I recognize that Shameless isn’t exactly highbrow comedy, but the last two episodes really threw my sensibilities for a loop; in them the audience was asked to find humor in young children living with a pedophile and trafficker, while also being asked to take seriously a female character who has multiple vibrators/dildos/strap-ons she calls her dick, and to be sensitive to “girl fags” and people who call themselves Zie or Ve. Yeah, no. Excerpts from the relevant parts of the episodes I’m referring to are below with some commentary sprinkled in.
Relevant character and background info: Svetlana is a “sex worker” from Russia who is legally married to Veronica, though Veronica and Kevin are married as well (not legally); essentially they’re a sister-wife couple. Svetlana has a young son from a previous fake marriage and Kevin and Veronica have young twin daughters. When Veronica was having trouble conceiving, she convinced her mother to have sex with Kevin so she could get pregnant and give Veronica the baby.
From Season 7, Episode 3- Home Sweet Homeless Shelter
(after a man walks up and Svetlana attacks him)
Svetlana: This is my father. He’s staying with us for a while.
(next relevant scene)
Veronica: Why is he covered in sh1t, Lana?
Svetlana: He rode into country hiding on cow freighter.
Veronica: He can’t stay with us. He’s covered in tattoos.
Kevin: Is that a penis fucking a skull?
Veronica: Kev, he sold her into sex slavery.
Kevin: Yeah, he can’t stay with us.
Veronica: Tell her.
Kev: Hey, Svet. Yo. Uh, he can’t stay with us. Yeah, sorry, we discussed it, and we just don’t think it’s a good idea.
Svetlana: So, we live together. We love together. We even raise babies together. But this decision we do not make together?
Kevin: She’s right.
Veronica: We’re just worried about him being in the house with the babies.
Svetlana: Ah, he’s good for babies. Sweet. He is also good behind bar. He solves bartender problem while we go out and do titty van business so we can save money for college for babies.
Veronica: You want us to leave our bar with him? Does he even speak English?
Svetlana: English does not matter. Make drink. Take money. Hurt people who do not pay money. I grew up in his bar. Everything I know, I learn from this man.
(next relevant scene)
Veronica: I just want to know how long he’s gonna stay.
Svetlana: He kept roof over my head and borsch in my bowl until I was ten years old, ready to work on corner. For this, I owe him. I also owe him the money he spent to smuggle me into country.
Veronica: You owe him the money he paid smugglers so you could be a s*x slave in America?
Svetlana: This is land of free, home of brave. And if he had not smuggled me, I would not have met you and become happy wedded thrupple bliss.
Kevin: She’s got a point.
Veronica: Shut up, Kev!
(next relevant scene)
Svetlana: In Russia, family is family.
Veronica: We aren’t used to parents seeing their children as sex objects.
Svetlana: Oh, your husband fucked your mother to make babies. You want to ride on high horse?
Veronica: I have two daughters. You don’t see how that might worry me?
Svetlana: He will not be interested in baby girls until they reach at least ten years old.
Veronica: You don’t see how that’s disturbing?
The answer is that none of them clearly saw how disturbing it was, because in the next episode (S7E4, I am a Storm) he is living in their house. Kevin comes down for breakfast where Russian grandpa is alone with the kids:
Kevin: You like kids, huh? You’re the only gramps these guys got. I’m just bummed that you and my other wife got off on the wrong foot. She just doesn’t love how you sold our wife into sex slavery.
(grandpa just looks at him since he doesn’t speak English)
Kevin: Great talk, man.
(grandpa attempts to give one of the babies an apple slice from the end of a very large, sharp knife)
Veronica (comes downstairs and takes the knife away): Hey!
Kevin: Okay, see, yeah. In America, we take the food off the knife before we give it to the babies.
Russian grandpa (takes apple slice off knife and gives it to baby): Speaking Russian: nice soft mouths. They’ll be good earners someday (hits thighs with fists and smiles)
(next relevant scene)
Kevin: I think we’re actually starting to get along kind of.
Svetlana: Yeah. He’s working on something for bar, to help. It’s a surprise.
Kevin: Oh, sweet. You know, I still can’t believe he’s the same dude that locked you in a closet and put a flour sack over your head.
Svetlana: It was potato sack.
Shortly after, Veronica freaks out because grandpa is gone with the babies and she has no idea where. Seeing as how he sold Svetlana as a child and was measuring the babies’ heads earlier, it is not insane of her to think he has taken her children and done the same. Yet we’re supposed to laugh at Veronica running around frantically and calling the cops. When Svetlana gets angry that Veronica and Kevin called the police, it ends with THEM apologizing to her. Through all of this we were supposed to laugh. But you know when we were supposed to get offended, check our privilege, and learn something? In this scene from the same episode (S7, E4):
Ian (grabs Trevor’s “dick”): Feels good.
Trevor: It should. Cost me 80 bucks. (Ian looks confused) I’m packing, dummy.
Ian: Ah… fuck, you brought a gun in here?
Trevor: Wait. You saw my charm, right?
Trevor: I’m trans. I thought you knew.
Ian: Holy sh1t. You’re… you’re a chick? (LAUGHS) Oh, God.
Trevor: Uh, no, I am not a chick. I am a trans man.
Ian: So you don’t have a dick?
Trevor: I have several. They’re made of silicone. I assumed that you were non-binary, too. That’s…
Ian: Oh, no, no, no. I’m… I’m normal.
Ian: Yeah. I’m just, like, not, like, a dude with a fucking vagina.
Trevor: I’m not a dude with a vagina, asshole. I’m a dude who doesn’t feel like talking about his genitals to some faggot he just met.
Trevor: I got to split.
Ian: Whoa. Hey! Whoa, whoa, whoa. All right. Hey, what the fuck did I say?
Trevor: You know what, man? Don’t do me any favors, okay? I-I can fuck any guy here. I don’t need your cisgender ass.
Ian: I have no idea what the fuck that even means, all right? Sorry. Seriously, I’m… I’m really sorry.
Trevor: (SIGHS) I got a hair trigger for this shit. Also, I am drunk.
Ian: Me too. I’m gonna get another drink. You want?
The next day Trevor takes Ian to lunch with her friends and this exchange occurs:
Trevor: Are you, uh, gonna introduce yourselves, or do I have to do it for you?
Bethany: I’m… I’m Bethany. I’m a tri-racial cisgendered girl-fag. I identify as pansexual, and my pronoun is “she.”
Emerson: Hi. Emerson. Gender-fluid heteroromantic demisexual mutt. And a redhead. My pronoun is “zie.”
Rabbit: I’m Rabbit. Genderqueer tax attorney. I identify as Jennifer Aniston. Just kidding. Ve/vem/vir.
DX: DX. Chinese Mexican agender intersex AFAB. My pronoun is “they.”
Ian: Okay. All right. Is it okay if I ask a few questions?
Trevor: Better than to assume you know the answers.
So, to recap, we have a “lovable” child predator living with three children played for laughs; a woman who was abused and sold into sex slavery by her own father and who is so disconnected from this experience that she feels she owes this trafficker and allows him to live near her children which is also supposed to be funny; and the mother of two little black girls being made to seem hysterical and silly for thinking those babies had been kidnapped by said trafficker. But what is NOT funny, and was played with after school special seriousness, is made up pronouns, girl dicks, and men with vaginas. Comedy 101: by Shameless.
Thanks to ForeverDreaming.org for providing the transcripts these excerpts came from because I was REALLY not looking forward to having to re-watch the episodes to get them myself.