SPOILER WARNING ALERT: If you're not up to date on Showtime's Shameless, and if you care, you should stop reading here.
However, if you have been watching, you would know that the leading lady protagonist, Fiona (played brilliantly by Emmy Rossum), has recently been a bit down on her luck.
After being arrested for child endangerment (her three-year-old brother snorted some cocaine she left out), the constantly struggling character is out on parole and desperately searching for any kind of employment. You see her bounce from one job to the next, begging to be hired as she is turned away for having a felony on her record. Finally, she is sitting in her narcotics anonymous group, bored and searching through her phone as she refuses to accept any blame for the consequences for her actions with the simple idea in her head of "I'm not an addict, I'm better than these people," which she basically tells the group leader in a different version. She then goes on to asking the group leader if she has any ideas of how she can get employed.
The woman smiles at her and pleasantly hands Fiona a phone number and tells her to ask for Juan and say that she sent her. Fiona initially can't thank her enough as she finally thinks her job-searching problems are over. But, she just has to make sure there's no catch...
"It's not hooking, right?" She asks, refusing to go down that low.
The woman looks at her with disdain as she responds, "It puts food on the table."
Cue the tears. Fiona cries for the ten-billionth time this episode as we're supposed to feel terrible for her for letting her three-year-old brother snort coke and then refusing to do anything so degrading as hooking to get back on her feet.
Fine, understandable. It's sad.
Cut to another scene with her much younger, 17-year-old gay old brother, Ian, getting ready to go to work. Ho-hum, just another night of work at the night club as a stripper-hooker as his boyfriend -- who is the same age -- comes along for fun while working as his pimp.
No sad music.
This is sexy. This is funny. This is exciting.
For a 20-something girl who just fed her baby brother cocaine out of negligence and got arrested, turning tricks seems like the bottom of the barrel. For an underage boy who shouldn't even be in a night club to begin with, stripping and hooking and pimping seem like great, lucrative career options.
In another season of this show, Fiona was working as a waitress at a Hooters-esque restaurant. And even though she was bringing home tons of tips, she had to quit because her self-respect couldn't take walking around in the skimpy outfit while being ogled by dirty men anymore. But... her underage brother can proudly work as a stripper/hooker in a gay club?
And we are supposed to look at her as a fit guardian that approves of this? Not to mention that we're supposed to offer her pity because she can't stand wearing a short skirt while she waits tables? She's too good for that?
The underage boy is meeting older pedophiles in hotel rooms and turning tricks and stealing their cash with his pimp boyfriend, but the older sister is bursting into tears every time someone obtrusive calls her "sweetheart" on a job and that's the upsetting thing on this show.
You have Fiona's best friend laughingly suggest she get into porn to make ends meet and they both crack up knowing Fiona would never sink that low, while the 17-year-old pimp tells another gay guy at a fancy party what he does for a living.
The guy's answer?
"Wow, that's incredible! I'm doing my dissertation on escorting in the LGBT community. Would I be able to get your card?"
The worst part is the entire world feels this way. I was reading an article yesterday about "The Most Desirable Male Escorts," glamorizing sites like Rentboy.com. Male prostitutes are considered sexy, humorous or revered, whilst female prostitutes are considered shameful and dirty -- and even the pay is substantially different.
This is nothing new. When Richard Gere was American Gigolo, he was the sexiest, coolest stud alive. When he bought Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, he needed to save her from the horrible life that is prostitution. Poor girl has to be a hooker. But for a guy? Great career choice!
Unfortunately, Cameron Monaghan (Ian, the 17-year-old brother) is not quite the actor that Emmy Rossum is on Shameless. Even if given something substantially serious, he probably wouldn't be able to handle it. His character is currently showing obvious bipolar symptoms passed down from the mother and the actor is playing them like an amateur who did zero research on the diagnosis. He clearly thinks that it's a two-dimensional illness that makes you completely energetic and happy one minute, and chronically sad or angry the next. I'm going to go as far as to guess he didn't do much research with the prostitution factor either as the storyline is mostly just used for laughs. As much as I love Shameless, and think it's one of the best (and most underrated) shows on television, they have it wrong.
Because I can tell you right now, from a very personal standpoint -- this is a very common story, and it's not funny. A young boy who faces bipolar disorder, feels rejected from the world around him and turns to desperate measures to both feel loved and make ends meet?
It's nothing to laugh at.
His storyline is just as serious as Rossum's, if not more-so, who's character brought a lot of her shit-storm upon herself.
The world needs to stop glamorizing this in males and making it seem exciting -- because it ruins lives. It traumatizes people. It creates a darkness inside of someone that they might not ever be able to overcome -- much more than a girl who might have to wait tables in a short skirt.
And if you wanna understand that story and struggle as accurately as possible? I suggest you read my book series: The Peter Pandrew Trilogy.
Believe me, there's no sugar-coating.
The Peter Pandrew Triology -- available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble
@andrewcristipeterpandrew on instagram
@andrewcristi on twitter