Web Letters | The Nation

Fiction and reality in ‘Homeland’

In your opening sentence you ask if it is fair to criticize Homeland for its tenuous relationship to reality—and the answer is no. As a person who works in nonfiction, it always irks me when people hold fiction to the same standards as nonfiction. Fiction is not realty—it is a place where we explore what-ifs. Nonfiction is where we explore what is.

I am a huge Carrie fan—as a fictional character. She is a woman, and I like seeing female leads. She has been diagnosed, and I like seeing a person diagnosed with a mental illness as something other than dangerous, violent, incapable of navigating reality and a victim, which is how people diagnosed with mental illness are traditionally treated in fiction and in nonfiction.

Secondly, in my opinion there is much misinformation in your article about “the mentally ill.” One fact would be that those diagnosed are less likely to be dangerous and violent than the general population. The real issue for me is that so many people are afraid of “the mentally ill” and that they view all people who are diagnosed through the filter of fear. Fiction writers can take their characters wherever they want—but your view that Carrie’s story would end after her ECT treatment “in reality” (yeah, that could happen) doesn’t ring true for me, because many people who are diagnosed go on to recover, have jobs, marry, own homes, pay taxes and work all kinds of miracles against great obstacles.

Lise Zumwalt

New York City

Apr 14 2013 - 10:19am

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