I’m Saying Good-Bye to Homeland’s Carrie Mathison

I hate her.

Because here we go again and again and again throughout history, throughout time, throughout art, throughout throughout.

Homeland, I’m looking at you—but not for much longer because I can’t.

While I couldn’t watch the scene, I didn’t give up on Carrie Mathison when she watched her infant daughter slide under the bath water and confront the realization that she is not the best choice for her child. It’s true that it turned my stomach, but I didn’t hate her. I understood why women applauded the writers for creating a scene that exposes a side of women and mothers that we don’t often see in the media (or even talk about)—the side that reveals a disconnect between parent and child, a side that suggests women aren’t innate nurturers even when they give birth, the side that reveals women being driven by other passions. Fine. Go there.

But maybe don’t give the pills on Carrie’s bathroom shelf a supporting role in the series–not because mental illness is not a very real hurdle for many women (it is!) but because it sends a message that Carrie’s behaviors and desires are the result of mental illness. The idea that only a “crazy” woman wouldn’t want to leave her prestigious, important career to care for her child is a dangerous (and lazy) one. There are countless women who battle mental illness on a daily basis and continue to be present, attentive parents with successful careers–though certainly not without struggle.

I kept watching.

And then her hand touched a vulnerable young man’s thigh. Then she leaned closer. Then their lips met. And then, well, you know what happened next because we’ve seen it before. Shocking—a woman using her sexuality as a tool to manipulate a “man”, to get what she wants, to further her career, to get answers others aren’t able to get. Boo. Can we just not?

I imagine writers collaborating around a conference table, hashing out the details of Carrie’s character and one writer shouting, “Let’s make Carrie everything that men fear in ‘successful’ women—erratic and impulsive, irrational, driven but unable to see the consequences of her actions, unstable, bitchy.” And then another one chimes, “Yeah, and let’s make her a really bad mother, too!” Then everyone high fives and Carrie Mathison is born amid a sea of witches and whores and temptresses and lunatics. *Sigh*

What are her redeeming qualities? What would make anyone gravitate to her–her weird facial expressions and predictable unpredictability? I’m not even sure I believe her motives to do what’s best for the country, which I think is what we’re supposed to assume. She’s little more than a selfish, unhinged woman who craves power. Yawn.

I know. She’s not real. I know that. I’m just a little sad because I hoped for something more. I’m sad to free up the space on my DVR.

I guess it doesn’t make for good television to create a complicated female character who feels the guilt of working outside the home but loves her children and her career. I guess it wouldn’t be interesting to create a woman who embraces her sexuality but doesn’t use it for her personal gain. I guess it would be too much to create a woman much like the one standing next to us at the bookstore or waiting in the carpool line or cheering at the base of the slide. I guess interesting characters are fictional archetypes that feed into stereotypical fears rather than capture the complex realities of being a woman.

I guess I’ve always known that.

Still, I’ll continue to search for novels and movies and series that offer a glimpse of the familiar—not a hyperbolic fictional familiar I’ve seen before–but snippets of remarkable women I know.

And I hope someday complex, powerful (not power-hungry) female characters will outnumber the archaic ones. I hope that my girls can turn to some kind of media outlet and see themselves there or at the very least women they aspire to become rather than a constant barrage of women whose traits they reject.

A girl can dream.

8 comments for “I’m Saying Good-Bye to Homeland’s Carrie Mathison

  1. Kate @ Did That Just Happen?
    November 6, 2014 at 10:03 am

    I’ve never watched the show, but wow, it sure sounds like they threw a lot of, um, personality, into her!

  2. Cathy
    November 6, 2014 at 10:54 am

    I arrived at the same conclusion! Are the writers smarter than we think? Will this character somehow be redeemed? I hope so, because right now I am reaching for the remote. Goodbye, Carrie.

  3. November 6, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Thanks for putting words to some of my discomfort with where they have taken the character. Carrie and her mental illness were so much more interesting in the first season, it’s too bad they have so seriously lowered the bar. Keep dreaming! There is much room for improvement.

  4. Martha
    November 6, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    Good job, Emily. I love your writing! Brought up some important issues…I won’t give up the show, though. All other television is worse! Reality TV needs to bid adieu to this generation and come back in 100 years! I didn’t take her actions with the young man as anything more than television entertainment. the writers put her in compromising situations to sell TV only. I’ll bet some of their writers were females!

  5. November 7, 2014 at 6:56 am

    In our house, after watching final scene of seduction, it was my husband who said,’right I can’t watch this any more. They have wiped out any remaining respect I had for the character.’
    I felt really uncomfortable watching that scene. I could understand much of the rest as entertainment but playing up to preconceived stereotypes, but that was just too low for me.
    As a ‘woman in a man’s world’, myself, it made my blood boil.

  6. Susan
    November 14, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Well said. I stopped watching House of Cards because Claire Underwood ‘aint so cool, either. I seriously was done watching that horrid bitch and her conniving husband. Yawn! (Although I ADORE both Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey, I was done). The show became agonizingly boring. I just hated the characters too much to be ooga-booga’d into hanging on to their every move. So I can see why Carrie did that for you.

  7. JJ
    November 20, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    The thing is, Claire Daines who plays Carrie is one of the producers and often directs episodes. I thought she was going to be a Walter White type character – a real person who keeps going further and further down a path they never could imagine taking. But this season seems way off base. I’ll see it through but unless something comes along to give me that glimmer, this is my last one.

  8. November 24, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    The writers of Homeland are definitely NOT smarter than we think. It’s another “24”, but without the excuse of being produced in the immediate wake of 9/11.

    Garbage.

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