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'Shameless' fan react: Debbie's first time

Season 5 | Episode 3 | “The Two Lisas” | Aired Jan 25, 2015

On this week’s episode of Showtime’s Shameless, Debbie (Emma Kenney), the 14-year-old Gallagher sibling, loses her virginity. It is easy to feel disappointed or even angry with this story arc. Debbie has always been the beacon of innocence on a show that is saturated with questionable behavior.

Because the show started when Debbie was 11, we have had the opportunity to watch her grow up. We’ve known her since she was practically a baby (in attitude, not age; the same cannot be said for younger brother, Carl), and have seen the goodness that exists in her soul. So to see her fall prey to the oversexualized world around her is upsetting. And to see the story go down the way it did—she took advantage of a drunk friend and mounted him in his sleep—feels at least slightly untrue to the character.

However, what we have to acknowledge is that season 5 Debbie Gallagher is not season 1 Debbie Gallagher. And though she has maintained much of her sweetness throughout (I will never get over watching her comfort Shelia after Karen had her baby taken away), there have been some significant changes that have contributed to this turn of events. In early season 3, Debbie was keeping a countdown of how many days Frank had been away. She was waiting eagerly for the return of her father even as all of her siblings warned her that he was not worth her time. Ultimately, Frank did return, and it only took a few days before he destroyed Debbie’s trust in him. From that point on, Debbie began to be aware of the harshness of her reality.

Season 3 presented Debbie with challenges ranging from evil foster-care parents to bullies at the pool. Throughout the season we witnessed a transition in which Debbie began to figure out how to stand up for herself. As time went on, she also began spending time with girls whose lives revolved around sex. One of them was pregnant (these girls are 13) and yet they still made Debbie feel, over and over again, like she was a loser for being a virgin. Without anyone countering this argument, it was only a matter of time before Debbie truly began to believe that sex was the answer to her insecurities.

The one person in Debbie’s life who did not make her feel like a child was Matty (James Allen McCune), a 20-year-old guy she met at an arcade who initially thought she was older than she was. When he found out the truth about her age, he made it clear that their relationship wasn’t going to be sexual, but he continued to spend time with her and send her mixed messages about the nature of their friendship.

Season 5 Debbie is determined to have sex. She is tired of being the little, innocent, loser girl. She is tired of people treating her like a baby, and she mistakenly thinks that sex is the key to turning that around. What Debbie fails to see—and this is not her fault; she’s had no one guiding her—is that she is often treated as a child because of all the things she still doesn’t know. What she doesn’t understand is that she is in fact a child and that being treated as one is a gift that her friends have given away.

Perhaps the clearest illustration of how much Debbie still has to learn is the circumstance under which she does have sex. Matty has accepted an invitation to a party Debbie is hosting and proceeds to get drunk out of his mind. He can barely put a sentence together, but when Debbie notices he has an erection, she assumes that means he wants to have sex. The fact that she then manages to put a condom on him and successfully have him penetrate her means she must have been paying attention to something someone was telling her, but the fact remains that he was not a consenting partner, and, more importantly, Debbie had no idea that this was a problem.

Matty’s interpretation of the events is that he was date-raped (he was), and he reams Debbie out for her behavior, telling her in no uncertain terms that she needs to stay away from him. Poor Debbie is now even more confused than she was before. To make matters worse, word somehow gets out that she had to force herself on a guy in order to make it happen.

I spent a lot of time wondering why the show decided to go this route with Debbie’s virginity. One important thing to note is that in this scenario, there is no question whatsoever that Debbie was taking advantage of Matty. It is hard to tell a story of a young girl having sex (especially with a much older man) without it raising some serious questions. Those questions are absent here. However, had Debbie’s partner been a boy her own age with equal experience, it would have been okay too. What I decided is that Debbie having sex for the first time in this way highlights just how lost she is. To have lost her virginity to a partner who was barely participating and to not recognize that this is not the way it’s supposed to be is an unequivocal sign that Debbie is suffering greatly from the lack of guidance in her life.

This arc, as upsetting as it is, is not untrue to Debbie. This is who Debbie Gallagher has become. This is what years of parental abandonment can do to you. This is what getting all your sex education from other misinformed children can do to you. This is what having your one female role model come completely undone can do to you. And it totally sucks.

Shameless airs Sundays at 9/8C on Showtime.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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