Commentary, Culture, TV

Homeland: Not the Best Tourism Guide

October 22, 2012

It’s no secret that I thoroughly (and I do mean thoroughly) enjoy the Showtime series Homeland, if nothing other than to watch the spectacular performances put on by leads Claire Daines and Damian Lewis. But the storytelling is equally as thrilling and compelling.

The last thing on my mind when watching the series? Tourism.

Which is why I was somewhat baffled last week as the Lebanese Tourism Minister, Fabby Aboud, threatened to sue the show creators for misrepresenting the city of Beirut.

This is what he told Executive (a Beirut-based magazine):

This kind of film damages the image of Lebanon — it is not fair to us and it’s not true, it is not portraying reality. We want to take action, we want to write to the filmmakers and producers and demand an apology. And we are planning to raise a lawsuit against the director and the producer.

The episode in question aired two weeks ago, titled Beirut is Back. In the episode, Carrie learns of a meeting between Al-Quaeda’s leader and a Hezbollah officer. The CIA attempt to assassinate him, but the plot is foiled by Brody’s warning, due to his (un)fortunate inclusion in the operational control room.

Executive magazine adds, “this episode of the show aired over the weekend in the West and portrayed the Lebanese capital as a hotbed of terrorists and random attacks on foreigners.”

Now, forgive me if I sound a little cynical, but isn’t it a little bit (Alanis Morissette) ironic that just last Friday (two days after the aforementioned criticism from the tourism minister) a deadly terrorist attack happened… in the streets of Beirut?

Beirut Attack

The death of Wissam al-Hassan has set off terrible unrest in the country, with other skirmishes and killings that are (sadly) typical of the news we generally hear from the Middle East.

Mind you, this doesn’t necessarily justify the portrayal of Beirut as a bustling terrorist hotbed, as depicted in the series Homeland. But what must also be taken into account is that the show is fictitious. It is not meant to be flattering. Did the minister of tourism not watch last season, when a terrorist attack took place in Washington DC? And not just once… but twice! (A bomb in Farragut Square and the assassination attempt of the vice president.)

I’m sure some simpletons may have thought to themselves not to visit the capital of the United States for fear of something depicted in the show, and maybe just as many or more may have canceled their honeymoon plans to Beirut after watching that second episode this season.

But you best be damned sure that hardly anyone is thinking of going there after tuning in to their preferred news source over the weekend.

Even Executive magazine was forced to see the unfortunate timing of it all.

“It is a deep and dark irony,” they write in a recent editorial. “That in the week in which the Lebanese Tourism Minister threatened to sue an American TV show over its depiction of Beirut as a backward, violent place, the specter of death should once again return to the city’s streets.”

Indeed it is, and very much regrettable. There is a fine line between fiction and reality. But reality is always far more brutal.

I had been hoping to write about the series. The last two episodes were nothing short of spectacular. The writers are gutsy and willing to take risks. Last week, we were heartbroken at Carrie’s near meltdown, and we were treated to one of the most disheartening suicide attempts I’ve ever seen. All of that followed by a vindication that they could have ridden for the remainder of the season. And I won’t even get into last night’s ending. I did not see that coming at all. Sorry, no spoilers!

In spite of what may be coming in the series, I know that there is some sort of perverse joy in watching the political intrigue and violence happen on the small screen. I just hope that the ire that tourism minister Fabby Aboud felt toward Homeland can instead be directed at the true depravity happening all around the world, not just in the streets of Beirut.

Don’t waste your rage on things that just don’t matter quite as much.

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