"Shameless" (2011-2016) psychology and TV Series
Psychological reading of Shameless
In recent years, thanks also to the spread of streaming sites on the net, more and more people have become passionate about the prolific world of TV series. The diffusion of streaming has laid the foundations, in the most extreme cases, of a phenomenon of real behavioral dependence (to deepen the advice of reading the article on binge watching).
The Shameless series, inspired by the British version of the same title and rewritten for the American public by the producer John Wells, focuses on the events of the Gallagher family and is set in the poor suburbs of Chicago.
The Spectator is immediately catapulted into a very peculiar family reality. The Gallaghers are such a disaster-stricken family that in an unattentive and sensitive eye, they can be unlikely. The series in fact is a comedy, but still complex and deep themes are touched.
The family routine developes around the motto of getting away at all costs. Paying the bills, keeping a roof over the head and solving problems at the edge of the grotesque.
Yet the crazy group has a strong point. The indiscriminate adhesion to a real family myth.
“The Gallaghers don’t make/do so, it’s typical of the Gallaghers, I’m a Gallagher so…”
Meet the Gallaghers!
The nucleus is composed of the father, Frank, an alcoholic and habitual drug user, and his six children. The mother Monica, bipolar and chaotic polyaddicted that will make short entries in the screenplay. Frank and Monica have seen lots of mess together. Their marriage is already over in a time before the beginning of the story. Monica had leaved her husband, and her children and had gone to live with a woman.
Frank… and Monica
Frank is called “a narcissistic bastard” several times. Actually, we find very little narcissismin him. He does not seem to possess traits of real grandness. Not that of the narcissistic character, which defends a nucleus of strong inadequacy.
For his impulsiveness, his poor empathy and the machiavellian attitude, Frank picture at best an example of psychopathy (also known as sociopathy).
His dissolute and cunning character is quite easy to identify with all that a father should not be.
Monica is a woman with wisps and childish manners. She refuses to follow the treatment for his bipolar disorder. And the effects of that choice are not slow to be noticed. We can imagine that her children were the onesacting like parents to her, and not vice versa.
A revers attachment relationship. Frank and Monica’s children grew up in an unstable environment, given the problems of their parents. Now that the mother is out of the picture, they find themselves having to run the house and their own lives and manage Frank’s addictions.
The eldest, Fiona, a little more than twenty years old, manages the largest part of family matters. You would say that she thinks of herself much as a parent rather than a daughter. Fiona seems to be working just like that. Invested in the role of mother and always ready to put other’s needs in front of hers. Unpredictability and disregulation often have no positive effects on the development of a firm sense of self.
The second son, Philip, called Lip has a twofolded soul. Notably intelligent, but still capable of some scams or robbery when necessary. After all, he’s a Gallagher. He loves smoking weed and having sex. In the family myth Lip is the one destined to exploit its qualities as a springboard for exiting the family entanglement. Maybe.
Jan, the third, he is gay, he’s a sensitive and honest boy. His sexual orientation is not a problem in the family. Unlike the reality of his partner, his boyfriend, struggling with his own identity. Struggling with an abusive and devaluing father.
We will find that Jan is going to inherit the vulnerability of his mother Monica, that starts after a massive use of cocaine. The onset of his bipolar disorder also marks major changes, all positive. Proving that you can have a normal life and live with a psychiatric illness. If well managed.
Carl and Deb
Carl and Debby, nearly same aged, are the preteens of the wild group. Carl shows the signs of the future antisocial personality. Emotionally detached. Starting a career as a street dealer. At least for a while, before meeting something that will push it toward a change: love. The whole thing is interpreted with great irony, which makes it difficult to hate him even when…
Debby instead seems to be a little girl in place, the only perhaps to feel a little lack of the mother figure. Both Carl and Debby are struggling with puberty and early relationships. He’s more focused on sex and she’s grappled with the rite of passage of the “first time”.
What about Liam?
Finally Liam, son of Monica and an African American and the only black component of the Gallagher ‘s family. At the time of abandonment by the mother he is very little, and over the seasons his will not grow up enough to give the spectator the opportunity to observe much from him. But we can some element. All too quiet, we will hardly see him crying even in front of strong scenes. As if he didn’t have a real emotional reference. Someone to run to when you’re scared. The primary attachment figure.
Characters outside the family
Outside the household, but still an integral part of the story, Kev and Veronica. A mixed couple that will face a big change: becoming parents. Many couples come out little changed from the birth of the first child (in this case two twins). Often sex life is paying the costs, getting crushed by the new role of carers. This happens especially in the early years of the child’s life.
The attachment, as a motivational system, is the firefighter of the sexual system. In the case of Kev and Veronica Kev is the one that presents the signs of this trim, while she misses their absent intimacy, compared to their hot past. Fortunately the entry of a third character will restore a balance, rather unusual but functional.
Food for Thought
In the development of the plot, as often happens in the screenplays of the TV series, we notice a dynamism and an evolution in each of the characters. Those who travel in a positive way realizing discoveries about themselves and about unhealthy aspects of their relationships. Those instead proceeding in the opposite direction, a path in front of which the spectator is not always surprised given the premises.
In this series, the humorous tone, always present, is a bridge to a more serious underlying register that sinks into the personalities of each Gallagher. In their messed up relationships and in their unsinkable hardening.
Perhaps the great resource of this family and the real message of the screenwriters to the public. United we go on.