Shame, a worthless endeavor?

For the sake of clarity, I was raised in a small Idaho town, population less than 8,300. I had a mom and a dad, four brothers and three sisters, lived on eight rural acres of property, never went without food, did my fair share of raising my younger siblings, and have yet to run out of things to complain about.

Enter Shameless.

For those of you who haven’t met the Gallaghers, the show is about five children struggling to survive in inner city Chicago. Emmy Rossum leads as oldest sister, high school drop out, make everything work Fiona. She takes turns keeping her younger siblings fed, clothed, and going to school. Fiona, I understand. It’s Frank, her father, that makes my skin crawl. He’s a drunk, drug addicted, self-pitying piece of trash of a father. When he isn’t stealing food and money from his own kids, he’s breaking the law in every manner possible and blaming everyone else for it. He’s an obviously intelligent man, broken by addiction and selfishness. He could have been so much more. Perhaps it is the point of the show, but it makes me uncomfortable. I think it’s written and acted very well, it’s just the subject matter that comes at me and mixes my emotions to the boiling point.

Shame is difficult for me. I’ve spent a lifetime being ashamed of just about everything I’ve touched. None of which could be termed nearly interesting enough for this show, by the way. Shame has shaped decades of my life, twisted events that should have been life affirming and learning experiences into heinous crimes against respectability. Shame has flogged me on in forcing myself to do the right thing, what I was raised to do, what I should do. And then I watch this show and see this family doing whatever they want irregardless of law or sense, because they want to, or feel they must. They are scavengers, rabid children willing to beg, borrow or steal to live another day. They have no time for shame, there is only survival. shameless

This hit me time and again as I struggled through seven seasons of episodes, the total lack of shame. I can easily forgive the children for running about like wild animals, I’ve seen their parents. Watching these two adults deconstruct their children one greedy, narcissistic act at a time, I started to wonder is this fiction or the re-telling of a horrible reality?

I’ve seen the news stories, parents and grandparents passed out on the school run. Are feral children becoming more the law than the exception? Do these parent’s really have no shame?

How is it that being raised in a stable home, out in the country with both parents can produce a child so ashamed of herself that she readily gives pieces away for kernels of approval? And if you can answer that, then how does a reckless man unable to care for his children, unwilling to stop drinking or lighting up enough to stop, end up feeling Shameless?






0 thoughts on “Shame, a worthless endeavor?”

  1. I’m not sure why he has no shame though I suspect it is due to the writers and the drive for drama, but your shame is unfortunate. From what I know you should feel pride in your accomplishments.

    1. It’s taken me a few years to watch the entire series up-to-date and at times I thought I was never going to watch it again but I guess I kept going back hoping for some moment of redemption for some of the characters. As for myself, it brought up a lot of ugly emotions that seem to surround shame. Something that I felt often when I would watch other people do things that I had been taught were wrong and completely get away with it, never getting in trouble, made me really angry that there were people that could do whatever they wanted and never think twice about it. And the show really touched that nerve for me a lot that anger that I still have in me that I held myself back from so much while other people just run around willy-nilly doing you know everything that runs through their brain.

      1. People who live that way are selfish and make the world less palatable each and every day (case in point–Donald Trump)! On the other hand it is likely that you make the world a little better each day. I think that calls for pride in yourself and disgust in those others.

  2. I haven’t watched the show, so I can’t say, but I would say, yes, I have observed in many situations that the person at the causal center of a family dysfunction is the one who feels the least responsibility and is, in fact, not susceptible to shame. (I also believe we observe this in politics and in church situations constantly.)

    1. You are so right about that. The more I think about it the angrier I get. The flipside being in the people I most angry with don’t care at all, just like the TV show!

      1. So true. I’ve had to face this in the last year (the rage that others do as they will while I follow the rules, and that the people at whom I’m the angriest are actually clueless about that).

        1. I go back-and-forth a lot about whether they’re really clueless or they just buried that part of them so far under alcohol or drugs or their own bullshit that they never really have to deal with it. I just can’t believe people are that unintelligent I just can’t believe it.

  3. My heart aches hearing you talk about feeling ashamed. You, through our interwebs interactions, are smart, uplifting, and a fun to get to know.

    As for this show, I refuse to watch it because it infuriates me. The whole concept of the Dad and his actions, even though it is tv, infuriates me.

    1. I think that any decent father would find a man wholly incomprehensible. I just can’t even wrap my head around some of the things that he does to his children all the while proclaiming what a wonderful father he is.
      Watching the show is like not being able to look away from a 90 car pile up on the freeway, you just think it can’t get any worse and another semi comes speeding over the hill are going 80 miles an hour.

