Shameless: The Drama of Softcore Porn

Screen Shot 2016-09-20 at 3.06.49 PM.pngBY REECE GUIDA

Running since 2010, Showtime’s popular comedy-drama Shameless (2010-2016) has been added to Netflix, met with popular reception by my friends who live vicariously through it on weekends while in a stupor on a smelly sofa — myself, admittedly, included… I would argue, however, that this show is more soft-core porn than comedy, functioning to gratify the audience’s innate need to experience something interesting (at base level) which has been conditioned to us by a life of television watching and exposure to “Florida Man Loses Battle for Wedding Ring with Alligator” news headlines. In this vain, Shameless surrounds the entertaining escapades of a white Southside Chicago family (notably not black) who live under the same roof at night but engage in naughty Chaucerian or Shakespearian exploits during the day, but derived of all their literary wit. We see Frank, the absent father of this large Southside family held together by oldest sibling Fiona, bounce from tavern to bar like Shakespeare’s Falstaff while speaking philosophical blabber out of one side of his mouth while beer drips out the other.

With this base type of humor as Shameless’s context, I return to the subject of the show’s explicit pornography that is implicit to the plot, making plot often appear like ways to get characters to have relations–which, I gladly note, never revert to incest in this family of six, most of the show’s characters. While a host of shows streaming or on air might show a character getting to third base with sheets covering themselves or perhaps some man-butt, no other show relies so heavily on sexual plotlines to propel its actual plot as Shameless does; not even Game of Thrones, since their sex is a relief from empire building and the often boring details of battle plans shared in mumbles amongst anonymously bearded men. After watching the Now You See Me magician movie series this weekend, perhaps my eye was better attuned to horrible writing in Shameless after such a robust example.

The proof writes itself: on “May I Trim Your Hedges?” Season Three Episode Three of Shameless, Lip, the show’s teenage bad-boy protagonist with a intelligent/sensitive side (“Hi, I’d like to have one Lip with my side of fries please,” says your average heterosexual woman at her local Showtime-McDonald’s entertainment emporium) seduces an obscenely attractive twenty-something teacher (who is also a pedophile, but as you will see, this is secondary to the sexual gratification of the show) by offering to trim her hedges (in an attempt to expose her as a threat to local boys). Surely, the double entendre of this title was leading up to this: after removing his shirt from a hot and hard day of work, Lip asks for a drink and some food, only to be met with a kiss after saying he has “Always felt like an old soul.” Pulling away, the nameless blonde teacher exclaims, “Oh, you mustn’t tell anyone!”

Aside from the fact that this is hilariously awful writing, Shameless has accomplished what a host of Pornhub auteurs spit out daily: a sterilized enactment of two taboos at once, the threat of pedophilia neutralized by the attractiveness and almost indistinguishable youth of teenager/student Lip and the neighborhood teacher. The dialogue, like the knowledge that these two actors are likely close in age, slips away from focus as our pupils are eclipsed by the sexually dramatic scene that ensues. While shows like Game of Thrones may stop at a full frontal penis, Shameless ventured into the territory of showing spittle on the teacher’s mouth before she stealthily “trims Lip’s hedges” with nair, becoming a mere afterthought of the pedophilia plotline that was subsumed under the sexual gratification of a subdued teacher-student fantasy that was really enacted by two consenting adults.

Although Shameless does deliver some titillating conversation and dramatic scenarios, they are almost always overshadowed by the more literally titillating sex scenes, and in these moments, the bad writing is as evident as Lip’s girlfriend X, Y, or Z’s left breast.

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One Response to Shameless: The Drama of Softcore Porn

  1. marymdalton says:

    Thoughtful and provocative post. I have watched the series (on occasion with open-mouthed shock and no small degree of disgust). But, I have watched the series. What does that say about me, I wonder?

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