Whiteness that is presented as consistently fit to make the choices
necessary to survive. I offer a Burkean analysis as the critical
framework for examining how the context of the show functions
to perpetuate capitalistic values. Throughout the chapter, I explore
the use of class and race in Shameless to demonstrate a pervasive
exploitation of particular voices in the name of comedy and with a
discussion of the harmfulness of television’s genre of exploitation.
Dramatism
Comedic exploitation focuses both on a character’s use of
agency and the context that creates the problem that is the locus
for particular narratives. Kenneth Burke’s theory of dramaticism
offers a useful framework for understanding the relationship
between a character and the larger context in a situation comedy.
Within this scope, the context is the “scene,” to use Burke’s
terminology, and this scene constitutes not only the material
situation the location, time, space, etc. but the immaterial as
well. In television, we refer to these contextual places as the
scenario of a given plot. A scenario encompasses the fictional
space a character inhabits as well as the collective cultural, moral,
and ethical beliefs through which that space is constructed. The
ability of characters to create meaningful relationships, reason
through challenges, solve problems, and the like is then defined as
their agency or the means through which an actor chooses to
operate in response to the scenario. In sum, a character in a
situation comedy can then be seen as the actor who operates within
the scenario to achieve a particular goal (Burke 152-6).
In Shameless, the setting is a poverty-ridden, gang-infused,
neighborhood of Southside Chicago. The show focuses on the
Gallaghers, a family of seven unorthodox characters featured
regularly and other family members who figure into the story
peripherally or drop into the narrative on occasion. Fiona
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