Colorism and Survival
After Shameless first aired on Showtime in 2011, the story
immediately distinguished itself from traditional domestic
comedies. The half-hour format is not the only generic convention
that is broken here. At the center of this dramedy or as I prefer
to term it comedy of exploitation lies Frank Gallagher, the family
patriarch, who busily abuses drugs while Fiona struggles to raise
her five siblings in his stead. As viewers tune in and follow the
family members through various battles with prison, rehabilitation
centers, con artists, the Department of Child Services, and more,
fans soon realize that this is no ordinary family. Throughout the
show, anti-stereotypical characters are developed to represent the
quirkiness of this Southside setting. After a few episodes, it
becomes clear that a goal of this series is to shine a light on the
untold stories of lower-class families, particularly those stories
centered on a dysfunctional version of Whiteness. In the
development of a new tradition of the family, however, the
evolution of the second-youngest son, Carl, reveals a perspective
of Blackness as a utilitarian experience. His selection and deflection
of traits that define Blackness demonstrate a problematic system
of Whiteness that exploits particular bodies as resources for
survival.
Whiteness Studies is a field of research that focuses on how
race and ethnicity shape and intersect with people, art, and
institutions to influence societies. The concept of Whiteness is a
rhetorical construct that can influence the class structure, race
relations, and governance in heterogeneous communities. Several
studies have explored the esteem of Whiteness in society. A series
of studies conducted in the 1940s, for example, found that when
offered a selection of dolls, children in primary school attributed
higher intelligence, better behavior, and general likeability to White
dolls over their non-White counterparts (Powell-Hopson 1-7). In
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