That Homeland Poster is Pretty Flipping Racist

About a month ago, Showtime released a new poster for the fourth season of Homeland, which premieres in October. I didn’t see the poster until a few nights ago displayed as a subway platform advertisement. The poster displays a red-hooded, distressed Carrie (Claire Danes) looking lost in a sea of grey, burqa-clad women. I’m shocked that culture commentary websites haven’t picked up on it.

The poster is eye-catching and visually impressive. There’s a fairytale aspect to it– the dazzled, naive Little Red Riding Hood trying to find her way through murky, dangerous forests. Carrie looks like an innocent and vulnerable player in a dark and shadowy game, and she has bitten off more than she can chew. Even though anyone who watches the show, or even saw the trailer, knows that Carrie is hardly an innocent player in the game of international intelligence, the ad is a thrilling and effective visual, especially for those who care about Carrie and her disrupted future.

Showtime’s marketing has never portrayed the show’s Middle Eastern dealings. Past season posters have focused more on the turbulent relationship between Carrie and Brody, the recovered veteran with shady ties to his captors. I don’t think the posters have ever portrayed a Middle Eastern character, even though the Middle East is central to the show’s plot. With Brody out of the picture at this point in the series, the marketing has clearly chosen to put its locale front and center, both in the poster and in the plot, as the trailer shows.

No Arabs? No problem. Each of the show’s white characters are given their own individuality and frame.

Given that so much of the show’s greatness (at least in the early seasons) has been in putting a human face on the effects of war, it’s a sad failure of this poster to dehumanize the women Carrie is surrounded with. True, Middle Eastern women wearing a burqa are consequentially faceless and covered in head to toe. But, each one of them looks exactly the same. They are just landscape to Carrie’s illuminating figure. They are not portrayed as distinct human beings but rather an obscure background. This has never been the way that past posters have portrayed their white, American characters. Carrie, Saul, Brody and even minor characters like other CIA agents and family members have always been distinct parts of their respective advertisements. They stand out from their background. The burqa-wearing women in this photo could easily be replaced by something non-human like trees or bazaar stands and have the same effect of making Carrie look lost and vulnerable in her surroundings.

Now, let’s take the implications of this dehumanizing aspect. First of all, burqas are usually the first thing people mention when discussing feminism/women’s rights in the third world. It used to be a divisive issue, but most feminist scholars with an interest in the third world would now say that it is unjust and naive to decry the evils of the burqa, which for Muslim women has great religious significance. Many of them freely wear it with pride, and to attack it as a sign of oppression is to approach it from a narrow Western, privileged frame of mind with no real knowledge of Middle Eastern practices or Middle Eastern women’s cultural notions. To look at a woman wearing a burqa and see her as an oppressed woman without knowing about her background and her choices is to ignorantly judge her based on your own cultural experiences and not hers. And to look at a woman wearing a burqa and see a frightening, mysterious, or threatening individual is racism on a whole ‘nuther level.

Unfortunately, this Homeland poster does both. It places these shadowy women in Carrie’s background perhaps as a sign that Carrie has come to help them. Bright, white, and illuminating Carrie looks like the Western savior, like the young beautiful white teacher about to set all her minority students straight with her compassion and lofty ideas. It’s dangerous when a minority group is presented as a group to be pitied or saved by a more civilized, knowledgeable party (often the very same civilized party that oppressed them in the first place).


That’s one interpretation. The other is that the shadowy women are there to set up a mysterious, threatening background to Carrie’s illuminating, heroic presence. They are like the dark woods to Carrie’s Little Red Riding Hood, the towering waves to George Clooney’s steamship, the blighted Mordor landscape to a determined Frodo and Sam. Isn’t great, though, that in those examples, the threats are things and in the Homeland poster, they’re the very people Carrie is supposed to protect? Can you imagine how it would feel to be a Muslim woman, with or without burqa, passing by this advertisement on a subway platform or a street corner? Can you feel the hostility and the fear rising from the poster? The sudden pit-in-your-stomach self-awareness it induces? The ignorant attack on your culture, your beliefs, your appearance?


