CHANNEL FOUR — SHAMELESS
A fascinating seven years series. It is a real-time series One season corresponds to one year, and yet most of the series is situated in the 1980s, under Margaret Thatcher and with the community jobs she introduced for claimants though one character at the very end of the seventh season sees the future and all the characters envisioned in that nightmare die in 2010. The timeline seems to be warped.
First Frank, a claimant. He probably had a future in grammar school, but one day he voyeuristically discovered the intercourse between two boy and girl students. From this moment onward he only had one objective in life: that small death of instant pleasure in the meeting of a man and a woman and the necessary objective of procreating, nearly all his life because at the end of the seventh season that objective has eroded tremendously.
Then he could have no other social objective and he did not try to. He became a claimant and his whole life was built on a great number (eight or nine) children that enabled him to be provided with a council house and a fair amount of survival money. Not enough maybe but the children were systematically encouraged to find their own finances. This poor sorry character develops a severe addiction to alcohol and drugs, nothing but the “pills” of any color. He also supplements his income with stealing or borrowing without the intention of giving back, trying to talk people into paying his beer, etc. In one word a perfect unpleasant character.
His children, some at least, leave the home to go away as far as possible. The last over-sixteen girl chooses Afghanistan. It is more difficult for the boys who are under strong pressure to be the slaves of the father just as much as the girls who have all run away after a while. The eldest son disappears rather fast leaving a child behind him with the daughter of the second family in the neighborhood. The next two develop different personalities. One is gay and the other one is strongly antigay. The pressure put on the gay one will eventually turn him away from his own genre and make him steal the girlfriend of the other who is quite brutal and domineering, declared as the right one who is able to take him away from a temporary erring gay choice. This is a dominant discourse: the whole series: is deeply homophobic.
The second family is Paddy’s, an Irish Catholic Mafioso that racketeers the whole neighborhood. The daughter will be impregnated by the next-door eldest son but there will be no marriage. The three sons are all different. The eldest comes out of prison, marries the girl of one of Frank’s procreating partners and becomes the local publican. He is apparently impotent, and the girl will get impregnated by a violent bully who will rape her one afternoon. The second son is at first rather mentally disturbed, but he finally falls in love with and marries a local easy lady in the shady house at the street corner. But children are out due to her decision. The third one is obviously exclusively gay, though entirely in the closet for his family and the neighborhood. No child here either but his total instability prevents any regular partner, not even the next-door gay son.
The third family is the Pakistani local store’s owners. The husband, father of two, will initiate the gay son of the first family at the age of fifteen and then will have to disappear to evade his embezzling. The mother will take the shop over and will find it difficult to establish a relationship with one of the local cops and her children. She will manage to solve the first problem and to elope with him after selling the store to the brutal rapist.
A few questions emerge.
First, the humor of the series is heftily packed. It is typically British and has to do with many marital ambiguities, old spinsters hungry for males, or females, many scatological situations with all types of exhausts, rejects and wastes from every single character. They even have the gay plumber, the gay cop, the bisexual erotic DVD producer, etc. They don’t forget shady ladies and all kinds of flagellations, leather ladies, ponies, old babies in crawlers and rompers. The only missing thing is the desert island and marooned shipwreck survivor. But religions, particularly Catholicism, are an easy target especially with the Pakistani store family.
Socially it is very conservative, but the English way. Behaviorism is the rule: you are what your family makes you and as long as you stay with it you have to follow the necessary compulsory pattern. The only salvation comes from a quick exit, as soon as you can, at 16, hardly later. The main example of this family dictatorship is visible with Frank’s wife, the main woman in his life who goes away twice, the first time with a lesbian truck-driver she will bring back and the second time alone, after six children (one with another man) before her first departure and another child between the two departures. During the first absence, Frank produces twins with another woman, the mother of the girl who marries the publican and who has enjoyed intercourse with Frank her own mother’s boyfriend. After the second departure, Frank manages to find another woman to exploit, along with her own crippled mother.
