Homeland and Mental Illness

[Content Note: Discussion of Homeland's portrayal of mental illness; misogyny. Spoilers for Homeland through the first episode of Season Three.]

image of Carrie (Claire Danes) standing in a hallway talking to Saul (Mandy Patinkin)

So, Season Three of Showtime's Homeland premiered Sunday night, but I was all BREAKING BAD! so I didn't get a chance to watch it until last night.

Let me start by saying that, generally, I really love this show. I love Claire Danes (Carrie), and I love Mandy Patinkin (Saul), and I love Damian Lewis (Brody) and Morena Baccarin (Jess) and Morgan Saylor (Dana), and the scene between Rupert Friend (Quinn) and David Harewood (Estes), where Quinn tells Estes "I'm the guy that kills bad guys" was one of my favorite scenes of any television show ever.

Also: I am totally intrigued by the reactions to this show, especially the character of Carrie, especially her emotionality, because it is so rife with rank misogynist tropes that I swear to Maude it looks like parody of misogynist heapshits instead of just straight-up misogynist heapshittery.

In the opening episode of Season Three, Carrie, who has bipolar disorder in the show, has gone off her medications. And, from the season previews, it looks like that's going to be a central arc of this season, with Carrie's mental illness being used against her and sidelining her in the CIA once again.

There's been a lot written about the portrayal of Carrie's mental illness on Homeland. Some people with bipolar disorder think it's a deeply sensitive and realistic portrayal, and some people with bipolar disorder have criticized the portrayal. I don't have bipolar disorder, so I'm not qualified to have an opinion on that, frankly.

[Here's executive producer Alex Gansa talking about the subject a little bit.]

What has always interested me about how Carrie's illness is portrayed in the show is that it seems to serve as a commentary on how women, especially professionally passionate women, are routinely marginalized and discredited as "crazy," or "unstable," or some variation thereof. And, on Homeland, the female protagonist actually is "crazy," and yet she is also almost always right, in her field of competency.

But I have always felt that the show is in danger of swinging widely away from any insightful commentary. And I have always wondered if I'm reading something into the show that isn't really there, because I am myself a woman with mental illness.

There's no right or wrong answer, really. I'm just curious to see what y'all think about it.

Relatedly: Is Saul really throwing Carrie under the bus by using her mental illness against her, or is he playing some kind of long game without having included her on the plan? Either way, I'm feeling itchy about where this is going.

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