Homeland Review: TV and US Foreign Policy

In recent months, Welsh actor Damian Lewis has shot to prominence on both sides of the Atlantic for his role in the proclaimed new TV drama, Homeland. This success has led Lewis to appear on British and American chat shows, and has even landed him with an invitation to dine with President Obama. Homeland, it transpires, is the president’s favourite TV programme. He has confessed to going into the Oval Office, on a Sunday afternoon, and pretending to work, only to watch the show’s latest episode.

Homeland’s central plot pivots around the main character, Sergeant Nicholas Brody, played by Lewis. Having spent 8 years captive in Iraq, the central question the show asks is whether or not Brody has been ‘turned’, away from his beloved America, to instead support the cause of terrorism.

Ably supported by an excellent cast and, in particular, a series of outstanding performances from Claire Danes, Lewis convincingly portrays the tensions of a man wrestling with conflicting identities and allegiances.

Homeland breaks down the familiar identity markers of Good Americans and Evil terrorists, as we are repeatedly left to contemplate Brody’s aims and motivations.

By continually prompting the viewer to ask the question, ‘whose side is Brody on?’, Homeland is able to highlight some of the problems with being able to ask that question in the first place.

Homeland then is part critique and part reinforcement of the logic of the War on Terror. The show’s appeal lies in its ability to confuse and conflate the two sides of the conflict, but ultimately reinforces the idea that, as George W. Bush said back in 2001, “you are either with us, or you are with the terrorists”.