Shameless

Discuss issues of class and the culture industries.

GORTON ESTATE:

This is a photo i found on the Shameless Facebook page. Click on the picture and have a look – I’m on of 58,502 fans. The three yellow pins show the Gallagher’s house, the local pub and Cash’s convenience store.

Excerpts from an Interview with the cast of Season five:

(The website for the British Esquire magazine is still under construction so i have posted some of the more interesting and topic related bits of the interview)

Why do people like Frank?

DAVID THRELFALL (Frank Gallagher): It’s because he’s not threatening – not threatening to women and not threatening to men. It’s not that he’s asexual; he’s his own planet. People like him because he says things that they’d never dare say, no matter how much they’d want to. He doesn’t revert to therapy for his problems. He has a couple of E’s and a pint. It’s the old British way: have a drink and pull yourself together, none of this “Just give me a little space.”

Is Frank the Moral barometer for Shameless?

DT: He’s become the spokesperson for England. He sees himself as part of the old working class, and I think he feels that Tony Blair and all his lot, once they started dismantling Clause 4, they destroyed the working class. He speaks on behalf of those left behind. Nobody asks him to, but that’s the beauty of him. Sometimes he says something and you think, “Hang on, that makes sense.” Frank’s an intelligent man, its just that he took up drinking as a mission at the age of 24.

Are the Gallaghers a role model a role model for the British family?

DT: Someone once told me we were like the Simpsons on acid, but people can still relate to it, people from any class.

How difficult is it to play Frank?

DT: The first day of filming, I had to lay on a floor having pissed my pants and then get completely E’d off my brain, telling my daughter’s boyfriend that my ex-wife had gone to the corner shop, become a lesbian and buggered off. So I hit the ground running, really.

What is it like filming on the estate in Gorton?

CIARAN GRIFFITHS (Mickey Maguire): you have to film before the schools come out, otherwise you’re fucked.

SAMANTHA SIDDALL (Mandy Maguire): The people that live there say that Shameless is about them. I’ve heard that people get on the 205 bus to go and see the Shameless estate.

Unlike most portrayals of the police on British TV, the coppers are the outsiders in shameless, simply because everyone else is on the take…

WARREN DONNELLY (Stan Waterman): the big joke is that in Shameless, no one thinks twice about the police. If I storm into the pub to arrest someone or investigate something, nobody even looks up, they just carry on regardless. Until Carrie (Amanda Ryan) turns up that is.

 

How does class operate in Shameless, in comparison with Kath and Kim or Summer Heights High?

In an economical sense the class of the Gallagher family is obvious. The housing commission terrace that they live and Franks lack of employment indicate that they are a low income family. However it is not their level of wealth that is the focus of Shameless. As Felicity said in the lecture, it is the relationships between characters and their “internal composition” that is important – their local is in most respects just circumstantial.

In Kath and Kim or Summer Heights Highthere is a much more deliberate social focus or hierarchy. These shows perform certain types of class. A lot of the humor is based around their class (or lack of). Are Kath and Kim parodying a certain type of person or family or Australian suburbia in general signalled by continual references to things like Fountain Gate Shopping Center. I have never really watched much of the show and therefore don’t feel like i have a concrete opinion about how class is represented in it. I do think though that there is more to the show than making fun of Australian suburbia. Please feel free to let me know your thoughts.  

Summer Heights High’s three main characters represent three different socio-economic backgrounds. Jonah appears to be from a working class family, Mr G we assume is middle class and Ja’maie makes no effort to hide her upper class background, believing that she has been completely self-sacrificing by coming to a “fugly” school. Jonah and Ja’maie in particular seem to be performing a class stereotype. The character of Jonah reminds me a little of the show Bro Town if anyone has seen that. If not, have a quick look.

Clips:

*Kath and Kim go on a holiday but before they go Kath rings everyone in her address book (maybe slightly exaggerated) to tell them that she is going business class. Is this a non “classy” act? (0:35) See also in this clip Kim trying on bikinis and her references to Burbery.

*Prue and Trude at the Homewares shop. This is a clip comes from the skit show they did before Kath and Kim.

Ja’maie talking about World Vision. (2:05). Turning it into Australian idol. Even starving children in Africa can be made part of the culture industry.

