You Kinda Have To Be Shameless To Watch This (pun intended)

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Rumi Rating: 4.5/5

 One of the problems with watching something as well made as Shameless is that I have now developed a level of empathy that is bordering on dangerous.  Walking the streets of downtown Chicago no longer scares me because I identify Frank in every stumbling muttering drunk man weaving across the sidewalk. Those men are no longer disturbed strangers. They are Frank. And I know Frank. I might not like Frank, I might want to slap Frank, but regardless, I know Frank. 

The other day Habibi and I were walking along Magnificent Mile (I was trying to subtly show him a bag I want - but that's neither here nor there) and a man took his shirt off on a street corner and started shouting at the fire hydrant. Everyone else quickly hurried by him, picking up speed as they passed him, shoulders hunched forward, arms holding bags tightly to their sides, eyes hardened and cast down or away, not wanting to make eye contact with the clearly unbalanced man. They had things to do and places to be, no one had time for him. 
 I, on the other hand, slowed my pace while angling my body towards him and looked directly at him, trying to understand what he was saying. This is not usual behavior for me.  Crazy scares me. Pre Shameless I would have crossed the street to avoid even walking by the man. Now, I see him as a person and suddenly he isn’t so dangerous anymore. He’s just a man, maybe a father or a husband, a brother or a son. A human. I imagine his story, that he might have a family somewhere wondering where he is or maybe they are looking for him like Fiona and the other Gallagher kids would look for Frank. Habibi hastily pulled me away before I could reach the man, but I wonder now what I would have done if he hadn't. 

 A friend recommended the show to me a while ago; I even watched the first episode with her.  I tend to have prudish tendencies (I finally admit it) , so the show didn’t catch my attention in the right way. I was mortified by the state of the house, my fingers itching to pour bleach over everything and scrub until all the years of neglect washed away. I judged Fiona for being so quick with her carnal urges while another part of me was proud of her for making Jimmy work so hard for her.  I questioned the directors need to show everything so rawly, so nakedly open.  I thought I was so smart for seeing past his need for sensationalism, to shock the viewer with crazy plot lines and characters, to do whatever it takes to catch some interest, for needing to make it so dark, so poor.  I thought to myself - hah. Nice try. It didn’t work for me. I'm smarter than that. 



Yes, I was vaguely intrigued by a world that wasn't my own, but that world wasn’t even in my orbit. In India maybe, where homeless beggars accost you at every stop light, drugged babies hanging off their hips. But not in America and definitely not in a TV show. I didn’t need to pay attention to that world, to give it anything more than a cursory sympathetic glance. More than anything, I didn’t want to know about that world. A world where the father is a liability and food is a luxury, where morals and scruples are attached to the next best opportunity. I was above that world and so I looked down my haughty little nose at it.  I do my fair share of charity and that was exactly what a family like the Gallaghers were to me - charity.  I didn’t want anything to do with the Gallaghers.  I was a very distant disinterested observer and I planned on remaining so.
Until one afternoon when there was nothing else to do and Netflix beat Shameless down my throat until I hit play episode. So I watched. And then I kept watching. I watched more and more and more, until suddenly the characters came alive and then they became human. They became real people with real lives and real problems.

Shameless should be mandatory viewing. For anyone who has been blessed with a stable family, a roof over their heads and food on the table every night, night after night; should be made to watch it. So that we learn to count our blessings, so that we stop looking at poverty as something that happens on TV or in movies, or to the homeless people downtown. It doesn't happen to us, nobody we know is living in poverty. 
Not to me. Not anymore. I know the Gallaghers now and they are poverty stricken. They are happy for 3 solid meals a day, hot water is a miracle, money in the bank - unheard of. They put a face to poverty for me. It’s suddenly come into my home and become personal. Suddenly I'm more aware, I pause before I buy the second Starbucks latte. So much for being disinterested. So much for being a distant observer.

For anyone that wants to quit school, or do drugs, or thinks alcohol is a little too cool, or that thinks being a teen mom is a legitimate goal in life should watch Shameless. It scared me straight to see life being lived without a safety net. To see potentials not being reached, or worse being scoffed at. To not want a better life, to think a better life isn’t deserved.

 I prayed that Fiona wouldn’t fall flat on her face when she decided she wanted more from life and then I realized how little I’ve been using my intelligence.
I cried as I watched Ian struggle, fighting to stay sane but being dragged down by forces beyond his control and I realized how lightly I take my sanity.  
I clapped with glee when Frank would launch into beautifully delivered tirades when he was sober and I realized how clueless I was to the world beyond my bubble. 
I realized how fortunate I was to have a safety net. 

Watch this show. It’s dark and dirty. It’s filthy and disgusting, but watch it. It’s graphic and raw, viewer discretion is advised, but watch it. Ignore the dirt and grease, ignore the language and the nudity. Don’t ignore how the characters transform into people, don’t ignore the realization that ‘these people aren't 'the other' – they're people who live four blocks down from you and two blocks over'.
It forces you to acknowledge everything you want sugar coated. Teen pregnancy, drugs, alcoholism, psychiatric problems, disappointing parents, disappointing friends, sex, homosexuals, bisexuals, conning conniving foreigners, conning conniving boyfriends - everything you want locked away in a box.

And then keep that in mind the next time you walk past a homeless or disturbed person. Keep in mind that they are human, they have a story, they have history, and just maybe you will hurry past them with a little compassion in your heart. 


The video quality is horrible I know, but get past it. Kinda like how you'll get past the grime and grit when you watch the show.  

~Rumi 





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