Pakistan in Homeland: Finally, an accurate portrayal!
Spoiler alert: The article produced below contains spoilers of Homeland Season 4.
For years (read three seasons), I have watched agent Carrie Mathison fall in and out of love with Nicholas Brody on the hit American TV series, Homeland.
The premise of the show is rather unbelievable: Nicholas Brody, a US Marine turns against the United States after being captured as a prisoner of war in Iraq.
Now, hold on.
How is it humanly possible for a person to turn against the greatest country the Earth has ever seen, or that a US Marine would ever question that maybe the tactics employed by their army in Iraq may not exactly have been humane?
There is clearly no evidence that any actions by the US army in Afghanistan (or Iraq, or Vietnam, or Syria, or Cuba, or Japan, or Pakistan) have been anything other than what God ordained the good people of America to do to ensure good prevails in the world.
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And how do they expect me to just accept that Nicholas Brody has become a Muslim? For one, he is white! Hello? That doesn't happen unless, of course, he has fallen in love with a girl from Pakistan and her parents insist on converting him.
The following two seasons had even more preposterous storylines, such as the fictitious idea that drones cause collateral damage or that a United States intelligence building could be targeted by terrorists without them apprehending and intercepting the attack beforehand (ideally, followed by bombing another country in the Middle East).
I find it strange that a generation of Pakistanis who grew up playing 'Counter Strike' cannot appreciate a successful bombing.
But on second thought, the bombs in Counter Strike were placed by terrorists; that explains a lot. My surprise is now directed towards our savvy political commentators for not blaming 'Counter Strike' for a larger Zionist conspiracy against Pakistan, aimed at turning our children into bomb experts.
In fact, now that I come to think of it, they even had a map called ‘de_Karachi’.
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Sorry, I got distracted there, as I did with Homeland as the seasons dragged on. I had given up all hope until Season 3 shone like a diamond in the rough.
Nicholas Brody was the good guy all along. Nothing adds legitimacy to a storyline like a white man saving the world and redeeming himself. There is a reason we have such reverence for the British and for why Zubaida Apa wants the entire country to look more gora. Maybe, just maybe, if we look the part, they might grant us visas to visit their countries.
Season 4 of Homeland premiered on Monday. It began with a drone strike on North Waziristan. It was astonishing how accurately the writers had used Google translate to simply translate their dialogues into Urdu.
The number of people who speak both English and Urdu in the world is so minuscule that it must have been really hard for the producers to cross check if people in Pakistan actually spoke like the actors were speaking in that episode.
Technically speaking, “I am sorry” does translate to 'mujhay maaf kariye' in Urdu but if anyone was to say that to somebody in Pakistan at the occasion of their parent's death, it is more of an admission of guilt rather than a phrase expressing sympathy. The Indian and American actors deployed to play Pakistanis, seamlessly delivered their lines in Urdu with the authenticity of Siri telling me it loves me on my iPhone.
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After the series spent 40 minutes justifying the collateral damage caused by dropping a bomb on a wedding, the story picked up pace as the action moved to Islamabad.
The series of incidents which followed were totally not inspired by the Raymond Davis story. There are constant scenes of a bunch of Pakistanis protesting outside the United States Embassy in Islamabad throughout the two episodes, and their presence is even acknowledged by the CIA agents in another clear success of the dharnas in Islamabad.
Tabdeeli has reached the upper echelons of America’s intelligence agency. They might even be forced to pull out of Pakistan if GoUSAGo catches on with the masses.
Where the series is particularly accurate about its portrayal of Pakistan is at the end of episode one:
A Pakistani news channel reveals the name of the CIA Station Chief in Pakistan while he is casually strolling in a bazaar in the city. Obviously, every other person in that bazaar is immediately aware of his identity, despite there not being a single television or radio set present (I think they just looked at a white guy walking in Islamabad and assumed it was him).
Anyway, the hordes of men proceed to do what any reasonable Pakistani would do: pick up sticks and start beating his car with it. Three or four of them get shot in the face by a CIA agent but that is completely irrelevant to the plot.
The men drag the Station Chief out from his vehicle — a United States diplomatic vehicle — and stomp him to death in the middle of the street in Islamabad.
In case the gravity of that did not sink into you, a CIA station chief gets STOMPED TO DEATH in the streets of Islamabad and Pakistan continues to exist as a country on the world map.
See, I told you Homeland could be unpredictable!
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This season, I am looking forward to more bearded men and veiled women in the streets of Pakistan saying words that vaguely sound like Urdu. I am also intrigued by what other accurate portrayals of life in Pakistan we will see.
Maybe, Carrie Mathison ventures out on the streets alone and hears a man say to her, “Dekhti hee rahay gee ya number bhi day gi?” or Peter Quinn getting his mobile snatched at gunpoint.
There is also a perfect opportunity for Saul to come to Pakistan and infiltrate the terrorists as a double-agent; he already has the beard and his Urdu cannot be worse than the “Pakistani” actors employed by the show.
Also, we all know Pakistan is just mosques and burqa shops. But I'd like the show to showcase the more modern side of Pakistan too. So, how about Homeland show us the US Embassy in an act of highlighting Pakistani culture and fusing it with the modern world...by organising a Burqa Fashion show at the venue?
You know, just your regular desi chic-conservative affair, with models walking down the ramp to the tune of 'Burqay mai rehnay do, burqa na uthao' while the Pakistanis outside the embassy still protest because the eyelashes of many a model are visible through the veil.
I think they may actually be getting there, considering the third episode for this season is named 'Shalwar Kameez'.
It could even show the American saviours helping the native population by barging into schools and shutting them down. For western readers, who may not be aware, all schools in Pakistan are obviously suicide bombing training institutes. An episode could just be a game of bomber man and minesweeper combined into one.
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I am also looking forward to an episode just completely blacking out, making the viewer think the episode has ended prematurely, only to find out it was just load shedding.
Carrie Mathison has been trained in the most advanced intelligence techniques, but can she venture through the US Embassy in Islamabad using only the light from her cell phone?
Her skills could be challenged to the limit in Pakistan if she finds a Pakistani Nicholas Brody.
Will she be able to convince his parents that she can be the ideal daughter-in-law?
Can she make the perfect roti?
Will the CIA give the in-laws a new car, a refrigerator and an air conditioner?
The prospects of an American-Pakistani wedding this season are tantalising; it is for certain that an episode with the CIA agents dancing on Desi Thumka at the mehndi would get the show it's highest ratings ever.
Shehzad Ghias is a Pakistani comedian and theatre actor, currently doing improv and stand up shows in New York and pursuing a Masters in Theatre degree on a Fulbright.
He tweets at @Shehzad89. Find out more about him here.