October 20th, 2013
Last year, The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum had a theory about Homeland. She argued that Sgt. Nicholas Brody’s panicked communications with Abu Nazir as Carrie Mathison was held hostage were all an act, and that he was in on the plan from the beginning.
It was an interesting theory, one she gave me credit for partially debunking by noting that Abu Nazir and Brody continue speaking in the same manner once Carrie is no longer listening to their conversation. For me, that was the sign that the theory couldn’t work: while an interesting idea, I did not believe Homeland was a series that would so actively mislead the viewer with information that—in hindsight—would contradict the intended truth of the situation.
If you saw last night’s episode of Homeland, and have been following some of the subsequent conversation, the above may sound familiar. Indeed, this season’s central storyline almost feels inspired by Nussbaum’s theory, as though the writers took it as a challenge as to whether the series could sustain a twist that in retrospect contradicts many of the storylines and character actions displayed in earlier episodes and maintain its reputation.
The response to “Game On” suggests that they can’t, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m no longer on board.
Earlier this evening, my brother directed me to a piece at Slate defending the Golden Globes, something that we don’t see particularly often. Indeed, that is very much the impetus behind Tom Shone’s argument, praising the Globes relative to the Academy Awards for a collection of strong choices that the Academy would undo a month later (such as, for example, the Globes honoring Brokeback Mountain only for the Oscars to choose the turgid Crash instead).
Shone’s argument is interesting, primarily because it does little to hide its anecdotal nature. He argues that while we might contest many choices that the Globes have made over the years, they have done enough good in enough instances to be “worth it” in the end. While some might question the value of their existence, Shone believes that looking at even a handful of examples where they were legitimately ahead of the curve, or where their whims happened to match with how cinematic history would remember a particular year in film, justify any travesties they might otherwise commit.
My brother’s question to me, upon informing me of the article, was whether I would suggest the same could be said for television, a thought that I was preoccupied with throughout tonight’s Golden Globes broadcast. Whereas the Golden Globes line up comfortably as a precursor for the Oscars, the Globes’ relationship with the Emmys is complicated by their differing eligibility periods and voting structures. However, building on Shone’s argument, there was evidence within tonight’s broadcast that some of the Globes’ voting habits that we might otherwise vilify in particular contexts proved to benefit shows that I like, and shows that may not necessarily be lauded to the same degree come September.
My takeaway from this is not necessarily a validation of the Golden Globes or the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, but rather an increased belief that our assessment of award shows needs to become more nuanced, both in terms of how we perceive them as cultural entities and in terms of how we consider their industrial – as opposed to cultural – significance as a framework for understanding their greater “meaning.”