Gallagher (Emmy Rossum), the eldest daughter of the bunch,
functions as the matriarch (viewers learn that the children’s mother
deserted them years before, though she turns up in some episodes
and connects with several storylines). First a steadfast maternal
figure and provider, Fiona eventually has run-ins with the law. The
father, Frank (William H. Macy), is a self-proclaimed patriarch but
focuses more on his addictions to drugs, sex, and alcohol and his
ability to cheat his way through life than on his offspring. The
remaining five Gallagher children, Lip (Jeremy Allen White), Ian
(Cameron Monaghan), Debbie (Emma Kinney), Carl (Ethan
Cutkosky), and Liam (Brenden Sims), represent an eclectic,
somewhat perverse, and a quite possibly unique set of characters.
Filtered through the experiences of this group of characters,
viewers understand that life is a struggle just to assemble the
resources necessary for survival.
A larger scenario shapes the characters and situations of a
television comedy, contextual elements filtered through the
conventions of the genre. If the setting of a show is lower-middle-
class America, then it follows logically that American capitalism is
part of the framing scenario. The system of American capitalism is
rooted in the practice of laisse-faire, or free, trade. Rather than
centralized regulation, the access individuals have to property and
wealth is the fruit of their ability to pull themselves up from the
“bottom” (poverty) and build their lives. Within this system, some
become winners while others become losers, forming a natural
hierarchy. It follows according to this system, then, that those at
the bottom have been placed there by their misconduct (Cohen
and Antonio 60-62). The system focuses on the perceived merits
of individual citizens as the basis for establishing their social
standing. American capitalism celebrates those at the “top” of the
hierarchy while simultaneously criminalizing those positioned at
the “bottom.”
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