Throughout the early seasons of Shameless, it was easy to differentiate between Frank Gallagher and his children. Viewers realized from the start that Frank was a dirty dog who created crappy situations for himself. Unlike their father, the Gallagher kids at their core were good, solid people in difficult circumstances that weren’t necessarily of their own making. When they took an action that would typically earn our condemnation, we excused or even cheered them on because it was their means of survival. Perhaps it has been a conscious decision by John Wells and company to explore the psychological impact of the common idiom ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’ and it has always been their intention to have the Gallaghers devolve into reflections of their parents. Maybe their goal is to illustrate how challenging it is to become a better person when your DNA and environment has wired you into being an asshole. I get it. I’m with it.
Regardless of their intent, an issue begins to develop when your antiheroes and antiheroines err towards being antagonists rather than flawed protagonists. It seems as though the Gallaghers are teetering on that very thin line. In an incredibly unscientific, yet effective gathering of both numerical and anecdotal data, I learned that the Gallaghers have burgeoning likability issues. Though it is not a stretch to say that the Gallaghers have always exhibited selfishness, people are beginning to sympathize more with those affected by their behavior than the Gallaghers themselves. According to my small sampling, Lip and Carl still rank favorably among viewers, while Fiona, Ian and Debbie are in need of redeeming. As always, Frank is beyond redemption, just the way we like him.
Unfortunately, Fiona has many viewers singing ex-husband, Gus Pfender’s smash hit “The F Word.” Since she was a child, the reluctant matriarch of the Gallaghers has been through the wringer. She put her own goals and aspirations on hold so she could step up and raise her siblings. There is no denying that Fiona has sacrificed immensely for her family. Still, some found her abrupt break away from the familial unit in Season Seven to be unsavory, considering she was still the legal guardian of three of the Gallagher children. On top of that, telling Ian to write her name down last on his emergency contact sheet after he had an episode at work was quite detestable. Fiona needs to realize that there are ways to look out for herself, without going so far to the extreme that she’s denying her family. Though, I guess when it came down to it, she was successful in her business ventures which will help her siblings in the long run.
Fiona is a serial cheater with a history of creating chaos that messes up her life when things are going well. She has viewers shaking their heads at her lack of self-reflection. Though she doles out advice on relationships, she is hell-bent on not taking any. Fiona’s that friend that constantly asks you your advice does the exact opposite and then complains to you incessantly about how fucked up her life is. I have a bizarre level of patience for people like that, but others do not.
Though 58% of viewers polled indicated that they were still rooting for Lip, I find it necessary to speak to why I’m having issues with his character. Before I do, I need to state that I realize alcoholism is a beast of a disease and I do not take it lightly. Many of Lip’s poor decisions over the past few seasons have been caused by his inability to remain sober. However, he is incredibly frustrating. He has so much potential and unlike his siblings, he’s had various opportunities handed to him. The issue with Lip, and this was apparent even before he began to hit the bottle hard, is that he seems to have an expectation that he in some way deserves these chances without proving that he actually does. Though he is constantly wasting his natural gifts, he has the audacity look down on Fiona, who fights for every scrap, and judge her. No sir. I don’t like it. He’s getting increasingly misogynistic as the seasons go on. Before, he used to just treat his girlfriends like shit, now he treats his sister that way, too. I guess some people are into guys that act like dickheads, fortunately, I’m not one of them.
My baby. This one kills me, but I understand it. Unlike his siblings, many of Ian’s problems are not of his own making. His manic episodes and Bipolar diagnosis rocked his world. While Ian is battling his own demons, too many viewers, he’s become one. The problem with Ian is Mickey. You see, the writers did an amazing job writing Mickey’s beautiful and triumphant character arc. Mickey went from being rough around the edges to the personification of loyal, unconditional love. There’s no doubt that Mickey has some psychological issues of his own after growing up with a father like Terry. So what we have here is a situation where Ian has demonstrated that he doesn’t have the capacity or will of heart to stand by someone who has stood by him. This, along with bad mouthing Mickey in his absence, is not an endearing quality, especially when tons of Shameless viewers adore Mickey Milkovich. Mickey had his chance at redemption in Season Four and Ian deserves the same opportunity. The bottom line is that Ian could become the next Mother Teresa, but unless he redeems himself with Mickey, for many, there won’t be forgiveness.
It’s tough out there for Debbie Gallagher. The teen mom is by far the most disliked of the Gallagher siblings. Debbie went from being a fierce, bright, independent young girl to a whiny, needy woman who raped one guy and tricked another into getting her pregnant. As if those offenses weren’t egregious enough, she is brutal to Fiona, which I guess isn’t unrealistic but it doesn’t make her at all sympathetic to the viewers.
The Gallaghers used to be a team, balancing out each other’s negative qualities and working together to get by in their crazy lives. If they grow separate and apart, as siblings often do, they all need to hold up the weight of their own bullshit. Besides that, poor people can still learn from their mistakes. Though there are cycles of poverty that impact the psyche, those who struggle are not immune to knowledge and betterment. While we watch the Gallaghers scrap and claw their way to improved circumstances, it would be easier to find mirth in their accomplishments if they didn’t shit on everyone in their lives to get there.