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How “Shameless” Will Open Your Eyes on American Society: Part 1

After its premiere on Showtime back in 2011, Shameless - the American remake of the British show by the same name - has been renewed for its 11th and last season. It was originally due to air this summer, but that has now been postponed due to the COVID19 pandemic.

With a brilliant yet terrifying portrait of the lower-class in America, the show follows the life of a white dysfunctional mid-western family, that after just a few episodes will make you forget what life used to be like before meeting the Gallaghers.

With a constant swing between comedic highlights and heartbreaking moments, Shameless tackles some of the most important and discussed issues in our modern society such as race, poverty, LGBTQ+ rights, class, sex, addiction, mental health, gun violence, pro-choice vs pro-life and so much more, in a way that no other TV show has ever done before!

Let’s dive deeper into some of the main social issues portrayed over the seasons.

Poverty and Gentrification

Shameless highlights the struggle of a dysfunctional family with no parental figures and easier access to drugs than education. This show tackles the raw, honest, and unapologetic discussion of American poverty. You see kids turning into criminals to survive, young adults, slaving to make ends meet, an alcoholic parent who’s somehow always to feed his addiction, but not bring food home to his kids.

This is just a little taste of what Shameless brings to the table, making the audience reflect on the social discrepancy that characterizes America. A deep wound that becomes even more evident when the South Side is taken over by organic coffee shops and community gardens and identified as an “up and coming neighborhood”. I.E. Gentrification. The show manages to brilliantly point out that gentrification doesn’t only mean that an area acquires value and respect, making it more livable and desirable; it also means that families that have lived there for years, can’t afford to keep their properties even in the poorest parts of the city.


Shameless gives what’s possibly the most accurate, realistic and detailed portrait ever seen on TV of not only what addiction is, but more specifically what it does to the individuals and their families.

Frank (the addict) is known all over the South Side for being a pathological liar, ready to step over anything and anyone just to get the money he needs to feed his addiction. Whether it’s alcohol, coke, crack or any other kind of drug, it all comes before his own family.

With no ability to take care of anyone but himself, Frank’s behavior inevitably affects his kids, who take on different roles to cope with the lack of parental guidance and stable role models.

Family Dynamics

The Gallaghers represent the complex relationships of the average American family. From top to bottom, there's a thread of pain, guilt, and regret, that each character bears and has to live with. Frank's addiction impacts each family member in a different way, but they all fight to make the best of what they have.

Fiona (the hero) is a young woman who had to grow up too fast and who’s unable to maintain a healthy relationship due to her self-sabotaging behaviors, steaming from her underlying feelings of guilt and fear.

Lip (the hero/mascot), the brain of the family, the only true hope for the Gallaghers to get out of poverty, is determined to finish college, but often gets in trouble and ultimately ends up fighting against his own addiction.

Ian (the lost child) is the one who always puts others’ needs in front of his own; we even see him struggling with admitting his sexuality to his family at the beginning of the series, just because he didn’t want to be a burden.

Debbie (the caretaker) is the caretaker and the only one who still tries her best to see the good in Frank and keep him close to the family.

Carl (the scapegoat) is possibly the most interesting character in the series. His sociopath tendencies and criminal behaviors cost him time in juvenile detention, but he’ll later reveal his true nature: a good and caring young boy who’s constantly seeking the approval he lacked as a child.

If you wanna know more about how the show addresses other issues such as mental health, homophobia, and LGBTQ+ rights, and domestic abuse, stay tuned for part 2 next Thursday!

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