Analysis: How shows like 'Homeland' insult real women in government

I'm probably one of the few people who can't stand the show Homeland. It's one of President Obama's favorite shows, after all. And sure, the central plot is gripping. Brody, the villain, is a U.S. marine and former prisoner-of-war-secretly-turned-terrorist-now-working-for-the-CIA. In the first season, the only person who suspected that Brody was a bad guy was CIA Operative Carrie Mathison. So what does our heroine do? Sleep with Brody, fall in love with him, tell him the CIA is onto him—then have a nervous breakdown. Oh, and she puts her team in danger on a regular basis and makes passes at her boss.

Watching the debacle unfold, I went from enjoying the show to being completely and utterly annoyed with it. I'm a woman who has worked in and around the US national security establishment for some time—from military bases in Community Support Centers to the halls of the Pentagon to the battlefields of Afghanistan. I was therefore appalled that the scriptwriters made such amateur-hour mistakes. Making passes at the boss is a bad idea, no matter what your profession. Taking classified materials home and displaying them on your wall is also surely up there on any "top ten" don't-do list in the intelligence community. And no woman I know (as a matter of fact, no one I know) in the national security community would ever intentionally compromise state secrets. Especially not to someone being investigated for orchestrating a terrorist plot in the United States. Not only is it illegal and immoral, it is fundamentally unprofessional.

What's made worse by these faux pas: the screenwriters made these moves deliberately. Howard Gordon, commenting to Newsweek about how they approached developing their heroine, said, "Who's a character no one believes, like Chicken Little?' And because the CIA has been a boys' club for such a long time, part of that was her gender. We exploited the sexism." Exploited—or exacerbated? She's a Chicken Little that digs herself into deeper holes. I'm not sure anyone who makes the stupid mistakes Carrie does would be a trusted authority.

Read the rest at TheAtlantic.com.

--

Kathleen J. McInnis served as a Pentagon strategist from 2006 to 2009.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.