Top Tweets about the Sound Music Live

Bless me, Audra McDonald, for I have cringed. It’s been four days since I watched NBC’s The Sound of Music Live, and I’m not exactly sure whether to repent or not. On the one hand, I wasted three hours of my life MESMERIZED by the EXTRAORDINARY AWFULNESS of this eye-roll-a-minute disaster master. We here at LMezz had high hopes for this show and were able to give Carrie Underwood the benefit of the doubt. Then these hopes were dashed upon the jagged rocks, located at the bottom of WTF Mountain and next to Bad Choices Valley.

On the other hand, if I hadn’t watched this hot mess, I wouldn’t have been able to understand these awesome tweets below!

Regarding Carrie Underwood:


Those sets though:




That ‘awful’ dress:


Praise be to Audra:


Capture27And to her awesome comeback at a racist tweeter:


And them kids:


And them Broadway stars who got paid a ton more than their regular earnings to do this hot mess:




And then the swastikas:


Looking back on the past:



And forward to the future:

Capture38And probably to some DiGiornio’s Pizza in the near future:

Capture8Capture7Capture6And don’t forget to check out our own tweets!

Five Current British Shows You Should Watch

I know it’s hard to realize that there’s more to British television than Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Downton Abbey. That there’s a (not so) vast realm of BBC and ITV and E4 just waiting to be seen. Or even that you can actually watch something else in between Breaking Bad episodes.

Here’s an expanding list of current or recently-aired television series from Kate Middleton’s child’s playground that have done amazingly well for themselves and probably would have been cancelled in America because they’re so good.

1. The Fall

Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan play detective and killer on “The Fall”

My latest television-binge has been The Fall, a five-part psychological crime thriller which has been renewed for season 2 by the BBC. Detective Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) is brought in extra special to help the Belfast police track down a serial killer of young, professional women in the city. We the audience, however, already know the killer. It’s father-of-two Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), whose work as a grief counselor and dad seem to leave him more than a little emasculated.

Instead of focusing the plot on the actual casework, like so many other redundant crime dramas out there, The Fall is much more about the psychology of gender and of Paul’s killing. We follow Paul as he continues to kill, and we see how his personal life, his insecurities, and his brilliance are all brought out in the performance of the crime.  Stella, as a detached, self-sufficient, successful, and sometimes provocative woman, is Paul’s foil, and much of the show’s depth lies in the doubling of the two characters. Even in the first two minutes of the show, we see both characters taking off their “masks”– for one it’s her skin cleansing mask, for another it’s his people-killing mask. The show is like a study in gender performance, but it never loses track of its main goal, which is getting into the heads of its amazing characters. Both Dornan and Anderson are chillingly subtle in their performances, which is a nice change from the super charisma or dramatic broodiness of most crime drama leads. It’s available on Netflix Instant.

2. Rev.

Tom Hollander’s a boss.

I first got hooked on Rev. a few years ago when it first premiered and it has slowly gained momentum, especially after surprisingly winning Best Sitcom at the British Academy of Television Awards in 2011. It’s about a Anglican priest named Adam Smallbone who is working out of a small parish in one of the dodgiest neighborhoods in East London. He struggles with the church’s rapidly diminishing influence, money, and population, a conniving archbishop, and the parish’s MANY odd characters. And it’s hilarious. The cast, led by Tom Hollander and HBIC Olivia Colman, bring such warmth, humor, and nuance to the show.

It’s also got INCREDIBLE heart. Adam Smallbone is an infinitely complex and real character.  He’s a flawed, quite tangible, character who struggles with his faith and his moral challenges as much as any of us do. The show never takes religion or faith for granted. It’s something that Adam is constantly working towards and learning through. It makes for some great humor, but also for some great catharsis at the end. Rev. has two seasons up on Hulu, and was renewed for a third to be aired in 2014.

3. Broadchurch


This show left me in a daze for about a week. Brilliantly-acted, beautifully-filmed, suspenseful, emotional, dramatic television series make Sara happy. And yup, David Tennant’s still got it. And he’s swiping Arthur Darvill’s mouth with a q-tip. I mean, that alone!!