The seventh season ends up in some very bleak complicated violence and blood-shedding, the ex-gay son of the first family ending up killing the brutal rapist who tried to elope with the publican’s wife and her son who is also his DNA-proved son. It is so intricate and dark that even an owl would not see the smallest mouse in that mess. Good luck with a continuation because the business is far from being concluded.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
AMAZON PRIME — SHAMELESS — NINE SEASONS — 2010–2019
In the US they have the habit of shooting remakes of films or series already tested in other countries. They are bold plagiarists, though it is said they do pay the royalties they have to pay to do that legally. At times it is not too bad. At times it is frankly crazy to transfer the problems of those who are called “claimants” in the UK, GB or England (northern Brexit-to-be England) to Chicago’s South Side. The US does not have any social welfare that can compare to what they have in Europe and in England, which is no longer Europe. At least for a while because the Northern-England’s claimants have won their Brexit, at last, to finally lose the taste of mustard and go back to the taste of Marmite.
I just watched the nine seasons available in one row. That’s good for indigestion or overdosing. And it is vastly suffocating: to shift from social welfare and how to live on public money without doing anything on one hand, to the American Dream in which you can only have what you steal, what you borrow with the clear intention not to give it back, or what you speculate on to make a more or less illicit revenue from it. In the UK the show is pathetic because these people are condemned to be marginalized in a country that has practically no unemployment. In the US these people are pathetically obnoxious and deserve no empathy at all since they create their own hellish problems and they impose onto everyone around them their own mental and economic dysfunctioning dictatorship. Let me clearly say that making this family Irish by name and reference is typically American: evil is necessarily coming from outside and before the Mexicans and the Latinos they had the Irish who could not be WASPs since they were Celtic hence not Anglo-Saxon, and they were not Protestant but Catholic: do not mix WASP and WCC. Miserable jingoistic xenophobia that is always present in this American popular vision of the world. The season when they have a Mo’ White elected to Congress on the motto that Mo’ White is Mo’ Better, knowing that this is racist but playing on it is typical.
Now, what are the main problems spread out galore in this series?
First of all, a completely disruptive and dysfunctional family. The father is a do-nothing lazy bloodsucker that exploits society, and everyone around him that can be exploited; only thinks of having sex with his bipolar wife and anyone coming along, women preferably, though, provided it brings in some revenue, other solutions are not rejected a priori. So, he has a family of six children who all have the same mother, this bipolar wife I was speaking of, and at least three different fathers if we are to believe appearances. The gay son is from the brother of his official father, and the last son is black and cannot be in any way from an Irish father, even a Gallagher.
The mother is bipolar, one of these diagnoses that explain everything, that excuse everything, that disrupt everything. She is not able to have any stability. She does not take her treatment, that is too expensive anyway since she has no insurance, and she can jump from depressive one moment to extremely disruptive or aggressive the next. She can prepare a salad one instant and then within five minutes go out and rob a bank. She can have as many children as she can procreate and deliver on one hand, and abandon the family for months and years to run away with male adventurers or lesbian partners, and come back erratically from time to time to take care of nothing except her own pangs of conscience, if it is that elaborate instead of just being her simple need to be taken care of as for lodging, food, and drinks, plus drugs, a lot of drugs.
The eldest child, in fact, the elder daughter, was de facto entrusted with taking care of the whole family by both father and mother at the age of seven, the youngest sibling being a plain black newborn. What is surprising is that these children, all of them underage for at least eleven years for the eldest one, have not been taken over into foster care once and for all. Apparently, it is hinted that they had a few periods of that type of a social welfare solution, even one in an early season, but it always managed to be recuperated by the father who should NOT be trusted by any social service since he is chronically unemployed and unemployable; the mother is absent most of the time and bipolar on top of it — you know the cherry to top the ice cream off; and none of the children are of age to be a guardian, though the elder daughter and eldest child turns eighteen sometime in the series and becomes the guardian of her siblings, a position she will evade as soon as her two brothers, just under her in age, are of age to officially take care of the younger ones, at least one of them.
