Street artists hired to paint a "Homeland" set built in Berlin decided to criticize the show's depiction of Muslims through their graffiti. No one caught the hidden message until after it aired.
The fifth season of the series "Homeland" was shot in Berlin in the summer of 2015. No longer working as a CIA agent, lead character Carrie Mathison (played by Claire Danes) ends up in the German capital, hired by a humanitarian firm as a security expert.
Although the entire season was filmed in and around Berlin, some scenes take place in a Syrian refugee camp on the Lebanese-Syrian border. A set was built just outside of the city to reproduce the area. To make it look authentic, the production company hired experienced street artists to paint Arabic proverbs on the walls.
"In a typical 'Homeland' way, the production company didn't do much research. They just wanted something in Arabic to make it somehow look authentic. They showed us Pro-Bashar and Anti-Bashar graffiti as examples - they obviously didn't care about the content," participating street artist Stone told DW.
Artist saw a chance and took it
"Given the series' reputation, we were not easily convinced, until we considered what a moment of intervention could relay about our own and many others' political discontent with the series," wrote "The Arabian Street Artists"- Heba Amin, Caram Kapp and Stone - in a statement published online.
The show was already described as "the most bigoted show on television" in "The Washington Post" because of its undifferentiated depiction of a threatening "Muslim world."
The activist artists nevertheless decided to play the game, using the opportunity to subvert the show by adding their own message to the hyper-realistic set: They painted critical graffiti containing statements like "Homeland is racist," "Homeland is a joke, and it didn't make us laugh," and "Homeland is NOT a series."
Months after the scenes were filmed, the second episode of the season, "The Tradition of Hospitality," aired in the US on Sunday, October 11.
Although some of their messages appear on screen for a few seconds only, international media quickly picked up on the story.
"We thought it would make a few people laugh, and it worked," said Stone. "But we also wanted to make people think about the series a bit. It's not just a TV show. It portrays dangerous stereotypes - Islamophobia, and racism too."
The artists have yet not received any reactions from the producers at Showtime.