Note: This post contains spoilers for Homeland through season four, so if you’re not caught up, you may want to back out.
After a shaky third season in which we finally got past (nearly) all the Brody shit, got rid of his extraneous family members and followed Station Chief Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) to her new Afghanistan outpost, the series seemed to find its footing again…to a degree. From the beginning, Homeland has required some suspension of disbelief; for a bipolar agent (who cavalierly slips in and out of her medicated state) to be hired and working for the CIA completely undetected is pretty bananas in the first place, but the show was so good, audiences were willing to take the ride. Still, even with last season’s return to form, there were some seriously disappointing moments — perhaps the biggest of which was when “brilliant” Carrie again used her *feminine wiles* (aka sex) to manipulate her male target. It was bad enough when in the earlier seasons Carrie not only got involved with Brody, but actually fell in love with him; to see her using sexuality to manipulate again — as if that were her only resource — infuriated me. I was hardly alone.
Following the announcement that for Homeland’s fifth season, Carrie will no longer be an intelligence officer, the New York Times published an op-ed alleging that Mathison’s “real life counterparts can’t wait for her to clear out her desk.” In the piece, more than one CIA analyst spoke out about irritation over female agents being portrayed in film and television the way Carrie Mathison has:
“It can leave a very distinct understanding of women at the agency — how we function, how we relate to men, how we engage in national security — that is pretty off.” (Gina Bennett)
“For me, working in the Middle East, there’s a lot of attraction for Middle Eastern men for Western women. I don’t mean necessarily sexually, although they may be thinking that. But curiosity, if nothing else. And we certainly have played that.” With sex, she said, “you need to remove that off the table very quickly and clearly. Sometimes it’s ‘Get your hands off my knee or I’m going to break it,’ or you put as many people into the room as you can.” (covert agent)
“”I wish they wouldn’t use centerfold models in tight clothes. We don’t look that way. And we don’t act that way.” (Sandra Grimes)
The op-ed notes that the women interviewed felt Hollywood is sensationalizing their jobs by portraying female agents “using sex to get secrets.” As for the official word via the CIA Twitter account, looks like they have no problem saying goodbye:
Good Riddance, Carrie Mathison http://t.co/6zNSBK89Eo— CIA (@CIA) April 5, 2015
I’ll be very interested to see if Homeland creators, writers and producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa (24, The X-Files) respond to the criticism; in the past, they’ve seemed pretty sensitive. Let’s hope they’ve at least gotten the message loud and clear: We don’t want to see Carrie (or any other female agents) going down that road again. Male agents aren’t portrayed in this way, and the thing that always made Carrie so valuable for who she is — her brain — is all she needs, or should be using to do her job.