Is 'Homeland' racist? Street artists sneak 'graffiti bomb' past producers

This was not what producers for Showtime's hit drama had in mind when they requested 'Arabian Street Artists' to paint graffiti on a set.

In the most recent episode of "Homeland," lead Claire Danes walks through a littered alley in a fictional Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon, and past a not-so-hidden message in Arabic graffiti.

Producers for the hit Showtime drama requested apolitical, generic, spray-painted messages from Arabic-speaking street artists to create the look of a Hezbollah-run refugee camp. Instead, the group of three artists hired for the job opted to send a message.

When the episode aired in the United States on Sunday, before an audience of more than a million, one of those messages read: "Homeland is racist."

On Wednesday, Egyptian artist, Heba Y. Amin, and two other artists, Caram Kapp and Stone, came forward to take credit for the graffiti, calling it an opportunity to express discontent with a series to which they were at first hesitant to offer their talents.

The three artists, who call themselves “Arabian Street Artists” as a jab at language the show's producers used to solicit their work, wrote that the Arabic graffiti being requested by 'Homeland' was only a visual that “completes the horror-fantasy of the Middle East,” a depiction the Emmy-winning show has been criticized for in the past.

But the trio soon realized the set work was an opportunity “to make our point by subverting the message using the show itself.”

In a phone interview with The New York Times, Ms. Amin said she was bothered by the show’s misleading distortions of reality in the Middle East. “The framing of events and brainwashing about the region has a real impact on foreign policy because millions of people are getting their information from the show and can’t differentiate between facts and fiction,” she said. “No doubt that it looks good and is well acted, but I had boycotted the show as it is so frustrating and insulting to watch it.”

Stone said they initially considered being more subtle with their art, possibly rewriting Arabic proverbs with coded messages.

"The question was, how can we get a message across that is not so blatant that they will immediately recognize it," he said in an interview with the Associated Press. "But then when the actual shooting started, it was pretty clear no one would even look at it."

The stunt was pulled off so well that "Homeland" producer Alex Gansa gave the artists his respect.

"We wish we'd caught these images before they made it to air," he said in a statement provided by Showtime. "However, as Homeland always strives to be subversive in its own right and a stimulus for conversation, we can't help but admire this act of artistic sabotage."

The messages that aired on Mr. Gansa’s show included: "Homeland is a joke and it didn't make us laugh;" ''Homeland is not a (TV) series"; "There is no Homeland"; "Black lives matter"; and "Homeland is watermelon" — watermelon being an Arabic expression meaning something is superficial or a joke.

"From the reactions we have seen, a lot of people had not so happy feelings about this show so there is a lot of happiness coming our way right now,” Stone told the AP, adding that positive reactions have come mostly from the US but also the Middle East.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.