Now that I’ve calmed down, Broadchurch is about the investigation of the murder of an adolescent boy in a small coastal town where everyone is a suspect. Leading the investigation are Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman), who has just returned from maternity leave, and Alec Hardy (Tennant), who has taken her place and is a total douchebag about it. Theirs is a relationship that has proven ripe for fanfiction. Each episode focuses (more or less) on the possible culpability of a different towns-person, starting with the boy’s father and ending with –HAHA WOOPS I CAN’T SAY . This structure means things can get a bit predictable. I guessed the killer one or two episodes before the finale, which I’m usually pretty terrible at doing. But never mind that because there’s so much raw intensity, so much emotional intrigue, and so many dramatic shots of David Tennant walking through a beach, it’s well worth your while.  Broadchurch is hoping to attract Doctor Who fans on BBC America, which aired Spies of Warsaw with the same intention, except I was totally not wasting my time on a long-winded movie in which Tennant doesn’t even have sideburns nor ruffable hair. Broadchurch airs on BBCA on August 7. It’s also been renewed for a second season by ITV.

4. Misfits

Misfits Original Cast

Misfits is the longest-running series of the bunch, already having wrapped up its fourth season and renewed for a fifth and final season. It’s been through a lot of changes since it first aired and now has none of its original cast left. To be honest, I haven’t seen much of season four, so I’m not up to date on the show’s current direction.

But seasons 1-3 are definitely some of the most unique, fresh, and smartest series of television you might ever find, particularly when it comes to television comedies. Misfits is about a group of delinquents in community service who get caught in a crazy lightning storm and find out that they’ve got superpowers. As the series continues, they learn that they’re not the only ones with superpowers. Fun plots ensue.

There are several brilliant components to this idea. First of all, what happens when you give superpowers to juvenile delinquents who are facing all the anxieties, pressures, and pleasures of being young adults? This particular group has extremely diverse personalities and goals, ranging from the once-promising athlete Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) to the loud and terribly obnoxious Nathan (Robert Sheehan) who doesn’t seem to envision much of a future for himself at all. Another brilliant component of this idea is that the characters’ superpowers are all reflective of their insecurities and fears. The boy with no friends gets to be invisible. The girl who fears what other people think of her gets to read minds. This is how you get characters to have a personal stake in what’s happening to them.

Misfits at its best is hilarious, unpredictable, and pretty flipping addicting.  You can watch it on Hulu.

5. Luther

Get it, get it.

Of this bunch, Luther has probably made the most successful jump to America. Its star, Idris Elba, has won a Golden Globe for the role and might get his Oscar nod for the upcoming Nelson Mandela biopic. Also, my classmate referred to him once as ‘Chocolate Thunder,’ which I think is as important to mention as the awards stuff.

Luther is another detective show with great actors, great writing, and all that good stuff. But what really stands out to me is how wonderfully complex its plots are. Now, I’m not talking about Steven Moffat-complex. (Now that I wrote that, there should be something called a Steven Moffat complex). Nah, Luther-complex means that the crimes have roots in some tremendous issues, some of them societal, others more personal. Each episode feels rather weighty (in a good way) with all the exploration that can be done. Luther himself is also a great character to follow, particularly when it comes to his marital issues in season 1. Luther’s third season just premiered in the UK and hopefully it will be up on BBCA and/or Netflix Instant where you can find its other two seasons.

Rainn Wilson’s Not-a-Memoir Out Next Fall

Entertainment Weekly announced that Rainn Wilson is coming out with a memoir new book with Dutton next fall. Wilson doesn’t want to call it a memoir because he is the
“guy who is best known for playing a paper salesman with a bad haircut, tweeting fart jokes and starting a quirky spirituality website.” While he may not be Desmond Tutu, I’m sure Wilson has something worthwile to say.  In March, he posted a picture he’d taken of the audition sign-in sheet for The Office. That image alone speaks to the awesome professional—and personal—stories he can share.

