At the start of Showtime’s popular comedy-drama series Shameless, Debbie Gallagher was an incredibly sweet and intelligent young girl who seemed nothing like her derelict and morally-corrupt father Frank. Before she even hit puberty, Debbie did everything she could to help support her siblings as they attempted to survive life in the South Side of Chicago without any real emotional or financial assistance from their neglectful parents.
As the hit series went on, the many Gallagher children inadvertently became more and more like the parents they swore to never resemble, and the once-innocent Debbie was sadly no exception. She grew up observing how successful some of Frank’s most twisted and devious schemes were, so she adopted his manipulative nature and questionable moral code and starting using others to get what she wanted. Fans have been quick to turn on Fiona for sabotaging her own life with bad relationship decisions, but Debbie’s love life has been even more problematic and she’s far more deserving of the hatred that has been thrown her sister’s way.
Now in Shameless’ ninth season, Debbie has become one of the show’s worst characters, with each of her major life decisions being more despicable than the one before it. Yet, for some reason, viewers still seem to stand by her. The devious and stubborn teenage mother doesn’t have the fan-favorite status she started out with, but she still has far more fans that she actually deserves.
Here are 20 Things Wrong With Debbie We All Choose To Ignore.
20 SHE took AN INFANT
Debbie Gallagher grew up watching her older sister Fiona raise a house full of kids. Fiona wasn’t necessarily the ideal mother figure, but since she managed to keep a roof over the family’s heads and food on their plates, Debbie incorrectly assumed that it’s easy to be a teenage mother.
One day while walking around her neighborhood, Debbie spotted a toddler at a birthday party and decided to take him so she could get an early start at motherhood. Her siblings immediately expressed their disapproval and concocted a plan to see the child safely returned home while avoiding the police officers that were searching for the missing boy, but Debbie never got over her desire to become a mom through any means necessary.
19 SHE DIDN’T TELL FIONA ABOUT JIMMY
While trying to see if Fiona’s new boyfriend was having a secret relationship with another woman, Debbie discovered that “Steve Wilton” was actually Jimmy Lishman, the son of incredibly rich parents who believed he was away at medical school and had no idea he was back in Chicago stealing cars under a different name.
Jimmy pleaded with Debbie to keep his secret, and even bribed her with extravagant gifts so she’d keep her mouth shut. Debbie knew that it was wrong to hide something so significant from Fiona, but she hid the truth from her sister for weeks because she enjoyed the special treatment and seemed to also have fun tormenting Jimmy.
18 SHE HELPED WITH THE “AUNT GINGER” SCHEME
When an Office of Inspector General worker came to the Gallagher house suspecting that the family was cashing Ginger’s Social Security checks without her consent, Frank searched around for an elderly person who could pose as his 93-year-old aunt since the real Aunt Ginger passed away 12 years prior. He and Debbie went to an elders home and found a woman with Alzheimer’s that they could use for their twisted scheme.
Debbie was so excited about having a new “family” member, she went along with her father’s plan and actually helped trick the woman into believing she was the real Ginger. When it came time for the Gallaghers to return the woman to the elders home, Debbie begged her sister to let the fake Aunt Ginger stay with them and was distraught when Fiona refused.
17 SHE ENDED FRANK’S ATTEMPT AT SOBRIETY
In order to make $3,000 in a medical study, Frank briefly attempted to try sobriety out for a change. He and Debbie became closer than ever, as he started spending time with her instead of wasting his day away at the town bar, and the duo bonded over Frank’s newfound love for sugar as a primary replacement for alcohol.
Unfortunately, the Gallagher children grew tired of sober Frank very quickly and couldn’t trust that he’d be able to quit forever. When he announced his plan to slam holes in the roof of the family house so it could have skylights, Debbie decided Frank was better off inebriated and decided to force him to start again.
16 DEBBIE HAS VIOLENT TENDENCIES
Lip has actually been involved in fight clubs which paid him to brawl with strangers and Ian has thrown fists with numerous people over the course of Shameless‘ nine seasons. Debbie doesn’t typically share her siblings’ violent tendencies, but when she gets really angry, she can be every bit as destructive as the rest of her family.
Debbie once cared about Frank more than any of her other siblings, but when he insulted a school project in which she recreated Abraham Lincoln’s house out of Popsicle sticks, she filled a pillowcase with bars of soap and attacked her father. She and Frank haven’t been as close as they once were since that altercation, and it instilled in Debbie a love for lashing out at people who upset her.
15 SHE NEARLY DROWNED A CLASSMATE
When Debbie told her father that she wanted to swim in the city pool, Frank stated that she couldn’t go until she could hold her breath for ninety seconds in case any of the violent city kids tried to drown her. He didn’t realize that Debbie would be the one trying to drown her peers.
