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"Shameless" (US) and the Miracle of Fiona Gallagher

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Ramianne is a TV show & movie enthusiastic who loves to reflect on characters and stories. She is particularly character-driven. She/her

Fiona Gallagher, portrayed by Emmy Rossum (Shameless (US))

Fiona Gallagher, portrayed by Emmy Rossum (Shameless (US))

Who Is Fiona Gallagher?

Shameless (US) is, for those who wouldn't know, about a family—the Gallaghers—living on the Southside of Chicago and of which we follow the daily adventures and other mishaps in a context of poverty and criminality. Two parents - one of whom has left, the other being an abusing, alcoholic, drug addict profiteer - and six children compose this (not so) lovely American family. And today, I focus on the oldest sibling, Fiona Gallagher who, as best described by her father in the first seconds of the pilot, is the rock of the family.

Why is Fiona Gallagher... Fiona Gallagher? What could explain that she became this person that saved her siblings from complete chaos? Nothing, as far as we know. And that is why Fiona Gallagher is, in herself, a little miracle.

Her fandom wiki describes her as "a true South Side girl: she's scrappy, resourceful, and not afraid to get into a fight." Basically, she's definitely not a Saint - and far from me is the idea to defend that vision of her. She has very poor self-esteem, falls easily into dangerous situations, has a fear of abandonment and some alcohol issues; but she also cares for the people that are close to her, has morals and principles that she commits to, fights for what she believes is right, will do anything for her family and friends, and is willing to give everything she has if it means her family can live better—even if it means sacrificing herself.

What I would like to show in this article is how her story, her context and her personality make her what I call a little miracle. Now I would like to clarify that by "miracle" I do not understand any religious concept—even though the term in itself is one. By "miracle" I understand a phenomenon that is unexplainable by any logical and rational reasons. In religion, an irrational phenomenon is explained by divine intervention, but as an agnostic, I am skittish about this notion. I much prefer the idea that there are things that we just can't explain, that still happen, and it is because they are unexplainable by any reason that they are so fascinating.

And Fiona Gallagher is one of the most fascinating and inspiring characters on TV.

The mother of her siblings

I was nine! Nine, and taking care of you. Taking care of all of us. I was in fourth grade, dragging your ass passed out in front of the yard so you wouldn't freeze to death. Staying up all night with Ian when he had chicken pox; I washed Carl's shitty diapers; I picked lice out of Liam's hair; and I was here when Debbie got her first period; not Monica; me.

— Fiona Gallagher to her father Frank Gallagher, Shameless (US) season 7 episode 12

The Mother of Her Siblings

Fiona Gallagher is 21 when we meet her in season 1, and is in essence a mom to her five younger siblings, a role that she has endorsed since she was at least 9, although she has taken care of her two brothers Lip and Ian since before that—she explains in season 3 episode 7 that she took care of them when she was as young as 6. She gave them a motherly love, took care of each one of them, implemented healthy rules for them to follow—brush your teeth, go to sleep at a decent hour, do your homework—and taught them the importance to commit and take responsibility for what they do. She gave them a sense of familial structure, provided them parental love and care, and portrayed the values and principles that they would then also acquire and follow.

Now if we look at any of the Gallagher siblings, they all have the virtues, principles and qualities that Fiona has: they fight for justice and respect, they take responsibility for what they do, they love unconditionally and fight for those they love. Granted, they're not perfect either, and they're still very much unstable, all of them. Lip becomes an alcoholic even though he tries with all he has not to be like his father; Ian has a history of getting into abusive relationships (yes, even Gallavich, even though I love them with all my heart); Debbie rapes a guy she's attracted to and then believes being a teen mom is a good thing; Carl has serious issues with violence and harassment, and Liam doesn't think he belongs anywhere and wanders around trying to find mentors. Fiona can't replace all of the parental love and care they all need; it's just impossible, and she has her own issues to deal with. But it is clear that the Gallaghers would be ten times more unstable and unhealthy if Fiona hadn't been there.

Fiona Gallagher with her brothers and sisters and her then boyfriend, Shameless (US)

Fiona Gallagher with her brothers and sisters and her then boyfriend, Shameless (US)

There is no Fiona in the Milkovich household; that's the big difference. In the Gallagher household, there is a mother; and therefore there is a semblance of family, of structure and support.

— Mark Mylod, Executive Producer/Director of Shameless (US)

The Gallaghers vs the Milkoviches: Proof That Fiona Gallagher Is the Key

To better understand how Fiona is the explanation of why the Gallaghers are not as messed up as they hypothetically should be given their environment, it is interesting to compare their family to one that is very close and intertwined with them: the Milkoviches.