I want to give all the actors all the jobs.
I want to give all the actors all the jobs.


Devious Maids is premiering on Lifetime tonight. And I am split two ways.

The happy Puerto Rican flag-waving me is super excited to have a show that is starring a ton of Latina actresses I know and love (Ana Ortiz! Judy Reyes!) and other Latina actresses I don’t know but am looking forward to love. I’m equally excited that Longoria is executive producing the show, because it’s just as important to have brown people in charge behind the camera as well as in front of it. It’s also great to see a new prime time show that is based on a novela (and captures the novela sensibility), which I haven’t seen since Ugly Betty.

But the angry ¡Viva la Revolución! activist me isn’t completely comfortable with having the all-star Latina cast playing only maids. I’m even less comfortable that the cast of Latina maids is cleaning the homes of a cast that is only white. As Alisa Valdes points out in her blog post about the show, the original novela had Latinas working for Latinas. The American version does not. With this racial divide, Devious Maids is conflating class and race in a way that’s problematic in an already racist society. It would be interesting to see what an exchange would be between one of the Latina maids and her employer if her employer was also Hispanic. Which is something that *gasp* actually happens in the United States. It’s also disheartening to see actresses like Judy Reyes (who played a nurse in Scrubs) and Roselyn Sánchez (who played an FBI agent in Without a Trace) have to revert back to stereotypes in Devious Maids.

Do I blame any of the Latina actresses for taking the gig? No way. I’ve auditioned for and have played my share of maids on stage, and if Marc Cherry called me in for an under 5 scene with Susan Lucci, my only answer would be “Where do I sign?” And like Eva Longoria has said in the defense of the show, there is nothing wrong with showing the stories of maids, as that is a truth to Latinos in the United States and is nothing to be ashamed of.

Yet there is a sense of shame where this show is the main event for Latinos on TV. That it’s not one of many other shows debuting tonight (or any other night) with an all-star Hispanic cast. (You know, like the many shows that premiere every year with an all/mostly-white cast.) That there aren’t so many television shows and movies that show Latinos of all ages, ethnicities, and professions—with only a small number of those shows and movies featuring them as the help.

Age of Convoluted Blockbusters

An excellent essay by the always insightful, intelligent, and presumably handsome FilmCritHulk. I feel exactly the same way about Star Trek, Man of Steel, and the past season of Doctor Who.

Trying to Watch ITV’s Broadchurch

No one’s getting in the way of me watching British television
“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills that involve googling my computer problems. Skills that make it seem like I actually understand how media players work. If you prevent me from watching my download of ITV’s Broadchurch (starring David Tennant) because my DivX player can’t play the audio file, that’ll be the end of it. I will not wait for it to come on PBS, I will not do my homework instead. I will look for the codec, I will find the proper conversion software, and I will kill you.”

I’m sooooo excited! I already watched the first episode and it’s brilliant.

Continue reading “Trying to Watch ITV’s Broadchurch”

In Defense of “Girls.” And Then a Demand.

The backlash against HBO’s “Girls” has been immense. While an overall critical success, many educated, urban-centered women of my age (the show’s target audience) have been incredibly outspoken about the show’s lack of diversity and its portrayal of life for women in New York City. The discussion exploded even before the show’s premiere date, with many compared the “white-washed” cast to those of the 90’s favorite shows set in NYC, like “Friends” and “Sex and the City.” (Shoshanna has a SATC poster, but its an ironic gesture and not an homage). Now, I can’t find a single one of my friends (whom I would say fit the target audience) who watch the show, and many refuse to for moral reasons.

Now, I DO find the discussions about the show extremely important and many of them have opened my eyes to the responsibilities of releasing a cultural product to the masses. I particularly find the non-diversity of the cast troubling and I’ve had many a gchat conversation with friends far more knowledgeable on the issue than me. I will address my titular demand of “Girls,” which addresses a diversification of the cast, at the end of this post so PLEASE STAY TUNED.

Girls looking less than amused.

