series like Shameless frame viewer expectations and preconceptions
and have tangible effects on the perception and treatment of Black
individuals off screen. Finally, narratives of a utilitarian Blackness
perpetuate a myth that Black individuals choose certain
stereotypical markers over others. These prejudices tie back to the
notion of choice within American capitalism. The logic of the
narrative follows that all individuals have an equal opportunity to
make the right choices to thrive. Therefore, those who remain at
the lower tiers of the socioeconomic hierarchy are there because
of their choices; watching a White individual choose to access then
discard violent stereotypes primes viewers to believe that negative
stereotypes are, in fact, willed by Black individuals. Carl’s ability to
assume then discard Blackness as a resource for survival creates
the illusion that choice is the best, most expedient, way to escape
and that those who remain in that negative context choose to be
there.
Conclusion
Shameless explores the intersection of race and class within
the context of an impoverished Southside Chicago neighborhood.
This scenario provides the setting through which these characters
can explore the realities of American capitalism and develop a
means for survival. Burke would argue that it is a scene of poverty
that fosters the continuous choice of the Gallaghers to commit
crimes and act in otherwise immoral ways. The Gallaghers often
take it one step past mere choice, however, and into the direct
exploitation of the resources around them. The comedy of
exploitation builds on gentle parables of the past with a broader
range of permissible topics to explore and a harsher language,
verbal and situational, for exploring them, but it places limits on
critical understanding to keep these narratives from reaching a
richer potential. This limitation extends to developing Carl
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