Last night I watched a show called Shameless on Netflix. My sister had suggested it, saying it was based on a British prototype. In the story, a drunken father,William R. Macy, and motherless tumble of children fare for themselves, the eldest in charge. The pilot I viewed was racy , with bare bums, oral sex performed on two brothers by a fifteen year old, the father brought home by cops, the discovery of pornographic material hidden under a pillow. It conjured for me books that I adored as a girl, those tales of family in which the mother was dead or missing and the children had to find their own way.Of course, back then, there were no episodes as vivid or glaring as what I observed yesterday, but there were the perils of surviving, finding your own way without any adult direction.
Although the sex is expected, it is made contemporary as one brother has homosexual leanings with his married Muslim boss who owns the local grocery. In spite of the caring next door black neighbour lady who happens to be a nurse, her live-in boyfriend and she enjoy kinky sexual relations, and the full frontal nude of him, privates splayed is no longer taboo. Yet these lower class barely surviving characters demonstrate cooperation, caring and deep consideration, even the family of children expressing outright love for the useless father who spends his disability paycheque endlessly drinking or sleeping in the middle of the floor. Simply put, he’s a brute and I doubt I will continue to watch this series.
The story of the destitute children is the same but pushed forward generations made modern through the addition of sexual innuendo and nudity, events made so commonplace and normalized that we hardly blink at the eldest sister -ersatz mother who dancing at nightclubs in a” borrowed dress” makes love with a boyfriend of an hour or so in the messy cluttered kitchen. She works umpteen jobs and watches over her sibs. Into this mess comes her Prince Charming who noting the broken washing machine delivers a new one.
I turned to Netflix because I was bored with the offering on the regular channels and here in San Diego there are over 5144 channels, in which you can watch in Spanish, give yourself a facelift, learn about cancer, dogs, stingray Jazz Masters,Buy a Bride, Eat a Bulaga, ( whatever that may be), catch up on Oregon ladies basketball and more useless esoteric matters that I doubt anyone truly cares about. And because we do not get Outlander here I will have to wait months to follow Clare’s travails between her loves separated by 400 years.
Here we finished The Crown, now knowledgeable about Jackie Kennedy’s apologies to Queen Elizabeth regarding her thick ankles. It was thrilling to see Elizabeth working out a way to avoid Ghana’s relationship with Russia by dancing with the president. More than a mere lover of her corgis, she is portrayed as thoughtfully grappling with political issues. She is direct and not moved by her prime ministers, Harold Macmillan and Anthony Eden.She does manipulate her sister Margaret’s life to Margaret’s unending scorn and resentment of her meddling sister. The very stylish Margaret careens from one bad choice to another. Yet we do empathize with her as artist Tony Armstrong’s mummy issues are revealed and his wild lifestyle is vividly presented.Philip as well shown is a recalcitrant philander, a good ole boy, but his treatment of sensitive hapless Charles is heartbreaking, particularly in Philip’s blackmail insistence to Elizabeth that his son endure the same rigorous horrid schooling that he did in Scotland. In spite of Philip’s own harsh and tragic family background, his demeanour was all ready coarse enough to triumph over difficult situations. Sadly, poor Charles succumbed, recalling his schooling at Gordonston as “ prison” and “ hell ”: as it is well depicted.Elizabeth stands by, unable and unwilling to change Charles’ circumstance.
The wonder of some shows is the new information the audience is now privy to. In deed when I googled the Jackie-Elizabeth dinner, I observed that the cast wore exact replicas of the original designer gowns and the conversations the tv viewers witnessed were pretty much the same although “ creatively” imagined. Certainly Elizabeth is humanized in these episodes, the problems and restraints of being a royal revealed. Claire Foy does an admirable job of presenting the tangle of a job few desire. Yet times change, and with the marriage of Harry to Meaghan Markle, one would love to be a fly on the flocked wallpaper, overhearing the discussions the dead- eyed Philip must be entertaining with his wife.
My children laugh that- give me actors in period piece costumes and I am happy. I’m only happy if the story is good and something new and interesting is revealed( OK, I do love lavish brocades and fabrics and styles, fashion ). When I saw Amistad, Borghum ,John Adams( with Paul Giammati), the Burns documentary on Vietnam Nam, Genius, stories that pierce the veneers we have been fed in the news – it’s as if I have discovered a delicious secret and that information now colours, explains, deepens or changes what I thought I knew. It’s the same in books when new information is disclosed.
Now I realize networks like Netflix do play fast and loose to attract viewers, events or details unearthed through research, diaries, memos, whatnot, previously not readily known: that intensifies the narrative. And truthfully I like that.