But I can’t help feeling that this backlash against the show is misguided and, at worst, quite gendered. For example, let’s take the claim that “Girls” glamorizes an irresponsible, self-victimizing, and emotionally dependent way of life. I’ve seen a couple of articles where writers have argued that the girls on “Girls” are bad role models for the girls watching it. I’ve also heard people talk about how despicable the characters are, that they couldn’t find anything positive about them and thus have no reason for liking the show. My usual response is along the lines of “Well, yeah. That’s the point. No?” Is Hannah privileged? YES. Is she dependent on others for her emotional stability in infantile, immature ways? Yes. Does she flirt with self-victimhood to feel morally superior to others? Yes. I’d even go as far as to say that she exhibits all of the above tendencies and more in each and every episode. She’s a wreck and God help me if I ever turn into her. There are moments in the show where I really despise her and/or give up hope for her. Take the ending of season 1, episode 4. After seeing in the preceding episodes how Hannah’s boyfriend Adam emotionally manipulates her and obviously doesn’t care about her, Hannah finally gains the confidence to go to his apartment and break-up with him. Standing in the doorway of his apartment, she makes a stand. If not eloquent, it’s definitely empowering.

Scene Here:


Hannah makes mistakes. A lot. But is Lena Dunham glorifying this behavior? NO. In fact, in the scene, we’re made to glorify in her growth and self-realization. And we really our own praise of her self-realization when it all plummets and she apologizes for her glorious self-realization. Will I be letting it all go like Hannah did? No, because when I see her make stupid choices, or elitist remarks, or ridiculous assumptions, the writing criticizes rather than glorifies these actions.

And since when has moral goodness implied likeability? Or for that matter, since when has likeability influenced whether a show is watchable? Don’t we all thrive on “Breaking Bad’s” masterfully evil ways? (We know there ain’t no redemption there) Is there a single likeable character on “Mad Men”? Is Don Draper teaching us how to be misogynist? Do the Lannisters teach us to be cruel and conniving? So why does “Girls” suddenly need to be a center of moral goodness? Continue reading “In Defense of “Girls.” And Then a Demand.”

5 Lessons I Learned from “Liz & Dick”

I was beyond excited for the premiere of Lifetime’s Liz & Dick. I was only expecting to see a campy made-for-television movie that would have all the best (and worst) parts of films like Mommie Dearest and The Room. Lucky for me, I even got to learn something from this hot mess.

1) Cheek fillers are awful.

Yes, we know: plastic surgery is terrible for actors because they can’t emote. But somehow, I’ve grown used to the frozen Botox expressions and face lift aliens that have graced my TV screen. Seeing Lindsay Lohan’s overstuffed cheeks battle with the rest of her face for world domination was a horrifying experience. It was almost as bad as her acting.

Speaking of which…

2) I am bored. I am so bored.

Lindsay–I mean, Elizabeth says this line with 100% commitment and believability while lounging at her estate. I couldn’t help but feel the same way while watching the movie. There are only so many times I could watch Liz and Dick fight, sex, and drink themselves until a poorly timed trailer for Playing for Keeps.

Please go away.

3) Our ADD isn’t that bad.

In a world where cell phones, data plans, and social networking have completely ruined our focus, it’s easy to believe we can’t pay attention to anything longer than a minute. Liz & Dick proved that not to be totally true. Every scene was shorter than two minutes, and I got cinematic whiplash in my attempt to understand it all.

4)  Story-telling is important.

All of the above (even the cheesy Lifetime soundtrack!) could have been forgiven if there was some narrative to latch onto. There was a hint of it when Richard Burton announces to Eddie Fisher that he and Elizabeth are having an affair. But that soon dissipates into poor writing, acting, and film editing.

5) The myth of Lindsay Lohan is dead.

Despite the arrests, lawsuits, and fame-hungry parents, the media has continued to latch onto Lohan’s story because there was a feeling that potential was being wasted. That if she got her act together, Lindsay Lohan could be a decent actress again. But Liz & Dick took that notion, ripped it to shreds, and presented it to every American home with a basic cable plan. It’s over–for now.

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