Shameless is a television show that follows the daily life of Frank Gallagher and his six children. In season six one of his children Carl is released from Juvie after trying to smuggle drugs from Chicago into Michigan. Carl is a fourteen year old white kid from the South side of Chicago. Before he went into Juvie he was beginning to get into gang and drug crime, but by the time he came out he is a full-on gang member. Once he comes out Carl begins to talk, dress, and associate with black people. Carl is also depicted as a much different character now that he is working with a gang he is seen as a bad ass and loved by his peers as he is now a felon and a gang member.
The two large issues are with how Carl acts and how he is perceived by his peers after being released from Juvie. By braiding his hair into corn rows and beginning to talk like a black person he is committing cultural appropriation, an issue that is often talked about in the media today especially with white people getting corn rows. The second issue is upholding the stereotype that being a criminal is cool. This episode does promote stereotypes, but to bring light to the fact they are issues that our society does face. Carl is shown taking influences in popular black culture but has no respect for the influences of the culture or the history behind it.
Shameless always talks about controversial ideas, and since the show follows a white family in the ghetto of Chicago, the show’s take on race is a very interesting one. In one episode Carl was talking to his neighbor Veronica, who is black. After seeing how Carl has changed his appearance and voice to sound more like a black person she says “You think cornrows makes you black? Four hundred years of oppression makes you black” season 6 episode 5. This shows Veronica calling him out on cultural appropriation. The show doing this is a way of going against popular stereotypes in a different way. Although Carl is acting this way, the show/characters in the show state that it is not okay.
Another issue that is seen in the show is Carl being a criminal and him being respected more for things like selling drugs and guns. In one episode Carl smuggles guns into his school and starts selling to students them in the bathroom. When the principal finds out Carl gets called into his office, Carl think’s he is going to be in trouble when really the principal just wanted to buy a gun for himself. This is almost trying to say that even the principal and eventually other teachers and students will respect you more if you are committing crimes. Of course that is not true, this is only trying to show an extreme humorous side of an issue. Of course the selling of all these firearms backfires later in the show when there's a loud banging noise in the lunchroom and almost every teacher whips out a gun thinking the sound was a gunshot. This is another way the show tries to find a creative way to show present issues with race and concealed carry. Throughout the season Carl eventually finds that the negatives of his behavior like this out do the positives and he eventually leaves the gang and returned to his young crime free life. It’s important that race issues are still being brought into media in this proactive way to teach people what is and what is not okay.
Although Shameless shows this exaggerated version of Carls behavior it is not far from real life situations, especially with famous people. Many rappers today will rap about criminal activities along with all the drugs they do and are respected for it. This is extremely common in rappers from Chief Keef to G-Eazy. This behavior can even be seen in everyday high school students in videos online or just in school. It’s common to interpret black culture in an incorrect way that is easily turned into a negative stereotype. It’s important that people and the media work together to dissolve the line of confusion with stereotypes and black culture.