’s politics play into Carrie’s decisions is what I’m wondering. To clarify, do you think there would be a hesitancy for the showrunners to have Carrie give the baby up for adoption or exercise her Constitutional right to be pro-choice in fear of alienating viewers who do not see that as a viable or albeit moral option? I have a feeling this is an issue Homeland probably wants to jump around in favor of other struggles but I don’t know. Also, even though Brody is “gone”, it’s not forever as her child will eventually want to know about their father so there’s that as well. I’m excited to see how all of this play out.


  7. I appreciate your insights in this post! I think the point Carrie brings up about wanting a “part” of Brody was a telling one. I don’t think Carrie necessarily feels compelled to be a mother, but the idea of either terminating the pregnancy or putting the baby up for adoption seems emotionally impossible (considering the fact that Brody is now dead.) I think it’s also interesting that Carrie’s father offers to adopt the child, when he struggles with the same illness as Carrie (and to my knowledge, still lives with Maggie.) It seems as though he is also a little overly optimistic about the idea that having a child will “ground you.” I have to say that I’ve seen people (either family members or acquaintances from high school,) who have a child as a result of an unplanned pregnancy, and there seems to be this belief that becoming a parent will inherently change you (to the point where you don’t have to modify your lifestyle in any way.)
    I like that you pointed out the reactions from the female and male doctors. In response to Dr. Chown’s comment, I would say that I think a female doctor may or may not be more sympathetic– it depends. However, I don’t think the female doctor in the show necessarily lets Carrie off the hook. She is sympathetic to her feelings, but still insists that if she is going to have the child, she needs to make serious lifestyle changes (and not wait till the baby is born for this to happen.) Also- from personal experience, I have to say that I have had positive and negative experiences with both female and male doctors; but I had a male doctor recently who was obsessed with reminding me that I can’t stay on my current medications were I to become pregnant. He didn’t seem phased by my insistence that I have no interest in becoming pregnant any time in the near future. So… the assumption of motherhood for women is certainly a very tangible reality.


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