What does it take to achieve success? Will it come easier to you if you are blessed with the gift of a brilliant mind? Or does the soul driven by pure grit have a better shot? In “Home Sweet Homeless Shelter,” we witness the beginnings of a Shameless style psychological study to see if gifts like Lip’s or grit like Fiona’s will lead towards prosperity.
The Loftiness of Lip
Lip Gallagher frustrates the hell out of me. I’ll admit I often have a difficult time watching him. I’ve briefly written about Lip in some of my articles, but I’ve never fully explored his character. My reaction to his behavior is visceral. Kudos to Jeremy Allen White for bringing him to life so brilliantly. I feel bad that sometimes I ache to punch him, not Jeremy of course, but Lip.
You know all of the teachers who took Lip under their wings, even as he pushed back and rejected their efforts? I’ve been that teacher. I’ve worked with those underprivileged, bright teenagers. Time and time again I’ve watched them piss away their potential. I’ve cried frustrated tears after closing my classroom door, knowing that my impact could only go so far. Success was right at their fingertips if only they just reached. It was rare when they graduated, more often than not they dropped out, ended up incarcerated, or hooked on drugs. It’s hard to describe how watching a student devolve can tear up the teacher who refuses to consider any student a lost cause. Lip floods me with memories of all those students. For me, he’s a painful character.
Though Professor Youens is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, Lip is lucky to have someone so invested in his future. Youens could have closed the door on Lip, but instead he got him into rehab and set him up with an internship. No other Gallagher has had the support that Lip has. Lip’s disappointment about his internship being unpaid was laughable. Pay your dues. I’m glad that Tito, the head intern, is being tough on Lip. I was silently cheering when Tito relayed to Lip that top notch candidates had applied for the internship, a not so subtle warning to get it together. Lip seems to think that because he is gifted, he is owed something. It’s a line of thought that he needs to stray from.
When Lip headed back to the office to empty the catheter bag, I breathed a sigh of relief. He’s sticking with it. It’s so easy for him to self-sabotage, the fact that he was persisting is a victory on its own. I will admit I felt some schadenfreude, too. After he belittled and devalued Fiona’s career he was in charge of caring for piss. There is something poetic about that. It’s bad enough to look down at people, but worse when you’re being a pompous ass to someone who has busted their butt to care for your family. I’m hoping that a potential relationship with Sierra will knock some sense into him. Who better to show him grit and tenacity than a single mom?
The Fire in Fiona
Lip assumed that Fiona’s future exclusively entailed caring for the family, a modern version of antiquated values. His sister would work low wage jobs to keep food on the table. Maybe she would marry or maybe she wouldn’t. He underestimated Fiona’s drive, something he should have been aware of but viewed through a blurred lens. Though Fiona was not achieving success within traditional measures, her commitment to her family revealed unparalleled endurance and ambition, two components necessary for success.
When Fiona chose to file for legal custody of her siblings, the judge warned her of the immense sacrifice she was undertaking. She understood, because after all she had been running the household for years prior. Though Fiona was not their mother she was nurturing, loving, and fought tooth and nail to keep her family together. Fiona did whatever it took to keep food in their mouths and a roof over their heads.
What Fiona didn’t bargain for, after taking responsibility for her siblings, was Debbie and Carl’s wayward behavior. The elder Gallagher siblings more or less grew up together. Lip and Ian got into trouble, but not in ways that drastically impacted the family unit (Note: I’m referencing Ian prior to the end of Season 3. After that his disorder affected his culpability. Yes, I am making excuses for Ian again). Fiona, herself, caused more strife than her brothers did. It’s a slippery slope to crucify her for her actions based sheerly on her age and the commitments she made before she was even capable of fully understanding the ramifications. Perhaps Fiona was naive to think that Debbie and Carl would tow the crooked line of accountability in the way Lip and Ian had.
As a pre-teen Debbie was responsible and helpful. Though many mature with age, Debbie digressed. Debbie’s delusions regarding motherhood and her subsequent decision to keep Franny/Harry became an impetus of change for Fiona. Franny/Harry represented a life sentence. If Fiona had settled into the domestic, motherly patterns she was used to she would never push forward or make something more of herself than the role she had always assumed.
After all she has endured, Fiona’s onward momentum proves her warrior status. In “Home Sweet Homeless Shelter,” Fiona told Lip that she is “just as likely as anyone else in this family to make something of myself and it’s about time you got that, you arrogant shit.” Then we all cheered. I am rooting hard for Fiona. I would love to see her succeed and I believe that she will.
Something that Lip and those like him need to understand is that no matter how gifted you are, no matter how bright, if you’re lazy or complacent you won’t make it. When you look at people who succeed they are the ones that push, fight, and feel the need to prove themselves. Fiona is well on her way.