Street art: It’s not just for brand activations anymore.
The way Hollywood treats characters–and actors–of Arab and Middle Eastern descent has long been controversial in those communities. There are a lot of roles as Terrorist #4, but not a lot of nuanced, human opportunities to see Middle Eastern actors play anything else. And one recent flashpoint for this kind of criticism is Showtime’s Homeland, whose storytelling revolves heavily around the idea of Arabs, Pakistanis, and Afghans as bad guys.
So when the show’s producers were looking to dress a set for a Syrian refugee camp and went looking for “Arabian street artists,” the trio of artists they ended up hiring–Heba Amin, Caram Kapp, and Stone–formulated a plan. Their instructions were to come up with graffiti that was “apolitical,” they explained in their open letter documenting the experience, free of copyright infringement, and that, when in doubt, they could lean on “Mohamed is the greatest.” Those instructions didn’t mention anything about outright critique of the show itself, though, so the artists–who say they were reluctant to accept the job until they figured out that they could use Homeland itself as the platform to say what they all thought of it–used the gig as an opportunity to sneak messages (in Arabic, naturally) into the background of last Sunday’s episode.
That’s how, when Claire Daines’s Carrie Matheson was escorted through the camp by a Hezbollah leader, ideas like “This show does not represent the views of the artists,” “Homeland is a watermelon” (slang for “a sham”), #BlackLivesMatter, “Homeland is a joke, and it didn’t make us laugh,” and the big one–“Homeland is racist”–were broadcast around the world. They managed to sneak the messages in, they say, because the timeline on the project was tight–“the set decoration had to be completed in two days, for filming on the third,” they write, “Set designers were too frantic to pay any attention to us.” The Internet, of course, was not–and now the meta-critique of Homeland within Homeland will live on in infamy.
[via Washington Post]