In the 2014 Shameless episode “A Jailbird, Invalid, Martyr, Cutter, Retard and Parasitic Twin,” Fiona Gallagher is the oldest sibling out of 7 other siblings in a small, poverty town in Southside Chicago. Fiona shows the viewers the struggles of having to take care of 7 siblings on her own with hard work and sacrifices.
It doesn’t take long for Fiona to ruin a great opportunity she was given throughout the season. Fiona has always worked multiple jobs, considering her mother walked out on their family a few years ago and her dad, being a drug addict, could care less about his kids. It is all left to Fiona to guide her siblings to the right path. In the beginning of Season 4, Fiona gets a stable job as a sales worker. However, this is where the trouble begins. Fiona starts dating her boss and cheats on him with the boss’s brother. The boss’s brother gives Fiona a bag of cocaine to loosen up which she did use at a party with her friends. Not only did Fiona and her friends intake some cocaine, but so did Fiona’s 3 year old brother after leaving the bag of cocaine out in the open of her house where the 3 year old accidentally reached for it. This enforces the norm that poor people cannot take care of a family correctly due to not only lack of money, but a lack of responsibility. This makes rich viewers shake their head at Fiona and assumes that all struggling families ruin blessed opportunities with drugs. The viewers assume that the Southside is full of nothing but drugs everywhere.
Obviously, Fiona face charges and is thrown to jail after rushing the 3 year old to the hospital. Fiona’s now ex boss and ex boyfriend bails her out of jail out of pity. Now, Fiona tries to prove her innocence with a lawyer, by taking the stand that it was an accident and she never intentionally gave the bag of cocaine to the three year old. Almost ninety percent of the episode is Fiona denying she is guilty from the fact that it was an accident. However, unfortunate enough for Fiona, her excuse doesn’t cut it and her lawyer makes her admit she is guilt; otherwise, she would have gotten a worse consequence from the judge. She is now an official felon and is charged with probation, instead of multiple years of jail time. Again, this enforces the norm that residents of the Southside usually gets in trouble by the law and never owns up to it, thus giving the viewers an same idea that poor people are irresponsible.
After everything that has happened, Fiona and her second oldest sibling kicks out their father out of the house who is being taken care of someone else, who is the father’s other daughter who just came in the picture a few episodes back. The law have the right to take away children in the house if a cop were to visit and see drugs again after the cocaine incident with the 3 year old. The dad, however, is clueless and just wants to get high off of everything while all this is happening to a point where he passes out on the bathroom floor. Fiona and her brother finds out that their dad passed out because the daughter who is taking care of him had given him a shot of heroin. Fiona gets furious and kicks the two out of the house because it’s too risky to have drugs around and the two are not listening. This gives a message to the viewers that the children can do something right and stand up to their parents if they know the parents are doing something bad or illegal. This scence shows a cultural transmission since you usually see parents kicking their child out of the house for misbehaving, but this time, it was the kids who was kicking their father out for endangering the kids of being taken away by law.
As a result of Fiona’s reckless actions and attitude from this episode of Shameless, rich viewers leave with the impression that residents of the Southside are a mess, poor, chaotic, and cannot take responsibility for their actions. Viewers assume that all poor people are addicted to drugs. Not only that, but it enforces the norm that parents do a poor job taking care of their children in poor areas.