I could talk for hours about the Milkoviches as they are some of the most interesting and well-written characters on TV in my opinion, but what basically needs to be known about them in this article is that the Milkoviches are violent, criminal, abusive, and some of the most unhealthy people ever. I agree that their father Terry Milkovich may be even worse than Frank Gallagher, but that fact alone can't explain the huge difference between the Milkoviches and the Gallaghers.

The key to explaining their huge differences is Fiona Gallagher, and as Mike Marlod said, the love and structure that she has created and given to her brothers and sisters. That is also one of the reasons why the Milkoviches are so drawn to the Gallaghers: they basically have what the Milkoviches crave, which is love and family. When Frank yells and hits Ian in season 1, Fiona is there to protect her brother, and kick Frank out of the house; when Terry yells and/or abuses Mickey or Mandy, they have no one to turn to; they go smash and shoot things with a gun in an abandoned building, like Mickey does in season 3 after being raped under the orders of his father. Fiona is the key to understanding why all in all, the Gallaghers didn't turn out like the Milkoviches.

I have tried to demonstrate that the reason for the Gallagher children's qualities, values and somewhat stability is Fiona. However, Fiona didn't have anyone to have those same qualities and values; she didn't have parents or an older sibling to take care of her and protect her from her parents' neglect. It is because she didn't have any model, and yet became the person that she is, that I say she is a miracle.

Fiona Gallagher, portrayed by Emmy Rossum (Shameless (US))

Fiona Gallagher, portrayed by Emmy Rossum (Shameless (US))

Dean Winchester, portrayed by Jensen Ackles (Supernatural)

Dean Winchester, portrayed by Jensen Ackles (Supernatural)

Fiona Gallagher vs Dean Winchester: Why Fiona Is a Miracle and Dean Isn't

I will try another comparison in order to demonstrate my argument above. In this turn, I will take a step out of Shameless (US) and take a look at my favourite show on Earth: Supernatural.

In many ways, Fiona Gallagher and Dean Winchester share similar traits. They are both the oldest sibling; have both no mother—she left her family for one, she has been killed for the other—both their fathers are abusive and have not provided the love, care and protection they needed as children; they both had to replace their parents for their younger siblings; and in many ways, we find in both of them the same qualities and the same struggles, going as far as the same alcohol issues.

But then why do I talk about Fiona being a miracle and not Dean? Simply because there are reasons why Dean is who he is; why he has those qualities, values and principles, and why he has been able to replace their parents for his brother Sam. There are two of these reasons: the first one is that Dean has known what a healthy family is and looks like. For the first four years of his life, he had two loving parents and was in essence living the dream. Then his mother died, his father became obsessive, manipulative, alcoholic and abusive, and depraved his son from his childhood, forcing him to become a soldier and caretaker for Sam. But Dean had memories of what he should be providing to Sam. The other reason is Bobby Singer, who has been a loving and caring figure in Sam and Dean's childhood, that has taken them to the park to play instead of learning how to shoot with a gun and kill vampires.

Fiona had none of that. She has never known a moment in her life when her parents weren't drug addicts and neglecting her. Although there has been no evidence of that given in the show, it wouldn't be surprising to learn that she has even been neglected since she was born. While Dean had, for the first four years of his life, two loving parents, Fiona had nothing. But Fiona also had no one, no other adult figure that gave her just a tiny bit of what her parents failed to provide her; she had no Bobby Singer. The closest person that she has is her best friend Veronica and her boyfriend Kevin, however, it seems like they didn't know each other when they were children. Fiona and Veronica most likely met and became friends when they were both adults or at least teenagers. And no one else helps her; no aunt or uncle, no grandparent, no external family friend. She has always been alone, without anyone to take as a model or to provide her with what she needed.

And that is precisely why I argue she is a miracle. She created her qualities, values and principles out of nothing; there is absolutely no explanation why she didn't become abusive like her parents; when she was yelled at or neglected by Frank or Monica, she had no one to turn to and no one to defend her just like the Milkoviches, and yet she didn't become like them. The other Gallagher children have her to explain where their virtues and qualities come from; Dean Winchester has Bobby and a happy and healthy beginning of life, but Fiona had no one. She had nothing, and yet, she made it.

Fiona Gallagher is a miracle.


-Fiona Gallagher fandom powered Wiki page

-Being Mandy and Mickey Milkovich - commentary of season 3

-Shameless (US) season 7 episode 12 - clip "Fiona & Frank about Monica"

-Shameless (US) season 3 episode 7 - clip "Family Comes First"

© 2020 Ramianne