Do we find these shows funny because we feel surperior to the characters, even if just on an intellectual level?

The article Dream World of Mass Culture looks at the work of Walter Benjamin. He would experiment by watching children play and wrote that children ‘are less intrigued by the performed world that adults have created than by its waste products.’ He also stated that ‘Children’s cognition had revolutionary power because it was tactile, and hence tied to action.’And that ‘Bourgeois socialization suppressed this activity: Parroting back the “correct” answer, looking without touching, solving problems “in the head”, sitting passively learning without optical clues – these acquired behaviours went against the child’s grain.’ (Buck-Morss, 1989, pp. 264-265) Like Felicity talked about in the lecture, the Gallagher children live in a non controlled environment and pretty much have the freedom to do what they want which adheres with Benjamin’s ideas of the revolutionary powers of a non bourgeois childhood. Benjamin also believed that it was only the children who were able to fully live out their childhood without any of the bourgeois style of trapping who really grow up. The Maguire siblings for example are tightly controlled by their parents and the boys in particular seem much less mature than the Gallagher sons, despite being older.

Culture Industry:

“The whole world is made to pass through the filter of the culture industry.”

In the introduction of the Adorno and Horkheimer essay the editor says it offers ‘a vision of a society that has lost its capacity to nourish true freedom and individuality’ (Adorno & Horkheimer, 1993, p. 29) and in regards to Shameless I think there are arguments for and against.

    Firstly, the show was taken up by Channel 4 which began in late 1982. Its aim was to be engagingly different and to cater for audiences previously neglected. Its first chief executive Jeremy Isaacs said that he hoped to see ‘more black Britons on our screen in programs of particular appeal to them…more programs made by women for women which men will watch…and more programs for youth viewers’( Docherty, Morrison and Tracy, 1988, p.5).

   In an interview with the Cast, David Threlfall (who plays Frank) says that people like Frank because ‘he says things that they’d never dare say, no matter how much they’d want to.’ (Whitehouse, 2007, p. 92) In his character don’t we then see the freedom and individuality Adorno and Horkheimer deemed completely lost?

Having said this, Adorno and Horkheimer’s goes on to say that ‘marked differentiations such as those of A and B films or of stories in magazines in different price ranges depend not so much on subject matter as on classifying, organizing, and labelling consumers. Something is provided for all so that none can escape…The public is catered for with a hierarchical range of products of varying quality…Everybody must behave (as if spontaneously) in accordance with his previously determined and indexed level, and choose the category of mass product tuned out for his type.’(Adorno & Horkheimer, 1993, pp. 32-33)

    Therefore the creation of this new “different” Channel could purely be seen as a way to make sure all types of audience are being tapped into.

    However non mainstream Shameless is (or appears to be) it is still a commodity. The creator Paul Abbot selling his tragic childhood memories 50 mins at a time.

    One of the characters mentioned in the interview that people were travelling on the particular bus that comes to the estate Shameless is filmed in just to see it. This reminded me of the tours of Neighbours Ramsey street.

      –    The show has a Facebook, Myspace, Bebo etc. page.

    On the Channel 4 website homepage there is a Shameless competition: “Fancy treating yourself to a year on the dole?” Even the experience of being poor is a commodity and can be sold.

What do you think?

More Clips:

*Shameless musical number – Karen and Mickey’s wedding. Next week we are looking at Buffy, a show which has also done a whole musical episode.

Take a look at the Channel 4 Shameless page. Links to all of the Facebook, Myspace pages etc but best of all…Win a year on the dole competition. Check it out. Even the experience of being poor can be turned into a comodity

Trailer for This Is England (further viewing for this week)

Bibliography:

Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: enlightenment as mass deception”, in The Cultural Studies Reader, ed. Simon During, London & New York, Routledge, 1993, 29-43.

Susan Buck-Morss (1989), The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project. Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: The MIT Press, Chapter 8, 253-286, 455-466.

David Docherty, David E. Morrison, Michael Tracy, Keeping the Faith? Channel 4 and its Audience, John Libbey, London, 1988, p. 5.

David Whitehouse, “Estate of the Nation, Esquire Magazine, The National Magazine Company Limited, London, Vol. 17, No. 1, 2007, pp. 90 – 97.

 

 

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