Deputing in October of 2011, the television series, Homeland has been in the spotlight for a variety of topics over the past two years. In its first season, critical acclaim was given to this drama/thriller series that is based off an Israeli series, entitled Hatufim (Prisoners of War). This first season earned the hit series the 2012 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama, and the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor and Lead Actress. This past September was the premiere of its second season, and just within the past two weeks the renewal of the series for a third season was solidified. With all of these positives being the past reasons Homeland was the topic of discussion, the tides have now started to turn to a more controversial discussion on a global scale.
“Militants carrying assault weapons clear the area around a street, shouting in Arabic for people to get out of the way. A jeep pulls up: The world’s No. 1 jihadi has arrived for a meeting with top Hezbollah commanders. On rooftops, U.S. snipers crouch unseen, the kingpin in their crosshairs at last.”
This above scene is a description by the Huffington Post on a recent episode in the second season of the series. This town where the violence is portrayed as taking place is Beirut, Lebanon. In a time where tensions are already at a heightened level, scenes such as these have not helped to reconcile the relations that are at odds in the Middle East.
Fadi Abboud is the current Lebanese Tourism Minister who was so furious with these depictions of Beirut that there has been much speculation that lawsuits may be in the near future. Many Lebanese have been dissatisfied with the portrayal because they believe it does not accurately reflect reality. On a pure realistic level, this statement is very accurate because the scene was not even filmed in Lebanon. To add salt to the wound, the urban scenes where snipers are roaming and violence is typical were filmed in Israel. With close attention, this is given away in the episode by the landmarks, license plates and even a sign in Hebrew letters.
There have been many reactions to this recent debate. When Lebanese citizens were interviewed on their reaction to this situation, a variety of responses were received. Some were outraged that Israel stood in for Lebanon, others were indifferent and accepting that reality shouldn’t be expected from television, while yet others were horrified that Lebanon once again was only seen through a lens surrounded in violence.
As I was reading this, I couldn’t help but recall my personal experiences with our friends that visited from Lebanon. One of the comments that I repeatedly heard them say was that everyone here has such a misconception as to what their homeland is like. They have grass, they go shopping, and it’s more than just a plot of land, it’s beautiful. As I was hearing these first-hand accounts, I was able to break the assumptions I had subconsciously made. This led me to question- if a citizen has not had an experience or education that shows them the true Middle East, would they believe that every road is littered with guns and closely resembles the scenes on television?
Scenes such as these are very typical in the media and generalizations are made to appeal to a large audience. But at what price do we pay for these misconstrued realities? Some Lebanese citizens understood that you cannot take a television series to relay accurate information, thus not being offended. I would agree with this statement to a degree but what happens when these continual portrayals are the only perceptions some citizens receive? With the media choosing to only relay the violence, paired with misunderstood renderings of the same cities, the public eye is getting a heavy dose of one aspect of the country, not the country as a whole.
I found this debate over Homeland to be extremely pertinent to the issues facing our country. As we move on in trying to mend the relations in the Middle East, do the ‘little’ things such as these images need to be monitored and adjusted? From a citizen’s standpoint on both sides, how do you feel about this recent situation? Do people need to take this with a grain a salt and focus on the larger topics of interest, or is this a topic worth the debate? As the series continues, I will be extremely interested to see if another scene such as this is implemented and whether or not a lawsuit is filed.