Debbie’s first trip to the pool was a disaster, as a group of mean girls insulted her one-piece bathing suit and bullied her about her body. Fiona tried consoling her and told Debbie that no one messes with the Gallagher family, and Debbie took that as inspiration to use her newly-developed ability to hold her breath to try to drown one of her bullies. She held one of the girls underwater until she passed out.
14 SHE TRIED MATURING TOO EARLY
Debbie was clearly affected by the insults thrown at her by the girls at the pool, because between the third and fourth seasons of Shameless, she befriended two incredibly promiscuous peers and started doing everything she could to seem older and avoid being made fun of again.
When Debbie went to an arcade with her two new friends to try to flirt with some boys, they advised her to talk to a 20-year-old named Matt. He rejected her because she was clearly too young, but Matt agreed to become her friend and they started spending more time together. Matt did everything he could to make it clear that their relationship would always remain strictly platonic, but Debbie was too desperate to grow up and get experience to listen.
13 DEBBIE FORCED HERSELF ON MATT
It occasionally seemed like Matt was actually developing feelings for Debbie, but since it would be illegal, he never acted on those potential emotions. Matt’s resistance to being with her only made Debbie want him more, though, so she resorted to an incredibly horrible tactic to take their relationship to the next level.
Debbie invited Matt to a party where she ensured he would get intoxicated. Once he was too inebriated to resist, Debbie forced herself on him. Since Matt feared the legal ramifications of being with someone several years younger than him, he never reported her and simply ended their friendship.
12 SHE TRICKED DEREK INTO GETTING HER PREGNANT
Debbie and Derek Delgado actually had a great relationship until Debbie screwed everything up by trying to trick her new boyfriend into getting her pregnant. After only a few days of dating, Debbie planned on spending a night with Derek and asked Fiona to take her to a clinic to get birth control. The nurse told her that it’d take a few days for the pill’s effects to kick in, but when Derek asked if he should wear protection mere hours later, Debbie assured him they wouldn’t need it.
Debbie was fully aware of what could happen if Derek didn’t wear protection, but her lifelong dream of being a mother kept her from telling him the truth.
11 SHE HOPED THE BABY WOULD FORCE DEREK TO STAY WITH HER
Debbie’s desire to become a mother at a young age wasn’t the only reason she wanted to get pregnant. She also hoped that starting a family with Derek without his permission would also force her new boyfriend to stay with her forever.
Debbie was an incredibly self-conscious teenager, and Derek was the first boy to really care for her and make her feel special. He was sweet, enjoyed spending time with her, and seemed to be genuinely attracted to her, so Debbie was desperate to lock him in as her partner and assumed a baby would help her do so. Unfortunately, Derek figured out her plan and moved across the country so he wouldn’t have to help raise the child he understandably wasn’t ready for.
10 SHE ATTEMPTED TO BE WITH A MARRIED MAN
When Debbie revealed to Fiona that she was pregnant and planned on keeping the baby, her older sister stated that she would have to raise Franny alone. Fiona already had too many responsibilities to deal with, and didn’t want to add raising or paying for a newborn to the list.
To make some money and get some much-needed parenting experience, Debbie became a live-in nanny to a family in which the mother was in the process of passing away. Frank advised her to trick the husband into desiring her, so she could have a permanent home and a source of income once his wife passed away. Debbie agreed to conduct her father’s scheme, a decision that launched her descent into becoming an even more twisted and manipulative Gallagher than Frank himself.
9 SHE THEN TRIED BEING WITH HIS WIFE
When Debbie’s attempts to be with the married man who employed her as a nanny didn’t quite work out, she turned her attention towards his wife. Frank learned that the woman used to think she was a lesbian, and suggested for Debbie to try hitting on her.
This new plan worked, and the woman entered her bedroom and crawled into bed with her late one night. Debbie tried to be with her, but before anything happened, she confessed that she was actually only fifteen, not eighteen as she originally claimed, and left the room. She stated at the time that she wasn’t attracted to women, but years later, Debbie went on to realize that might not actually be true.
8 DEBBIE DROPPED HER NEWBORN BABY
Fiona initially told Debbie that she wouldn’t help raise Franny in an attempt to convince her sister to wait a few years before becoming a parent, so when Franny was finally born, Debbie stubbornly refused to accept Fiona’s assistance. She tried to do everything herself, and was shocked to learn that her teachers wouldn’t let her watch over her daughter at school.
Debbie lasted several days on only a few short hours of sleep, but her eventual crash was inevitable. One day, while feeding Franny and studying, she fell asleep and dropped Franny to the ground. Her daughter cried for hours before Debbie finally woke up and realize what she had done.