  4. Interesting reactions there, but as I’ve never seen the US version, so I don’t feel I can comment on it.
    The original though, was a gem, urban chaos and the survival of the tribe at it’s exquisitely, well written best.
    Personally, I loved it.

    1. I haven’t seen the British version I didn’t even know there was a British version. It’s just to show that punches a lot of my buttons. Just when I think I’ve got it all pulled together I find out that a lot of those emotions are still roaming the hills out there!

  5. It upsets me greatly, to hear you talk about yourself in this way. For real. Doing this does unhealthy things to your body, so please don’t. You are an amazing person, so there.

    As for the show – I’ve never seen it and now, I don’t think I do.

  6. Well thanks Z! Truthfully most of this is well and behind me. But the show did trigger a lot of emotions in me a lot of memories and strangely enough a lot of guilt about how much I complain about my upbringing. I’m making changes now that I should’ve done along time ago and taking more responsibility for myself and for the choices I’ve made irregardless of the reasons at the time. I just wanted so badly for this family to pull it out in the end and maybe they will there’s another season or so I imagine, but I’m kind of afraid that they’re going to just stay where they are because it’s so hard to find being pulled down by your own family. I don’t have to worry about that anymore! Everyone so terrified of the unknown in North Dakota we are able to keep to ourselves up here!

    1. You know, it’s easy to complain in hindsight. It really is. I can complain about how difficult my mom could (and still can) be, but it doesn’t change the fact she’s my biggest cheerleader and in comparison to the majority of my students, I had it good.


  7. I haven’t seen the US version either. (I’m assuming that as the characters are the same, the story line is too.) I remember the first episode of the Brit one (had a relatively young and unknown James McAvoy) I couldn’t work out whether is was tongue in cheek or a real drama. I know people like that family, I’ve seen their poverty and need for survival too, I still see it in pockets around Britain today. It’s not something that garners pity, it’s the way they are, thieving and skulduggery is more of a cultural thing.
    Even now I look back on it with a bewildering ambivalence. I was raised by a mother whose way of life encouraged a sense of shame as standard, and a father who was ‘shameless.’ I’m torn. On the one hand, like you, it infuriates me that people break all the rules and get away with it. On the other, I’m jealous, I wish I could do it. I want to throw off the shackles of society, spit in the face of etiquette and do whatever the f**k I want. But alas, I was imprinted with rules, so I can’t.

    1. I know exactly what you were making. I like how you said that imprinted with the rules, it makes more sense to me that way. I mean why would I want to break all the rules if I know it’s better to be the right thing? And why does it still have the power to piss me off 50 years later?

      1. I’ve been sending myself in a crazy circle about this.
        We feel guilt and shame when we fail to meet the standard that church, society, upbringing and ourselves set for us. And most of those are set impossibly high, I think the rules we set ourselves are the most unattainable. (No one can flagellate us like our own mind, right?) But, and I am not trying to be devil’s advocate here, what about those whose narcissistic genetics truly makes them believe the rules don’t apply to them? Or the child that knows there are rules, but different wiring means they genuinely can’t make sense of it. Then you have those that are imprinted with a way of life that promotes rule breaking, and celebrates opposition to authority. I’m not absolving people of their actions, wrong is wrong….but who says they are wrong?

        1. As a dyed in the wool rule obey-er, I have to ask…do they really exist or are the tv shows the worst case scenario made up to shock people? It kind of felt like I was reading Urban, though I didn’t have any trouble believing that was true.
          Isn’t your question, who gets to DECIDE who’s wrong?

  8. Caution, low flying clichés.
    Inadequacy comes naturally to us, and Z is right, you Carly, are most certainly in denial of your own awesomeness!

    Everything that happens to us makes us who we are. Without the wondrous joy and confusion of childhood, how would we survive the excruciating pain and confusion of adolescence? And likewise, how would we muddle through as grown ups?
    But worst of all, what on earth would we write about, our past crimes and misdemeanors are our greatest resource!
    I, long ago came to the conclusion that we need shame and guilt, without them what makes us stick to the rule of law? We’d all like to think we do what is right, almost as second nature, but in truth I think it’s the dreadful thought of being caught out doing the ‘socially unacceptable’ that keeps us in line. What I liked about Shameless was, not that they had no rules, but that it was an entirely different set from the rest of us. They circumvented the conventional, because the conventional, to them at least, seemed unnecessarily vindictive.
    To the Shameless, the end simply justifies the means.

    1. Hearing that McAvoy was in it tempts me severely! I have a problem with people who think rules don’t apply to them. If I’m breaking a rule I fully expect to pay for it and the people who think they can just do what they want infuriate me. There I said it.

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