There are some neighbors who are not really better: they are the bar managers and later bar owners of the local bar that may look like an English pub. The man is big and strong but married somewhere else. The woman is black, with her mother behind (the son the man got from this mother when the woman thought she could not have any children, or was diagnosed as such, gets completely lost in limbos in the series). They are pathetic indeed since they are unable to manage their bar and they fall in the hands of a local Russian mafia that brings prostitution and racketeering in the community on a permanent basis. And imagine, to make things simple, the gay son of the Gallaghers falls in love with the unofficially gay son of the Russian mafia boss. This son is then married to the leading prostitute of his father and has a child from her, to prove he is not gay, at least for his own father. Systematically the series is displaying, up to the seventh season, anti-gay prejudices, and even in the last seasons this prejudice is just strongly confronted to some more positive vision of gay genderism. But then it becomes even more dramatic because this gay Gallagher who is also bipolar (note how gayness and lesbianism are connected to bipolarism) becomes a very outspoken and public character defending gay rights and he becomes some kind of Gay Jesus in some kind of Gay Jesus’s Church. He will end up in prison for some “miracle” of his: a van is set on fire (arson) and explodes in a major incident. But it all ends well that finds a gay ending: in prison, he is reunited with his first love, the Russian son of the Russian mafia boss. They are going to have a really close relationship in this prison, with possible entertaining transient — or is it trans-something — partners from time to time. The prison is transformed into a gay brothel, definitely a closed house indeed.
The other eldest son is a mental genius, an intellectual major luminary, but- he is an alcoholic and he is a sex addict. Both will make him destroy all the chances he got to get a high-quality college education and he causes a lot of pain around him while flunking his chances. Miserably pathetic. He then turns mechanic to earn a living and repairs motorcycles and as an anonymous alcoholic, he becomes the sponsor of a couple of “colleagues” in alcoholism. Then the next one finally finds his way to a military school and a project to integrate West Point. In spite of all the possible crazy attempts at making some kind of illegal income, he manages to remain on some kind of a straight line to his military dream. But that is hard because he is a sex addict and falls for any girl that is interested. And he is finally tricked by his own father to provide the sperm this father needs to fertilize the eggs of a crazy psychiatrist he is supposed to be in love with as if being in love meant anything for this father. So, this poor boy is going to have children of his own DNA though it will be assumed they are from his father’s DNA, till one day someone checks.
The second and younger daughter manages to get herself pregnant because that’s her sole objective, to be pregnant and have a child. She does that at age fourteen and by lying to the male she uses for that, telling him she is on the pill, which is, of course, a lie. Then she will become a welder, have a dream about being a lesbian with another female welder, but all that leads nowhere, except a baby girl that grows and has to be taken care of in this disruptive and dysfunctional family.
The youngest son is black which is a twist in the fabric and he is young enough to be used by the father to do all kinds of dumb things, though he shows some sense at age ten or eleven and traps his own father in some kind of stealing episode that will cure the father as for using this young son not of his but of his wife’s — who died in the meantime — to do some illegal and absurd anti-social-oriented capers.
The eldest daughter though is the centerpiece of this fable. She decides when one of her brothers is old enough to take over the “family” to have her own go at not getting some man to take care of her, and she tried quite a few, but she gets the opportunity to make a career in business as the manageress of a pizza restaurant; then as the owner of a laundromat (that she sells with a profit after a while); then as the landlady of an old apartment building that she renovates but she gets involved in some kind of an investment that ruins her and the man she invested with, or rather for, gets her out of her mess and buys her building by covering the mortgages she had contracted on it and the 25K she is supposed to pay for her other investment. She finds out later on that this man, her partner in business, got this building for something under 300K though the real value of it, if she had sold it on the real-estate market, would have been nearly 500K. The result is the building will be pulled down by her fellow investor to build some gentrifying condominium that will be worth one or two million. And she is tied to him since she has invested all her money in his project, another one actually next door to her old apartment building that will be pulled down anyway. So, she is back to nothing but her managing position and income from the pizza restaurant she does not own, and a possible profit or income in a couple or triple of years.
And at the same time, This eldest daughter is from time to time taken over by pangs of un-conscience and guilt and decides to intervene in the business of her siblings, unwanted and unwelcome, and set everything upside down or afire. She is the power-control freak you can imagine, but with a powerful side as an incompetent and careless selfish egotist that takes over, again and again, ruining at times the projects of her siblings or not helping at all when they try to do something with themselves, which ends up always in catastrophic apocalypses. She is exactly like her father, and mother, a self-centered egomaniac power control freak with no constructive objectives.
The American Dream in the hands of such dysfunctional people is really a nightmare and this series is the American nightmare of the 21st century. Welcome to the American social gulag. I will not go on one more season of it. I do not like this Siberian climate.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU