The topic of poverty and the portrayal of people living in low social and economic conditions are not so popular among TV series creators and producers. Although the number of people who lives beyond the level of poverty and suffers from social inequalities is rising annually, they are either underrepresented or demonized on television. Unfortunately, it is hard to find poor or working-class families represented on the small screen even nowadays, in the era of freedom of speech and high tolerance. Although the working-class makes up the majority of the US population, the issues they face and the challenges they encounter are not evenly portrayed.
However, there are several TV series that demonstrate the lives of blue-collar workers and the population with low socioeconomic status. One example is the American comedy-drama TV series Shameless by John Wells, which was aired from 2011 till 2021 on Showtime. These TV series consist of 11 seasons, 134 episodes, and tell the story of Gallagher’s family that lives in poverty and rarely makes both ends meet. Frank Gallagher, a single father with six children: Fiona, Philip, Ian, Debbie, Cart, Liam, who spends all his days drinking alcohol and taking drugs, and making his children take care of themselves. This story does not describe a blue-collar class but rather people who live in a much graver level of poverty. According to the producers, the aim of these series was to show Frank’s substance abuse affected the whole family. Abandoned and neglected by both of the parents, Monica and Frank, the eldest sibling, Fiona, raises all her siblings on her own. They have to go through difficult situations on the way of their maturing, dealing with discrimination, inequality, poverty, and mental disorders in their family. They have to steal money and food to live while their selfish father only rakes everything from them.
In these TV series, the family with low socioeconomic status is shown as highly dysfunctional and prone to many misadventures. The main characters are represented as people who are unable to have a stable emotional condition, lack taste and ability to learn and not able to survive without breaking the law (Weber & Hunt, 2020). In every episode, one of the six Gallagher siblings gets into a trouble that their eldest sister has to deal with. The topics raised in the show are quite stressful and a way far from being entertaining, even if it is created in the comedy genre. It highlights a class inequality and problems of capitalism in the American society (Weber & Hunt, 2020). Being not healthy and wealthy enough to find a stable job, members of Gallagher have to get money for living by committing illegal acts. Moreover, the fact that they are living in the South part of America, Illinois, where the majority of population is Black and lives in similar conditions as the Gallagher’s has its impact. Characters that Gallagher’s family interact with are also from low socioeconomic conditions or from sexual and ethnic minority groups.
Another important topic that is portrayed in this show is familial relationships. Children in the Gallagher’s family are raised seeing the mistakes that their parents made, and try to avoid them in their adult life. Despite all the difficulties, they try to work together to overcome their fortune, survive and create a better life for themselves.
Weber, J. B., & Hunt, P. M. (2020). Shameless sociology: Critical perspectives on a popular television series. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.