Each week I tune into Quantico on ABC, and I love it, but I find it to be a guilty pleasure. Quantico has made a name for itself by casting Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra, as the first Indian lead in a US television series. However, I cannot seem to shake the guilt surrounding my enjoyment of the show when I consider the ways the show perpetuates many of the same post-9/11 stereotypes that many groups work to overcome on a daily basis.
The main storyline surrounds Chopra’s character, Alex Parrish, being suspected of terrorism after Grand Central Terminal in New York City is bombed. This plot is further complicated by the ancillary storyline of Nimah/Rayna Amin, the secret twin FBI trainees played by Yasmine Al Massri, whose sole reason for recruitment by the FBI is to infiltrate terrorist cells. The storyline questions Parrish’s mysterious past, including an “unaccounted for” year in India during her youth where she allegedly spent time with now-known terrorists. This history made her an easy target to blame after the bombing. Similarly, the reasoning behind Amin’s recruitment makes the twins out to be similarly suitable suspects.
The storyline of Quantico seems to suggest that the minority status of Parrish and Amin automatically leads one to assume that they are possible terrorists, which is an obviously unreasonable conclusion. Do foreign ties or religious beliefs automatically equate to terrorism? Not at all, nor should they. However, these stereotypical assumptions are common and pervasive throughout US society.
Perhaps Quantico’s brilliance lies in the screenwriters’ ability to play to these stereotypes and then flip in on its head (after all, it is only 6 episodes into the season so perhaps the flip is coming). But I cannot help but wonder whether all viewers are getting that message, or whether some viewers enjoy based on its “realistic” aspect of persecuting perceived foreign Americans because of their perceived foreignness.
Perhaps I am overly optimistic, but I would like to imagine a Hollywood where women of Indian and Middle-Eastern descent can play more than complicated potential terrorists. After last Sunday’s episode, where suspicion has shifted from Caleb – the white, male analyst who failed as a field agent – to Amin, I am not sure that my concerns have been quelled. But I can’t help but keep watching to see how this all plays out.
by: Portia Allen-Kyle