There is always a sense of care from the neighbours, especially from Veronica who claimed to have previously trained as a nurse. Frank, the father, is represented exactly how you would stereotype a male of his age that lives on an estate, an unemployed alcoholic. One thing he is not though is aggressive; in fact Frank is shown as very welcoming in the pilot episode, especially when Fiona’s new man, Steve arrives at the house. However, this seems to go against traditional representations on TV as fathers tend to look after their family in terms of providing financial support as the ‘bread winner’ and showing displays of masculinity.
But yet somehow without any parental guidance from the absent mum or father the family still mange to cope with day to day life and show great feats of unity. This is largely down to the fact that the eldest daughter, Fiona keeps the family afloat and in someway acts as the mother figure of the whole family. This representation of the eldest daughter is very unusual in television but shows working class life in a positive way as the daughter has been brought up well enough to take care of the family when called for.
In more modern television females who take up this role of being the mother are also shown to be entrepreneurial but Fiona actually shows the representation of more traditional ‘superwomen’ like roles that were shown in early television. Steve, Fiona’s new boyfriend also plays a role in disrupting stereotypes of working class ideologies and cleverly manages to portray him and Fiona in a positive light. When Steve and Fiona go out for a meal in a posh upper class restaurant Fiona is told to kindly wait outside so that she could smoke whilst Steve pays the bill.
To her surprise Steve then exits the building in a valet parking uniform, takes the keys of a Mercedes off an old but wealthy man and drives off with the car. Steve then proceeds by ringing Fiona who is still outside looking rather confused at this point, whilst reversing back to her and tells her that he doesn’t buy and sell cars but in fact just sells them. Fiona’s initial reaction was of shock and explains how it was wrong to do that to an old man but Steve convincingly justifies his actions by explaining that the old man drives whilst drunk. She then gets in the car and they both drive off whilst laughing.
Although what Steve has done is wrong, the dominant message that the audience are left with is that he has done society a favour by taking a drunken driver off the road. Paul Abbott has managed to twist what would have been seen as unacceptable but expected behaviour of the working class into something that is in fact actually a good deed. Another positive aspect would be the relationship between the eldest brothers of the Gallagher household, Lipp and Ian. When Lipp find out Ian is gay he expectedly argues with him out of shock. However, as the pilot episode progresses Lipp shows understanding and comes to terms with his brother’s sexuality.
This defies all traditional representations of working class men being masculine and the acceptance of his sexuality from his brother is something that would be completely unexpected. This is reinforcing the strong relationships that this working class family have, something that could not be found in middle or upper class families. The pilot episode is then concluded with the whole family sitting around the table eating breakfast with the acceptance of Frank who is passed out on the floor. This ends the episode on a positive note with the element of a strong family relationship that has dominated throughout the episode.
Now, let’s move on and look at our next episode of Shameless, the last of the latest series (S. 1, Ep. 16). Within this episode the sense of community still remains at large but we shall be also concentrating on other characters around the Gallagher family to give us an insight into how Shameless represents the working class as a whole unit. This episode starts off with a scene in the local bar, where Frank’s new girlfriend Libby has set up a programme named ‘guns for amnesty’ in which each gun that is handed in will be rewarded with a bottle of vodka.
This shows that the people of Chatsworth estate are working together to help stop crime. This representation plays a huge role in disrupting the traditional stereotype of all working class people being involved in criminal activity. It is also important to mention at this point that Libby is a very free, intelligent and strong willed character which also goes against dominant representations of working class women as being dependant on their male counter parts.
This notion of feminine independence is also backed up by the bar maid and former wife of local gangster Paddy Maguire, Mimi, when rival gangster Roscoe comes to the pub in assumption that Mimi will be venerable and insecure without her husband. Roscoe was proved wrong when she rejects his offer of ‘protection’. Mimi is a female character but with very masculine traits, in fact her display of masculinity sometimes out does that of her three sons. Mimi confirms her total independence towards the end of the episode where she unexpectedly gives birth to a baby completely by herself after months of complaining about stomach pains.
Later on in the episode a death of character, Joe, somewhat also manages to shed a positive aspect on the life of working class society. Joe plays a character that tends to disconnect and separate himself from the rest of inhabitants of Chatsworth estate. Although he still regularly interacts with members of the community he always detests the area and the community and regularly talks about running away from the ‘dump’ with his married lover, Karen, and his supposed son.
Joe, although not all the time, is looked upon as a villain and betrayer of the community so when Joe attempted to kill Karen after a dispute Ian murdered him in order to save her life and protect her. This in someway shows a moral story in which loyalty and community will always prevail. Just as the pilot episode finished, the last episode finished on the same element of community. When Roscoe, rival gang member and outsider attempts to kill the two of the Maguire children in the pub, the remaining son of the Maguire family, Mickey, manages to steal the guns that were handed in to the police at the pub.
These guns were then sneakily passed around to all the characters in the pub and when called for, everyone drew their guns out and pointed them at Roscoe and his gang. Everyone in the community came together to help fellow members of their community, and they succeeded. It is also important to mention that Frank Gallagher also played his part in assisting which was the first time he showed guts and determination to help other members of his community. This was probably the biggest representation of community and positive light in Shameless to date.
Conclusion In summary Shameless does a very good job of disrupting the negative stereotypes and stereotypes in general of working class ideologies. ‘The series is made in such a way as to be particularly uncomfortable for respectable middle class viewers, involving them in the lives of people who they would never encounter in their own neighbourhoods and challenging conventional assumptions about what constitutes normality and morality’ (Morley, 2009, p. 501).
Although the lives of families on Shameless are chaotic and dysfunctional, the bonds of loyalty between community and family always prevail to show an aspect of working class life that go against dominant representations and largely tops aspects of respectable middle class society. Shameless deserves credit for encouraging us to think about representations of working class on television in more complex ways (Morley, 2009).
Bibliography Benson, J. (1989) The Working Class In Britain. New York, Longman. Fiske, J. (1987) Television Culture. London, Routledge.Miller, T (ed. ). (2002) Television Studies. London, British Film Institute. Morley, D. (2009).
Mediated Class-ifications: Representations of Class and Culture in Contemporary British Television. European Journal of Cultural Studies vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 487-508. Rabrenovic, G. (2006) Mediating the Family: Gender, Culture and Representation. European Journal of Communication vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 117-118. White, M. (1992) Ideological Analysis and Television. In Robert C. Allen (ed. ), (1992) Channels of Discourse, Reassembled. London, Routledge.