I like the US adaptation of Shameless. I really do. I dare say I like it even more than the original, UK version (except for Steve: Justin Chambers is fine, but James McAvoy was perfect). I’m happy it’s recently returned for a 2nd season and I have high hopes for its future. I like capable, long-suffering Fiona with her barely-hidden vulnerability. I like ‘Lip with his perfect SAT scores, dry sense of humor, and creativity criminality. I like Ian with his adulterous Muslim boyfriend, sweet face, military aspirations, and hard-on for the neighborhood delinquent. I love Debbie, who is somehow both depressingly old for her age and achingly young. I like Kevin and Veronica, especially Kevin, and want them to be my next-door neighbors. I don’t really like Frank, that’s pretty much impossible to do, but I find him extremely accurate and enjoyable in a laugh-so-you-don’t-cry, did-he-really-just-do-that kind of way. The plot-lines are generally fun and sometimes clever and almost always heartfelt.
There’s just one thing that bothers me, and unfortunately, it bothers me a lot. I’d like to know who decided that Sheila, an otherwise sweet lady dressed like a 50’s housewife who’s good with kids and imprisoned by anxiety, should also be a rapist? And that her cynical, sarcastic, over-sexualized adolescent daughter should be one too? I know it was supposed to be funny when the former handcuffed Frank to her bed and did kinky things to him despite his loud and unmistakable protests. When the later videotaped herself having sex with him while he was drugged nearly to the point of unconsciousness, but not so out of it that he didn’t object repeatedly. To state the obvious, it wasn’t. What it was was the epitome of a trend I just don’t understand, in which men being raped is a punchline.
It’s not just that these jokes are in extremely poor taste and irredeemably offensive; I also honestly don’t get where the humor is supposed to come from. Is it the role reversal? The perceived-humiliation of a man being sexually overpowered by a woman? The supposed impossibility of the scenario? The mere concept of a sexually aggressive woman? The unexpectedness, that shock of the unanticipated, two things that don’t belong together (women as sexual predators? Men as victims? Men who don’t want sex? Women who do?). In a world where the rape of men and boys is hardly confined to the realms of fiction, this kind of humor is a mystery to me, and not one I can easily set aside while I enjoy the rest of the show. So Shameless writers, take note: Frank screaming “stop” and being ignored isn’t just unfunny, though it certainly is that; it’s also downright nauseating. Lose it or lose me.