I watch very little TV and it’s unlikely I would have watched Homeland anyway (I still have to catch up with the second season of The Americans), but this sharp critique by Fatima Shakeel, a Pakistani who would like to like the show, makes it even more unlikely. Most of it is not LH material, but this section assuredly is:
Nobody speaks the bizarre, nonsensical language of the “local” characters on Homeland.
Imagine a show about New York City in which the “native New Yorkers” spoke English like the characters on Downton Abbey, spending wildly inaccurate amounts of money to go to nonexistent places. That’s what it feels like to watch Homeland if you speak Urdu.
Homeland consistently botches the most fundamental aspects of Urdu conversation, in ways that are both painful and hilarious to anyone who actually speaks it. If someone inquires about the whereabouts of their family members, and you have to tell them that they died in a drone strike, you don’t say “mujhe maaf kijiye,” as the strange, veiled woman in Homeland‘s premiere does. Saying that does not mean “I’m sorry for your loss”; it means “forgive me,” implying that she personally murdered the inquirer’s family members.
The English accents are just as inauthentic. In real life, Pakistani English sounds nothing like the oft-caricatured Indian English accent. On Homeland, however, Pakistani characters speaking in English sound either like Apu from The Simpsons or like the carpet merchant singing the opening song of Disney’s Aladdin.
I find it hard to believe that the show’s producers couldn’t find a single native Urdu speaker or any Pakistani actors. At the very least, why not hire a language consultant? If Game of Thrones can hire a linguist to properly construct believable, fictional languages like Valyrian and Dothraki, why can’t Homeland hire somebody to check the basics of a real-world language?
Why indeed? Like Shakeel, I don’t expect a TV series to get everything right, but this level of contempt for an actual city and its inhabitants is so repellent I refuse to pay it the tribute of watching the show.