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A Shameless Nuisance

March 30, 2011

I was having a really hard time finding something interesting to write about, and to procrastinate I started watching the show Shameless. It’s about an extremely poor, dysfunctional family in Chicago and in my opinion it’s a very authentic portrayal of America’s working class. The father in the show, Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy) is possibly one of the most horrible human beings I’ve ever seen (although quite humorous on TV) and I couldn’t help but think of Mill’s opinions on being a nuisance to society.


(If you have seen Shameless, bear with me because I’ve only watched two episodes.)

One of the beautiful things about the U.S. is that each person is free to form their own opinions without reserve and even act on those opinions when they do not harm others. But as Mill’s discusses in chapter 3 of On Liberty, when should the liberty of an individual be limited? When their actions are a nuisance to those around them.

Using the term burden on society for Frank would be the understatement of the year. He makes an extremely short conscious appearance in the first two episodes in which he nearly breaks his son’s nose with his forehead, and then proceeds to find a new place to live but is literally tossed out of his “friends” houses. The rest of the time he is stumbling around, sleeping on park benches, and in a drunken stupor at the bar. He is on disability for what appears to be no reason at all, but instead of helping out his family (of 6 young kids and no mother) he spends it on $700 tabs at the bar. They have to support themselves, paying for food, housing, etc. and then as if that wasn’t bad enough they are forced to deal with their drunken idiot father as well.


I am all for liberty and freedom, but I would say that when a person is that much of a nuisance to everyone he knows, it is no longer ok for him to act the way he likes. As Mill’s says “No one pretends that actions should be as free as opinions.” This is a fictional TV show, but there are thousands of similarly dysfunctional families, and ones that are even worse off. It is completely unfair that any person in society should weigh down their children and the people around them this much.


One Comment
  1. Paige Robinson-Frazier permalink
    April 1, 2011 1:56 PM

    I love the reference! I’m a fan of shameless and have seen every episode and I totally agree that society would be better without Frank Gallagher. I think he fits perfectly into Mill’s definiton of a “nuisance,” since his actions are actually harmful to his family members.

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