T.V show Shameless tackles current issues in their season set during the pandemic

Theresa Fabien

This photo shows the final promotion picture taken of the Shameless cast. It shows the family partying and laughing into oblivion while holding up Frank. While this promotion for Shameless makes the series appear as a comedy, it is much more, revealing the dark side of policing, exploring injustices against African Americans, and the politicization of Covid-19 in America.

“Well, well, well… look who’s back? Where the hell have you been? At home sitting on your a**es practicing social distancing? Washing your hands 20 times a day, while us essential workers risked our lives making sure you have enough toilet paper and wheat flour for your sourdough,” Frank Gallagher bellowed to his family in the intro of the first episode of this newest season of shameless, showcasing both his abrasive nature and the show’s topical themes.

The Gallagher crew just finished wrapping up their eleventh and final season of the hit show Shameless. This show follows the chaotic and strenuous struggles of a family living on the south side of Chicago, along with neighbors and community members. Created by Paul Abbott, this show not only depicts the problematic social and political system in the United States but also gives light to more at-home topics: drug addiction, depression, alcoholism, police brutality, and even the most recent pandemic of Covid-19.

The writers for season eleven not only took on a hot topic issue of police brutality but they also shocked the system when they took long-time bad boy Carl and turned him into a police officer. While working on the Southside in season eleven, he comes across multiple training officers. His first training officer is the polar opposite of Carl, and exactly what Carl didn’t want. When his training officer is injured on the job, Carl meets his new partner, officer Leesie Janes. As episode four, “NIMBY”, progresses, Carl’s training officer begins harassing a transgender woman, who is selling cigarettes on the street. Jane's actions as an officer go from mild to traumatic in a matter of hours. While driving through the neighborhood Carl grew up in, Officer Janes pulled over a woman selling cigarettes on the street. Janes asks the woman for her permit and when she did not have one, Janes continuously belittled her, misgendered her, as well as harassed her. As Carl attempted to speak up, his words were futile and ultimately ended up unheard and ignored. Only hours later when doing their second round of patrols, Officer Janes sees the woman again, and with Carl standing by, Janes proceeds to approach her.

“Strip. B**** I said strip. Lose the dress… Wig too,” Janes said.

After pointing a gun at the woman on the street, Officer Janes proceeded to take her clothes, leaving the woman bare, humiliated, and with no source of income.

Later, in an attempt to rectify the situation, Carl took this woman her clothes and wig along with two cartons of cigarettes. This gesture is more courageous and helpful in contrast to his earlier behavior of just standing around. Even though Carl verbally protested the officers actions as they were happening, he took no physical action until after when he returned the lady’s clothes. By using this scene, Shameless revealed a major systematic flaw in the law enforcement community in the United States: unaccountability. The season continues on with no legal or job repremations to Officer Leesie Janes, along with Carl never reporting it. The inability for officers to hold one another accountable by reporting or speaking out is what causes great injustice and the show. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder by a police officer, this episode suggested that, while our justice system is improving, it is still toxic.

Speaking of toxic, another character, Frank Gallagher, holds toxic views that threaten himself and his family. As the stand out father of the Gallagher family, he is frequently tempestuous with his children and a vehement anti-masker in the current pandemic. In episode one, “This Is Chicago”, of the final season of Shameless we see a documentarian following Frank around while Frank regails him in stories of old Gallagher traditions and fables. This documententarian’s shock and fascination with Frank is shown through the interview when he asks Frank about his family. The response is a long winded-over explanation of his family and all the drinking you can imagine. From here Frank also discusses his anti-covid sentiment, which has been a divisive issue in current politics.

The show itself does an amazing job representing the “unheard” anti-maskers and also their idea that science is a lie. From the start of the first episode of the first season all the way to the last episode of the last season, Frank is open and honest about his distaste and distrust of medical professionals, law professionals, educators, as well as local and federal government. This distrust and anger at the system that Frank holds is a carbon copy of the anger held by some of the American public who believe Covid-19 is a hoax.

The way this show transitions Covid-19 from not being as important in their lives to being the demise of Frank parallels the stories in the news of those getting sick and dying with less than a twenty-four hour notice. The writers in this show took Frank’s last moments to show the progression of the actors, the seasons, and the family as a whole.

In season eleven episode twelve “Father Frank, Full of Grace”, Frank lies in the hospital bed dying, his oxygen mask helping his every breath. “Covid positive, pulse ox is 88 and dropping,” a nurse states over Frank. A montage of his children’s life flashes before his eyes, and suddenly he is where they are. The moment comes where Frank is in the Alibi, the neighborhood bar, with all of his kids and friends singing along to “The Way We Get By”, by Spoon. The dimly lit bar-- cracks up the bricks, a sticky, beer-spilt floor, decorations on the walls, half empty kegs, and one of those mosaic lights hanging over the pool table-- was Frank’s home. He had spent more time in this bar over the seasons than in the Gallagher house, but as the family sang around the bar, Frank’s spirit sees an empty bar stool and observes the love and compassion his family had for each other.

Throughout the seasons, Frank survives many overdoses, benders, a kidney removal, and even a liver transplant. By portraying Frank as almost indestructible throughout the series, the writers were able to capture how violent this virus is and how quickly one can parish. Even while capturing this horrific virus that has spread across the world, the writers still managed to show the importance and the true nature of family even up until Frank’s dying breath.

This photo was taken on the porch of the South Side Chicago home where Shameless was filmed. The cast of Shameless just finished wrapping up their 11th and last season. Posted on April 11 by character Debby Gallagher, who included the whole Gallagher family. This show, set with the current pandemic, reveals, as they say, how art can imitate life imitating art. The writers of Shameless created a way to watch Americans struggle with Covid-19 and racial inequality while watching the media coverage of these events.

The way this show decided to embody different mentalities in the United States through different characters is one of the reasons Shameless is outstanding and one of the most realistic things to watch on screen. Writers of this show took on incredibly hot topic issues like Covid-19 and police brutality. These struggles that communities and families face are sometimes hard to understand if one doesn’t grow up around it or have the ability to visualize it, but Shameless does a superb way of showing and not glorifying the struggles that come with poverty, addiction, mental illness, and so much more. Too often are shows in the United States allowed to glorify and minimize the actual damage current events and illnesses have on people, but what this show does is prove the best and most effective performances are always the ones that show the truth. The ugly, messy, traumatic life the Gallaghers have may seem outrageous and incomprehensible but in each and every character, I was able to see parts of my life and my story. This show provides those pieces, a tiny moment that helps explain your story through the messy and chaotic life of the Gallagher’s.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square