Dissecting Homeland's Leading Lady

September 17, 2013

Since its 2011 premiere, Showtime’s Homeland has easily become one of the most watched shows on television. With story-lines centered on government conspiracies, foreign affairs and the war on terrorism, the critically acclaimed series is controversial, thought-provoking and incredibly addictive.

The female lead, Carrie Mathison (masterfully portrayed by Claire Danes), is very well-written and is a huge reason for the show’s success. Rather than fall into an all-too-common supporting role often delegated to women, her commanding personality is the driving force behind most of the counterterrorist operations in spite of her imperfections. CarrieMathison As a CIA agent, Carrie is expected to possess a certain level of mental toughness which, unfortunately, sometimes eludes her.  She is strong and intuitive but her battle with bipolar disorder regularly threatens to derail even her best efforts.  As a woman in a man’s world, she is conscious of the ever-present risk of having her passion and conviction reduced to mere hysterics associated with her gender and mental illness. Rather than give in to this fear, she steadfastly forges ahead, even if she must accomplish her goals through unconventional means. Homeland’s writers make it clear that Carrie’s ability to be innovative has earned the respect of her peers (as well as some disciplinary action) but they do not shy away from the possibility of her using her own sexuality to gain power. Unmarried and childless, Carrie engages in a sexual relationship, spontaneously, with returned American POW, Brody (Damien Lewis), who she believes has turned against his own government.  The true nature of the relationship is never fully clear.  While it does become apparent that Carrie has feelings for Brody, it is sometimes jarring to watch how casually she treats their encounters.  She makes no demands and seems relatively unfazed by the fact that he has a wife and children.  She’s unapologetic about who she is and that makes her more real than anything else. Between her emotional disorder, high libido, relaxed morality and workaholic mentality, it’s surprising that Carrie has become a respected female role on television.  Others have commented on the popularity of this unusual scripted woman. In Time Magazine, Valerie Plame Wilson, the former CIA covert-operations officer, wrote: “Carrie does not suffer from the common female need-to-please trait and, in fact, insists she is usually right. She is impulsive in a job that rewards patience and lies to the few people who can tolerate her. When she turns on the charm, it is always for calculated effect. It's absolutely maddening. And yet ... you can't take your eyes off her. You root for her because those very despicable qualities also make her extraordinarily good at her mission. Danes breathes life and realism into a character who, for once, goes against the clichés of what a female CIA officer is supposed to do and look like. No sequined gowns or casual gunplay for Carrie — she works in the real world of gathering intelligence.” Speaking of the real world, Claire Danes has taken home the Best Actress in a TV Drama Series prize from the Golden Globe Awards for two years in a row and, after filming through her pregnancy, is often seen toting her new son around on set. The third season of Homeland premieres on September 29, 2013. Image Credit: http://tinyurl.com/l4daas2 By Jeanne Dupuis.

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