Last night’s Season 4 finale of Shameless had its share of dramatic points, but the most humorous moments involved queerness. If you haven’t watched yet, there are some spoilers ahead.
Mickey’s Russian prostitute wife, Svetlana, has dyed her hair a wild shade of red, but that’s not the only thing that’s changed about her. When Mickey comes downstairs in the morning, his wife greets him in an open robe and a strap-on. She chastises him for being gay (their marriage is an arranged one) and for being in love with Ian.
“You like the penis, yes?” she asks, smoking a cigarette.
“Not when there’s tits directly above it!” he tells her, asking her to put her equipment away. Svetlana takes it off and shuts her robe.
Then she starts to reveal her real thoughts about penises.
Considering she’s a hooker by profession, working at her husband’s brothel, this wasn’t completely shocking. Sometimes you don’t want to take your work home with you.
But then she says to Mickey, “You like boys. Maybe I like girls. … America, land of choices, yes? Freedom to be me, freedom to be you. McDonalds and Burger King on the same block. One, both—shit maybe we go to Wendy’s instead.”
Mickey asks if she’s a lesbian as she sips on her coffee.
“Maybe yes. Maybe no. Choice.”
Then a young woman in underwear and a beanie walks through while pulling on a tank top and says good morning. It’s a post-coital lesbian outfit if I ever saw one.
“Nika from tug shop. She wants to take care of me,” Svetlana explains, smiling.
“The blonde with the lazy eye?” Mickey asks.
“She plays trumpet. Strong tongue,” Svetlana says. But she wants something from Mickey: He needs to help her with their newborn baby. “You help. And Nika comes here to live.” This last part is said while she’s fondling the strap-on, which means next season is about to get really wild. Talk about a real “modern family.”
As a fan of Shameless since the beginning, I’ve always enjoyed its take on queerness in blue collar, lower-class Chicago. Besides the major Ian and Mickey relationship, there have been lesbian bartenders at the Alibi, Fiona’s close friendship with bicurious Jasmine (Amy Smart) and Monica Gallagher’s truck driver lover (Carlease Burke) and then mental hospital girlfriend, as played by Jenna Elfman. The show is one of the most queer-inclusive on television and Svetlana’s coming out was not only a funny twist but an exciting one that will add some fun to Mickey’s household when Shameless returns next year.
In another gay-themed scene, Mickey went to the Alibi to check up on the brothel upstairs when a patron decides to make a joke, asking, “How’s business downstairs?”
Instead of things taking a turn towards disaster, a hilarious exchange occurs.
Mickey’s face throughout this whole exchange is comically confused, but he takes a seat next to his white, straight male peers and has a drink just like he has every other day of his recent adult life.
Like Roseanne, Shameless is one of the most honest depictions of struggling lower class families on television. Because the writers aren’t concerned about looking pretty and keeping fans interested in things like high fashion or cheap laughs, the show is able to tell stories that are rarely ever featured on the small screen. Showtime is a perfect home to the often risque series, but the sexuality is never gratuitous and the gay relationships are treated with the same respect as the straight ones.
In fact Mickey and Ian’s relationship is one of the most beautiful and fun to watch play out as Mickey struggled with his attraction to Ian while also maintaining his tough demeanor and overtly masculine bravado while Ian had relationships with older married men before Mickey would commit. They both endured violence from Mickey’s homophobic father, too. And now with Ian’s possible bipolar disorder and Mickey’s newfound dedication to his love, things are going to get even more dramatic.
Shameless will be back for a fifth season in 2015.