Originally Posted by djoberg
I concur with each one of them with the exception of the highlighted words above. I do agree with you that it would be *simplistic* to label one as "good" and the other as "bad," but yet the reality is one side (i.e. the Soviet Union) was "bad."
That rather addresses my meaning behind saying, "The show is primarily about how humans manage to balance conflicting loyalties between family and state." The nations involved don't particularly matter; the story exists on a personal level, not a national one. The scenario would work with two spies from any nation living in any foreign country; the producers chose the Cold War as their backdrop, but the exigencies presented would remain essentially the same in other contexts. As such, history's judgements on the merits of Communism are irrelevant to the series.
Originally Posted by djoberg
Again, I do agree with you though that the beauty of The Americans
is seen in the complexity of the characters and the conflicts that arise in people's lives due to family and national allegiances. Because of this I can overlook the ideology (to some extent) of Philip and Elizabeth and actually root for them during the crises they face because of the rising conflicts between family and the Motherland. In saying I am rooting for them, I'm obviously not saying I hope they'll continue to succeed in their espionage, but I'm hoping they'll both find a true, moral compass and be delivered from the Communistic ideology (and from anything immoral they detect in our own beloved USA).
We root for Philip and Elizabeth because they are the protagonists, not because we want Communism to win. This story would also work if it was set in reverse, i.e. following a fake family of American spies living in Russia. It's likely that all this perceived controversy over the unthinkable nature of rooting for "the enemy" would never have arisen had the show been configured in that manner, but the show would also have been far less interesting that way.
The Americans is also something of a study in other cultures and understanding that other nations' citizens can have just as much devotion to their countries as we do, as well as realizing that the views of individual citizens rarely reflect the entirety of a regime's policies. People will go to extremes if they are under the impression that drastic measures are necessary for the preservation of their homelands, even if their country's current rulers are less than stellar. The characters of Philip and Elizabeth are two examples of such people: it is perhaps a little extreme to say that we must overlook their ideologies, as they likely do not agree with or even know about all the policies of their government. They are just answering the call to serve their country, the same as intelligence personnel do around the world, even when they may not always agree with the governments they serve. The key element in The Americans is the human one: what matters is rooting for Philip and Elizabeth to fulfill their obligations while keeping their family safe in an inherently dangerous business; the political views of their superiors are largely irrelevant and should not make us feel guilty for liking them.
This is why the producers chose to make a show like this today, rather than twenty years ago. Such a show that dared to humanize "the enemy" would have seemed unthinkable when the Cold War was fresh in citizens' minds, but today many of the people watching the show grew up after those events were already over. Enjoying this show requires some objectivity and distance from the events of the time and understanding that the desire to serve one's country and to protect its interests is not a concept unique to the citizens of one nation.