Drugs, sex in the kitchen in front of the kids, 40 ounce bottles of malt liquor strewn across the house.
And don’t even get me started on the house…Broken tiles, a dilapidated porch that has been jerry-rigged back together with old two-by-fours, a fridge a that has a broken door, a leaking roof… This house isn’t the type of house you see in most American Television shows featuring a family. And the family in that house isn’t like most that you might see in an American Television show.
Shameless is a misnomer. The show centers around a dirt-poor, white family that lives in the Southside of Chicago. The family is composed of six children, a morbidly alcoholic father, and a drug-addict mother who is everything but present throughout the show. It is for lack of better terms, a broken home. And that is what makes the show so special.
What makes this show so much more different than most television shows that have a family as the main cast of characters? This family is dirty, poor, criminal, questionably unethical in many regards, and completely honest with each other. It’s an adventure.
Throughout the series, we see the simple yet real struggles that the children deal with in order to survive in low class, urban America. Unlike television shows in the past like Leave it to Beaver (which showed the ideal upper middle class family that Americans should supposedly strive to be), Shameless shows the harsh realities and truths that face many Americans who live in poor communities.
In my mind, Shameless creates an antithesis of the happy, white-picket fence family living in America. Shameless shows the everyday struggles of people in poor communities via the Gallagher family and thus paints a picture of the socioeconomic divide in America.
Shameless doesn’t just create an artistic commentary about the socioeconomic divide in America. It more generally portrays the cultural differences between the rich and the poor. One example of this is how people in the Southside of Chicago react to finding out that Ian Gallagher is gay. When the father of Ian Gallagher’s partner discovers the homosexual relationship that his son and Ian Gallagher have, he beats the shit of Ian and his partner.
Throughout the show, it is not uncommon for characters to make extremely offensive remarks towards Ian. Whether the remarks are said in jest or in an insulting manner, there is one thing for sure…there are a lot of homophobic remarks made. Like more than usual…even for a television show.
In my mind, the creators of this show are trying to accentuate the difference in the way that gays are treated, depending on the socioeconomic background of the community in which they are in.
There are a lot of differences in lives of people who live in wealthy, middle-class, poor, and poverty stricken communities in the United States. While Shameless goes about showing the development of different characters in the Gallagher family, it also shows the character development through situations that are specific to the contextual setting of the show: the poor side of Chicago.
Teenage pregnancy, drug dealing to pay rent, DIY pornography, and employment at the local strip club are just a few of the many situations that different characters in the Gallagher family face. While many of the scenarios are dramatized (this is a TV series after all), there is a sense of realism in the show. Whenever I watch the show and witness all the craziness that takes place within the Gallagher household I thing to myself, “There are definitely families out there that are just like this one.” I don’t get that often from watching TV. This ain’t no leave it to beaver, and I love it.
Key Terms To Be Used
-Cultural Pedagogy (In the context of lower income areas)
-Content Analysis of other Television Shows featuring a family as the main set of characters.
-Content Analysis of Shameless family