concocts a plan to break his leg to derive income through insurance
fraud, and the scheme is successful.
Obviously, the broader context of Shameless is not only
American capitalism but, more specifically, poverty. As I
mentioned, a scene, in the Burkean sense of the term, encompasses
those material and immaterial structures that characters encounter
and sometimes navigate. If the Gallaghers were affluent, their need
to perform critical acts would be significantly reduced.
Furthermore, if the Gallaghers had even a slightly elevated socio-
economic status, their choice to act outside of the law would stem
from a level of agency (range of choices) vastly different from that
of the lower-middle class; their decisions to steal, lie, and cheat
might originate from a need for adventure as opposed to essential
for survival. The scenario of poverty creates context and a physical
space leading characters to make these particular choices to create
a specific result. Shameless, in many ways, is a celebration of how
these characters use their agency to survive. Rather than submit to
the pressures of poverty and give up on their goals, the characters
comprising the Gallagher family employ keen survival skills that
allow them to thrive in spite of adversity (yes, there are ups and
downs, but arguably they do thrive if viewers keep expectations
modest). Viewers recognize that many of the acts committed are
illegal, immoral, and unethical, but they seem to forgive
transgressions, which is most likely due to the lowering of
expectations corresponding to the scenario of poverty in which the
characters are situated. In this way, the show becomes a celebration
of the various ways the Gallaghers exploit those resources around
them, and both agent (character) and scenario (context) move to
the foreground of the televised dramatic situation comedy, or
“dramedy.”
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