The Gallaghers are still trying to get ahead, but a clear goal is out of focus.
Fiona Gallagher is the good kid, m.A.A.d city of fictional TV characters, the good kid so close to being a normal, functional adult until something happens...
Watching Showtime's Shameless—originally a British series developed by Paul Abbott—leaves you exhausted and drained; after one episode you find yourself organizing your room and writing to-do lists to ensure the Gallagher's brand of chaos never enters your life. Call it Americana, call it the South Side of Chicago, call it 13.5% of America (or 43.1 million American households), but Shameless is good ol' poverty under a microscope.
For those who aren't subscribed to the premium cable channel, Showtime, Shameless's seven seasons are available on Netflix to stream and follow the misadventures of a single father and alcoholic, Frank (William H. Macy), and his oldest daughter, Fiona (Emmy Rossum), the primary caretaker of the Gallagher clan. Frank is the type of man who has no business having one kid, let alone, six mouths to feed; he doesn't care about the well-being of his family, but how, when, and where he'll have his next drink. Fiona takes after her father in doses, prioritizing her siblings' needs over her own—except when there's coke, attractive bad boys, or booze in the room. She's a diligent worker, but often finds herself slipping into the same habits she warns her siblings to avoid.
Fiona Gallagher is the good kid, m.A.A.d city of fictional TV characters, the good kid so close to being a normal, functional adult until something happens, reminding her (and the audience) just how fragile her world is, and how easy it is to knock her a few rungs down on the socioeconomic ladder she's desperately trying to climb. There are no free meals in life and the Gallaghers are the first to tell you, looking under couch pillows to find quarters and dimes for school lunch. In season four, Lip (Jeremy Allan White) proclaimed the only way to get money when you're poor is to steal or scam it, and in season eight, this sentiment still rings true: As Fiona tries to stage her apartment building to draw in hipster renters, she gets pushback from her tenants, friends, and brother Ian (Cameron Monaghan)—who's boycotting Fiona in the name of love.
Shameless is similar in tone to another UK show, Skins, but is far more adult in subject matter. Shameless, like Skins, is about sex, familial obligations, drug use, and surviving capitalism—but mostly about the real-life pangs of poverty and the families living in the neighborhoods your mom warns you about on your walk home from school. Shameless is about the folks who make twenty dollars last an entire week between six growing, loudmouthed kids; and Shameless is about how far families will go to keep their dysfunction in their household, instead of various foster homes (in ironically worse conditions).
In its eighth season, Shameless is trying to find clarity for its characters while still keeping the shock value and family drama viewers are addicted to seeing. We secretly love seeing Lip mess up, drop out of school, and walk the streets of South Side Chicago like nothing can hurt him; and we love seeing Fiona's scheme to scrape up the month's rent. Whether Shameless is detailing the extensive focus needed for sobriety, or the three jobs one has to work to feed a full house, it's the endless drive and heart of the Gallaghers that makes Shameless so addictive.
Shameless is renewed for a ninth season, but where exactly can these characters go? How much more drama and dysfunction can they deal with before they become caricatures? Shameless, for now, is still one of the best shows studying the politics of upward mobility, the gritty reality of never having quite enough to make it out of the slums, and how close in proximity the slums are to the Crate & Barrel homes.
POP⚡ DUST Score: ⚡⚡⚡⚡
Shaun Harris is a poet, freelance writer, and editor published in avant-garde, feminist journals. Lover of warm-toned makeup palettes, psych-rock, and Hilton Als. Her work has allowed her to copyedit and curate content for various poetry organizations in the NYC area.
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Breaking down the bias of comfort films.
With the constant onslaught of complicated news that 2020 has brought, sometimes you just want to be able to shut off your brain, relax, and feel happy.
Enter comfort films. These are the feel-good movies that feel like a warm hug when you finish them, the ones that allow you to escape for a short while. We often turn to these types of films in times of trouble or extreme stress, and when we're not sure what films of this nature we should watch, we turn to the Internet for options.
Rivera's "Glee" character was not just important, she was groundbreaking.
As a young queer girl growing up in the south, I was lucky that my parents weren't homophobes.
My parents believed that people were sometimes born gay, and while they wouldn't "wish that harder life" on their children, they certainly made me and my sister believe that gay people were just as worthy of love as anyone else. I was lucky.
Still, in my relatively sheltered world of Northern Virginia (a rich suburb near Washington D.C.), homophobia wasn't as blatant as hate crimes or shouted slurs, but it was generally accepted that being straight was, simply, better.
