In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Analyzing Homeland: Introduction
  • Diane Negra (bio) and Jorie Lagerwey (bio)

In the summer of 2014, Showtime’s hit espionage thriller Homeland (2011–) was just beginning to promote its fourth season, in which star CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) leaves behind her newborn child to return to vital fieldwork that will protect the titular American homeland. The show’s central romantic entanglement between Mathison and returned prisoner-of-war, terrorist sleeper agent, politician-hero Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) has concluded, Brody having sacrificed his life to redeem Mathison’s love and his reputation as an American patriot at the end of the third season. In the trailers for this fourth season, Mathison insists she has no choice but to forgo motherhood and follow her assignment abroad. Despite her sister’s claim that Carrie has engineered her mission to require her to leave her child behind, Mathison sees her public role as absolutely vital to national security and always prioritizes it over family life.

We explain these plot points in detail because they highlight many of the narrative, representational, and cultural elements that make Homeland a show worthy of an entire single-series In Focus. Upon its debut in 2011, Homeland quickly moved to a position of cultural prominence, becoming the kind of program that anchors middle-class taste formations and cultural literacies while earning numerous accolades and drawing record-setting audiences for the cable network. More significantly for our purposes, and as the following essays indicate, Home-land is a dense, polysemic text that provides rich grist for readings in relation to class, gender, and genre. Notably, the series has been analyzed as both a straightforward articulation of and a subversive critique of US foreign policy and the national security mind-set after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. For some, it progressively interrogates [End Page 126] the role of women in governmental and political regimes; for others, it works to hold in place conservative repressions regarding homeland security profiteering. The essays here reflect this complexity. Lindsay Steenberg and Yvonne Tasker set Homeland in the context of other American crime series, arguing that it articulates tropes of an unstable or unwell female investigator with those of the post-9/11 surveillance and security state. James Castonguay argues that the program’s “quality television” status supports its function as propaganda for the Obama administration’s foreign and domestic surveillance operations. Alex Bevan uses feminist geography to argue that Carrie Mathison’s mental illness functions as a stand-in for the unrepresentable and unpalatable features of a twenty-first-century warfare and geopolitics that are deeply mediated, waged from a distance, and fought between the United States and nonstate actors. Finally, Stephen Shapiro argues that Homeland speaks directly to the uncertain positioning of the middle class that was accentuated by the financial crisis that began in 2008.

Underpinning all of these collected essays is a concern with the gender and class discourses of “quality television.” It is our task here to set Homeland in relation to the female-centered network and basic-cable programs in the United States that have seemed to proliferate around and grow from the series’ ratings success. As a dimension of this, we also investigate Mathison’s emotionalism as expressed through Claire Danes’s Emmy- and Golden Globe–winning performance and the popular parodies thereof, which we understand as part of a reaction formation to the series’ female centrality.

Definitions of “quality television” and their significance to the industry, fans, and scholars have been debated for decades.1 Recent articulations of this debate have often focused on the subscription-cable service HBO, its role as creator of high-budget, high-gloss, highbrow series like The Sopranos (1999–2007), The Wire (2002–2008), and True Detective (2014–), and the basic-cable series that borrowed their emphasis on style and complicated, male-centered narratives from these predecessors.2 AMC’s Mad Men (2007–2015) and Breaking Bad (2008–2013) and FX’s Sons of Anarchy (2008–) and Justified (2010–2015) are just a few programs that have received critical attention for following HBO’s example. Praise for this cycle of “quality” television often starts by positively comparing these series...