January 10, 2011

Showtime's Shameless & The Romanticism of Poverty

Last night, the new Showtime series "Shameless" premiered on flat screen TV's all across America. The show which is based on a British series of similar format and title tells the story of a Chicago family struggling to get by. Characters work multiple jobs, water down their milk, and turn their clothes inside out when they are dirty. It's clear they are poor. But why then is the life they lead so romanticized?

The initial episode which aired last night was shot over a year ago, but it's airing could not have been more timely. In his recent article in the New York Times, film critic A.O. Scott argued the entertainment is now more conscious of "class" more than ever before. Films like "The Fighter," "Winter's Bone," and to some extent "The Social Network" are about characters stuck in a lower class and battling it. "Shameless" fits this mold as well, the characters do not live in a mansion, nor do they in a tent, yet they are a far cry away from the typical affluence portrayed in family dramas on television.

By all accounts the show is great. The actors from the littlest baby with his confused stare to William H. Macy's drunken ramblings,  all do great work, and the show's stylized directions works great with it's funny, yet touching story lines. My one gripe of the show is the characters at least at this point don't seem that frustrated with their situation. The rarely express disdain with their lives and they seem content to just party their problems away, as they do in the finale of the episode. If this is the new American family, stuck in middle class, away from the shiny kitchen, they why aren't they all struggling to get up, and get get out to a better life. Isn't that America is all about? Whoah, that's a question for another post.

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