So today, I was happily reading through this ranking of the best DC insider shows by Foreign Policy, enjoying its many excellent smack-downs for shows supposedly based on the city. While slightly confused why Scandal got three out of ten points for accuracy (how is it any more credible than NCIS?) I finally reached Homeland.
Clearly, the ranking expert — called an ultimate DC insider — is in love with the show. He is what you might call a true fanboy. He admits “some unevenness” but generally declares the show to be meticulous, beautifully acted, and very “serious” in its concern for getting its facts right.
Which is why I hit a dead stop when I read these lines: “Homeland is also a show that has regularly produced howls of outrage from groups portrayed as bad guys or sympathetic to bad guys during the show’s run. As it happens, any politician who has tried to address these issues will tell you that’s another sign of accuracy. It’s hard to capture the harsh realities of combating Pakistani terrorists without actually suggesting there are terrorists living in Pakistan.”
Woah! Hold it right there, Mr. Insider. If you had actually read through some of those “howls’ of outrage that you so flippantly dismiss, you’d know that they were actually not about Pakistani government’s record of harboring terrorists. They were mainly about putting millions of complicated people into the same box, and also, something a little closer to home for you. Most Pakistani fans of the show were upset with how inaccurate the show’s images of the sophisticated and urbane city of Islamabad were. These howlers were regular people who had had the experience of actually visiting and/or living in Islamabad. Amazing how easily you dismiss one city’s defenders when they object to a show’s grossly inaccurate portrayals of it as a barren war zone when it’s actually quite a livable and beautiful city (with trees and laughing children and dancing teenagers and all) and painstakingly create a ranking for how it portrays another.
The article’s biggest argument for Homeland getting it right is this: “I asked (Wendy Chamberlin, a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan) whether she had seen the current season, which is set in her old embassy. I remarked that the ambassador on the show had some traits that reminded me of her (right down to her vocal inflection and likely choice of earrings), and she confirmed that the show had reached out to her for advice. (Note to other shows: Getting the facts right is actually that easy. Talk to some people who actually know what they are doing — and then listen to them.)”
It would have been nice if Homeland producers had talked to Wendy about how she felt about Islamabad while they were at it.