7 SHE STOLE STROLLERS TO MAKE CASH
As a teenage single mother without a degree, Debbie struggled to make enough money to provide for her baby. While taking Franny out for a walk in the park one day, she noticed that several other mothers simply leave their expensive empty strollers sitting around as they gossip together, and decided to start a business stealing and re-selling these strollers.
After one mother cruelly ignored her attempts at conversation, Debbie ran off with the woman’s stroller and flipped it on Craigslist for $1,500. She did this several times until she accidentally stole a stroller which still had a baby in it. Debbie then used the money she’d made hiring a night nurse to take care of Franny while she went back to school.
6 SHE BRIEFLY GAVE UP ON HER FATHER
Debbie was once Frank’s most loyal and devoted child, but years of being disappointed by her father hardened her young heart. When Frank ruined Fiona’s wedding to Sean and was subsequently thrown off a bridge by the Gallaghers and their friends, Debbie decided she wanted nothing to do with her father anymore and completely ignored him upon his return to the South Side weeks later.
To distance herself from Frank, Debbie started having her daughter go by her middle name of Harriette and calling her “Harry” instead of Franny. This didn’t last too long, but Debbie’s betrayal hurt Frank the most because he once believed his daughter was “sent from the gods.”
5 SHE PRETENDED TO LOVE NEIL
Debbie’s failed relationships with Matt and Derek seemingly caused her to give up on finding true love, so she contented herself with the idea of marrying someone she didn’t actually care about if it meant she’d have a partner who could provide for her and Franny. She wasn’t attracted to Neil at all when they first met at Fiona’s diner, but once she learned that he had an apartment and money, Debbie immediately got engaged to him.
Neil suffered from brain damage which caused him to say the first thing that comes to his mind. His lack of a filter and bizarre appearance was off-putting to Debbie, but she did her best to convince Neil that she loved him so she could spend his money and live in his home.
4 SHE REFUSED TO GIVE THE DELGADOS CUSTODY
Debbie’s first few weeks as a mother were an absolute nightmare. She was forced to leave school, she was so sleep-deprived that she dropped Franny on the ground, she had to resort to illegal tactics to make money and she had to trick a mentally-handicapped man into proposing to her to put a roof over her daughter’s head. Yet, when Derek’s parents took Franny from her so she’d have a proper home, Debbie refused to let the Delgados keep her.
Debbie fought for custody of Franny, and terrorized the Delgado’s home in an attempt to steal her daughter back. A DCFS official granted her custody of Franny and Debbie ended up giving the Delgado family visitation rights, but her refusal to let them do more to help raise Franny was undeniably selfish.
3 SHE USED NEIL AS A GLORIFIED BABYSITTER
Neil was actually a pretty great fiancé, but Debbie was too busy thinking about herself to fully appreciate everything he did for her and Franny. Neil did everything he could to try to make himself appeal to Debbie, but his efforts proved useless as she started spending more and more time away from him and her daughter. She went out every night to drink and hang out with friends, and found herself flirting with other guys, all while Neil was back at home babysitting.
Eventually, Neil became fed up with how poorly he was being treated and fell in “love” with his nurse. The nurse was clearly also planning on using Neil the same way Debbie had, but Neil didn’t care and told Debbie to leave, calling her an awful person as she moved out.
2 SHE WOULDN’T GIVE DEREK A SECOND CHANCE
In the eighth season of Shameless, Debbie started letting Mrs. Delgado babysit Franny so she could go to work. One day when she came to pick her daughter up, she found out that Derek had returned for his mother’s birthday and spent time with Franny without her permission. Debbie was incredibly upset, since Derek had left all the caring for Franny to her and she resented Derek for leaving them.
Even though it was clear that Debbie had tricked Derek into impregnating her, Derek felt guilty and offered to make amends by paying for his daughter’s needs. Debbie stubbornly refused his offer and wouldn’t let Derek have a second chance at helping with Franny, and left without accepting his apology.
1 DEBBIE ISN’T APPRECIATIVE OF FIONA
Fiona has definitely become a more selfish and cold guardian to her siblings over the past few seasons, but that doesn’t excuse how unappreciative Debbie can be of her. Fiona spent years prioritizing her duties as a guardian over her own happiness and financial stability, but Debbie never thanked her for that and has resented Fiona ever since she said she didn’t want Debbie to give birth to Franny.
Even though Fiona always did more for Debbie than Frank has done, Debbie is more quick to criticize her sister than her father. She points out every relationship blunder and act of selfishness Fiona makes, while being completely ignorant of her own similar failings.
What else is wrong with Debbie from Shameless? Let us know in the comments!