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Homeland

At the beginning of term, I had told my students not to expect replies to emails late on Sunday nights when they are often working on their assignments and I am watching Homeland. Throughout the first season of this compelling drama, my husband and I were riveted. We had friends over to participate, sharing a meal that had to be over long before the 10 p.m. show time. We set the TV to the channel in advance so we wouldn’t miss an instant of the logo or the first scene.

And, then, during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we met with some Arab-American friends for a coffee and talked about the show. They were deeply concerned that the educated elite in the United States, including our re-elected President, were so hooked on it. It is, after all, an adaptation of a successful Israeli series. Transposing the venue from Israel to the United States has changed the show in many ways, but the shadow of the Israeli scripts is still there and they have a clear and troublesome political agenda. And, now, the escalation of violence in Gaza, a great and continuing tragedy for everyone.

As writers, what are we to think of a show that is so well written and so engaging, yet so offensive to our Arab-American citizens? What is our responsibility? Does anything we say or think about the show matter? If we agree with the assertion that there is something morally wrong with the portrait of Arabs in the show, shall we boycott? Write letters to the producers? To the White House?

As writers, we are the custodians of language. Language matters. How do we speak about “the other,” whoever that other may be? How do we define ourselves in relation to that other? When do we become the other ourselves?  Read More 
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