‘Homeland’: 1 Protagonist Was So Despised Fans Wanted Her Killed Off
Homeland burst on to Showtime in 2011 with intense political intrigue and nail-biting mystery and drama. The show had an all-star cast and was an instant critical hit and audiences were eagerly hooked on the show.
While it wasn’t immune to the controversial opinions that most dramas with national security themes suffer from, it continued strong all the way through the series’ end in April 2020. Despite being such a beloved show, one character has drawn a disproportionate amount of criticism.
Morgan Saylor’s character of Dana Brody was largely hated by fans who otherwise loved the show. Why was Dana so hated, and did she actually deserve all the criticism Saylor got for the role?
How Dana fits into ‘Homeland’
Homeland is the story of a marine, Sergeant Nicholas Brody, returning after being a prisoner of war for 8 years. Though it seems that he is an all-American hero, CIA counterterrorism operative Carrie Mathison begins to suspect that he has been compromised and “turned” in his time as a prisoner of terrorist Abu Nazir.
As the show progresses and it becomes clear that there is merit to Mathison’s suspicions, the characters are entangled in an intense web of intrigue and espionage.
As Sergeant Brody’s daughter, Dana is conflicted as events spiral outside her control, and her life is turned upside down. As the show progresses through early seasons Dana is increasingly conflicted and agitated as the childhood and life she knew become distant memories.
The story is based on the Israeli TV series Prisoners of War created by Gideon Raff, who was an executive producer on Homeland.
The angsty teenager trope
Fans’ criticism of Dana was near-universal in early seasons. Lovers of the show made fansites dedicated to hating the character, social media constantly mocked her, and she was a favorite punchline for parodies of the show.
The usual complaint revolves around Saylor’s portrayal being continually annoying and her storylines not contributing to the overall plot. Viewers complained that her actions rarely made sense in the narrative, and they wished they could just get on to other plot points without visiting all of Dana’s teenage angst.
As a 16-year-old girl though is it fair for fans to want a less angsty portrayal of a girl who had assumed her father was dead for 8 years, only to have him return as such a drastically changed man? She continually acts out through drug use, sexual deviance, and other ramifications of a clearly degrading mental state.
Fans criticized that teenage angst and rebellion didn’t fit into the plot, but it could also be claimed that many missed the point- that is the plot. Dana’s story arc is about a child who’s entire structure and support system crumble, and watching her cope (or fail to) with the problems she’s presented is central to the drama.
HuffPost reported that the fan-hatred led to viewers wanting her killed off the series. One fan tweeted: “Dear @SHO_Homeland, Kill off Dana Brody immediately. Love, Everyone.” Another said: “Less Dana and teenage romance suicide drama. More Nick Brody and CIA, government, terrorism subjects please.”
Morgan Saylor speaks out
In an interview with The Daily Beast in 2013, Saylor discusses the hate she received for her portrayal of the character on the show. She compares herself to Anna Gunn’s character of Skyler White on Breaking Bad, as a character people love to hate, but is central to the storyline and driving the conflict.
The interview hints that the character is more real than people can deal with, reacting to unrealistic circumstances realistically. Asked what her intentions with the character were, Saylor replies: “Dana’s story is different than most of Homeland, and I know that. But it shows the effect Brody’s actions have on his family.”
An entire story can’t be intrigue and action. Sometimes consequences of those actions have to be explored in the narrative, and what’s closer to home than the daughter of the man central to the conflict?
Saylor speaks at length about the amount of hate she’s received, and how it mostly rolls off her back: “Characters are not always supposed to be loved. You could look at most characters and see mixed reactions. I don’t know. I don’t take it personally. I think it’s kind of interesting to see people, like, spending so much time focusing on something like that.”
It’s refreshing to see such a mature reaction to fans’ anger from such a young actress. While Saylor’s performance on Homeland certainly wasn’t perfect, fans should step back and look at the whole narrative and remember that sometimes artists need to use colors that aren’t necessarily their favorite to paint the whole picture.