Shameful Stereotypes

Shameless, a show on Showtime, takes place on the Southside of Chicago, also known as the projects. The Gallaghers: Fiona, Lip, Ian, Carl, Debbie, Liam and Frank, are the main characters along with their neighbors Veronica and Kevin. Season two opens up with an episode named “Summertime” centered around Kevin’s dilemma of having grown too much weed for the summer. Veronica and Kevin had been fostering a child name Ethel who was really good at gardening and her fertilizer caused the plants to grow bigger and in greater amounts than expected. This leads to an uber expensive electricity bill and Veronica eventually telling him to get rid of all the extra plants. On the side, Frank bets a man a thousand dollars to prove that he can remain standing after being tasered twice. This man happens to be the leader of a gang and harasses and threatens Frank to get his money. This episode of Shameless enforces norms of lower class African Americans that could have harmful results.

While sitting at the bar of the Alibi, Frank overhears a black man telling his friends a story about how he managed to fight off three cops after being tasered twice. He tries to call the man out and say that he is lying, betting him $1000 that he will not be able to remain standing after being tasered twice by Kevin. To everyone’s surprise, he does remain standing and gets very upset when Frank tries to back out of the bet. This is completely justifiable because if someone bets you $1000 to get electrocuted two times in a row and then tries to say no I am sure you would also be upset. The man happens to be a black gang leader with lots of tattoos and very muscular. He and his gang end up kidnapping Frank and roughing him up to scare him into giving him the promised thousand dollars. The other members of his gang have similar build along with their own tattoos. This give the viewer an incorrect prototype of what all blacks should look like.

When the gang took Frank back to their apartment, they locked up Liam, his two year old son, and tied him down to a chair. They took off his shoes and socks and the leader grabbed a pair of rusty scissors and threatens to cut off his toes and cauterize them with a blowtorch. Instead, Frank lets them keep Liam till he gets them the money. While Frank is out on the streets looking for a way to make money, he ends up being shot at by a member of a different gang because he was trying to sell on his corner. This enforces the stereotype that all blacks are “unreasonably” violent.

Veronica ends up finding out about how much extra weed Kevin had growing underneath the Alibi and immediately tells him to get rid of it. When questioned she says, “There’s a couple tons of weed down here and I’m black.” In a seemingly harmless statement, Veronica addresses the fact that blacks tend to be the ones targeted by police officers for drugs more than whites and as a result are punished more severely.

Shameless has become a popular show recently I believe because of its interesting characters, who despite being very lower class, manage to be relatable to many. This specific episode, however, enforces stereotypes that are harmful toward blacks who do not behave this way. With all the issues blacks already face with racism this will just further stall progress.