First Look: ‘Revenge’ Takes On Terrorist Financing

Revenge isn’t the best show of the fall, but it’s more fun than I expected, full of the kind of dark sizzle that Ringer should have had. And while the setup’s baroque and soapy, it’s actually set around a fascinating premise. The main character is working to take out a group of wealthy Hamptonites who helped frame her father for helping provide financing to terrorists.

It’s an interesting choice. For the last 10 years, collaborating with terrorism has probably been the worst accusation you could level at another American. Such charges have been the justification for horrible attacks on American Muslims, they are the source of the fascination with John Walker Lindh. The idea of a businessman helping a terrorist group route funding without any ideological reason for doing so is difficult to imagine, and so you can see how charges like that would be horrifying. Would it be better to tell a story about false accusations through the eyes of Muslim characters, and from the basis of communities that have actually been victimized by these kinds of allegations and hate crimes inspired by those allegations? Absolutely. But it might also be a very hard sell, and not necessarily a productive thing, to have a Muslim character taking sometimes violent revenge on Americans who are too stupid, or self-interested, to separate out a religion from its fanatics. It would be pretty disastrous if an ABC soap got in the business — however accidentally — of spreading the impression that there are grievance-mongering, taqiyya-practicing Muslims all up in the Hamptons. If we’re going to have a pop take on the issue, this may be the way to go.

I don’t really think that shows like this are a major and valuable part of our debate over issues like terrorism or class (there are lots of nice little class and intra-social class conflicts in the pilot). But I do think it’s interesting that rather some baroque and non-topical way of killing off the main character’s father, the show chose something topical, appropriate, and attuned to American fears and weaknesses. I’d rather stupid, fun shows acknowledge that politics play a big role in American life and use that as the basis for ridiculousness than invent flimsy personal stories that don’t really hold up as the basis for melodramatic events (a la Ringer). We messed up our country in the way we responded to terrorism. It’s really a stretch for me to believe that bad people would use national tragedy to disgusting personal ends.