In high school, it wasn't uncommon to use "gay" as an insult or for girls to tease each other about being "lez." While many of us, if asked, would have said we were in support of gay marriage and loved The Ellen Show, being gay remained an undesirable affliction.
Even more insidious, I was instilled with the belief—by my church and my peers—that if gay and lesbian people could be straight, they would. But since they were simply incapable of attraction to the opposite sex or fitting into traditional gender roles, we should accept them as they are as an act of mercy. At the time, this kind of pity seemed progressive and noble. Those in my close circle of family and friends weren't openly dismissive or condemning of gay people, but we saw homosexuality as a clear predisposition with no gray areas.
Specifically: Gay men talked with a lilt, giggled femininely, and were interested in things that weren't traditionally "masculine." Meanwhile, gay women dressed like men, had no interest in makeup or other traditionally female interests, and probably had masculine bodies and features. In my mind, before someone came out as gay, they did everything in their power to "try to be straight" but were eventually forced to confront the difficult reality that they felt no attraction at all to the opposite sex. I viewed homosexuality not as a spectrum, but as a black and white biological predisposition that meant you were thoroughly, completely, and pitiably gay.
As a child, when I began to experience stirrings of attraction for other girls, I would reassure myself that not only had I definitely felt attraction for men in the past, but I also liked being pretty. I was a tomboy as a child, sure, but as I got older I recognized that my value was increased in the eyes of society if I tried to be a pretty girl. As it turned out, I even liked putting on clothes that made me feel good, I liked applying makeup, and I liked some traditionally "feminine" things. In my mind, this meant that I couldn't be gay, because gay women didn't like "girl" stuff.
As a teenager, I began to learn more about the difference between gender and sexuality, and the fluidity of both. I began to let myself feel some of the long-suppressed feelings of queer desire I still harbored.
Still, in the back of my mind, the instilled certainty of sexuality as an extremely rigid thing sometimes kept me up at night. What if I was gay? Would I have to change the way I looked? Would I have to give up some of the things I liked? In my mind, being gay meant your sexuality was your whole identity, and everything else about you disappeared beneath the weight of it.
But then, Santana came out as gay on Glee.
GLEE - The Santana 'Coming Out Scene' www.youtube.com
If you didn't watch Glee, than you might not know the importance of Naya Rivera's character to so many queer young women like myself. Santana was beautiful, she was popular, she had dated boys, she was feminine, she was sexy, and she was gay. There's even evidence that Santana had previously enjoyed relationships with men.
But the character came out anyways, not because she had to or because it was obvious to everyone around her that she was gay, but because her attraction to women was an aspect of her identity she was proud of. It wasn't an unfortunate reality she simply had to make the best of; it was an exciting, beautiful, aspect of her identity worth celebrating.
Before Santana, it had never really come home for me that being gay wasn't an entire identity—that it wasn't an affliction or disorder, but just another part of a person. She also didn't suddenly start wearing flannels or cutting her hair after coming out. She was the same feminine person she had always been. I had never realized that being a gay woman didn't have to look a certain way. Santana and Brittany's gay storyline showed two femme-presenting women in love, and for me, that was a revolution.
If it wasn't for Naya Rivera, we may never have had that important story line.
"It's up to writers, but I would love to represent [the LGBTQ community] because we know that there are tons of people who experience something like that and it's not comical for them in their lives," Rivera told E! News in 2011. "So I hope that maybe we can shed some light on that."
While Rivera herself wasn't gay (the importance of casting gay actors in gay roles is a separate conversation), she understood how important her character was to the queer community. "There are very few ethnic LGBT characters on television, so I am honored to represent them," Rivera told Latina magazine in 2013. "I love supporting this cause, but it's a big responsibility, and sometimes it's a lot of pressure on me."
Rivera wasn't just a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community on screen. In 2017, she wrote a "Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community" for Billboard's Pride Month. In it, she wrote, "We are all put on this earth to be a service to others and I am grateful that for some, my Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays may have given a little light to someone somewhere, who may have needed it. To everyone whose heartfelt stories I have heard, or read I thank you for truly enriching my life."
Now, as we mourn the loss of Naya Rivera, at least we can take comfort in knowing that her legacy will live on—that the light her Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays gave us won't go out any time soon.
Excuse me, I have to go weep-sing-along to Rivera's cover of landslide now.
Glee - Landslide (Full Performance + Scene) 2x15 youtu.be
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