Of the many reasons to watch Shameless, the oldest son—Phillip “Lip” Gallagher—remains at the top of the list. The brilliant, but screwed-up son of Frank helps his older sister, Fiona, hold the family together, even while dealing with his own problems (many of them his own making). Still, Lip Gallagher appeals to us in a way that can probably be scientifically explained. He’s a bad boy with a heart of gold. He's also a troubled genius, who draws us in with those woeful, soulful eyes. Sigh.
Lip deals with his circumstances the best way he knows how: the occasional violent outburst, sometimes just walking away and yes, actually giving good advice (despite rarely following it himself). He didn’t have a functional family while growing up, but Lip won’t let that stop him from getting somewhere with his life.
15 When Lip wished someone would just give him a chance
Lip Gallagher is the ultimate 'bad boy born on the wrong side of the tracks.' His mom, Monica, left them when they were little and his father, Frank, would rather be out drinking and sleeping on a park bench, than taking care of his family. Fiona did the best she could, under the circumstances, but the children had to grow up very fast and often fell into the usual neighborhood trouble, like robbing stores and drinking too much. Lip doesn’t want to end up like Frank, but he struggles against his upbringing. He wants to rise out of poverty and maybe come back and help his neighborhood, as well as his family. Sometimes, all you need is a chance. Someone just needs to give you a chance and it’s enough to get you going in the right direction.
14 When Lip tried to comfort a heartbroken Mickey
Lip’s younger half-brother, Ian Gallagher, had yet to be diagnosed with bipolar. He stole his ex-boyfriend Mickey’s baby and endangered the child’s life before he was finally tracked down. Mickey felt as if he hadn’t done enough for the man he loved (well, he did get married to Svetlana) and despaired over Ian’s fate. Lip comforted him by letting him know that Mickey did more than most people would. It’s not much comfort, given the circumstances, but Lip finds a way to bring a positive spin on a horrible situation when offering advice to those he cares about or those who care about his family. Lip can appreciate when someone does try to help another person because he’s been on the receiving end of someone who doesn’t seem to care at all.
13 When Lip shared his feelings with his older, married professor lover, Helene
Lip Gallagher has a tendency to get into unhealthy relationships and he isn’t always the greatest guy with the women he dates. In season six, Lip is involved in a torrid affair with his 40-year-old married professor, Helene. Her husband lets it happen and she and Lip go on a retreat together, where she discusses her latest book and gets humiliated by someone in the audience. So, she gets drunk (really, really drunk). Lip stays with her while she vomits in the toilet and they share an extremely intimate moment. Helene questions her life choices, feeling low and depressed and Lip tells her to wait until she’s sober before assessing her life. He also tells her that being a “Mrs. Robinson” is not a character flaw and she shouldn’t feel bad about herself because of it.
12 When Lip wanted everyone to know that he was nothing like his dad
If Lip wants anything out of life, it is not to end up like his father. Frank is the antithesis of who Lip wants to grow up to be like, but he constantly struggles against his environment. He drinks too much, does drugs, sleeps around and generally has trouble finding the direction he wants to go. Sometimes, things seem hopeless. Do people automatically become who their parents were? Is it possible to fight against his upbringing? Is Frank’s horribleness genetic? These are questions that Lip wants to know and he will do his best to not become his father. And when anyone tells him that he is acting just like Frank, he screams and says that he is absolutely NOT Frank Gallagher. Don’t force him into that box.
11 When Lip reveals one of his life's philosophies
People will try to bring you down. Lip Gallagher knows all about this. His life has not been easy and likely will never reach the level of peace that he desperately wants it to reach. To survive, he has learned to assume the worst, swallow some of his pain and keep on going. In season two, his entire life has gotten out of control. Karen happens to be pregnant, possibly with his baby and Lip doesn’t want to be a deadbeat dad. Unfortunately, he begins to act out and gets expelled from school, after he throws a chair in a classroom window (not the best response). Even so, his philosophy on life tends to be to tell the naysayers to F off. Lip is going to do what he intends to do, even if some of those choices are not the right ones to make.
10 When Lip talks to his college roommate about his brother, Ian, after their big fight
Lip got his brother, Ian, a job at the college as a janitor. He wants to help Ian rise above their circumstances and the janitor gig seems like a step up from where he was before. Lip, who is now a Resident Assistant (RA) at the college, participates in one of the largest hallway dorm parties of the year. It’s a huge mess. Ian wants to stay with Lip in the dorms, but Lip wants his own space. This hurts Ian and the two get into a huge fight. Afterward, Lip talks to his roommate and confesses how strong and sure Ian used to be, but how he seems to be letting his diagnoses hold him back. Lip’s friend reminds him that Ian is working through it himself and perhaps he isn’t giving up, like Lip assumes.
9 When Lip advises Fiona to learn to let go and finally live for herself
The Gallaghers received an eviction notice and everyone got kicked out of the house they’d called home their entire lives. Season six was a rollercoaster, which is saying something. Debbie planned to have her baby and Fiona learned that she was also pregnant, but plans to have an abortion instead. Just when she thought things were getting marginally better…
So, Fiona and Lip sat on the front steps of their former home. The family might have to split up and move on. Lip told Fiona that perhaps it’s for the best. This can be the time that Fiona focuses on herself, instead of everyone else. Lip provided sound advice, but Fiona has trouble letting go. She’s been taking care of everyone since she was 12. That can be a tough habit to break.
8 When Lip gives the harsh truth to Fiona when she's in jail
Fiona has made her share of mistakes, including that time when little Liam got into her drugs and nearly died. She ended up in jail for her negligence and suffered from the guilt of her actions. Lip reminded her of the gravity of what she had happened during her party. Their brother could have died and might suffer from brain damage. Fiona, who tends to be responsible, had slipped at the wrong moment. Lip didn’t sugarcoat it or try to make it sound better than it was, out of loyalty to his sister. He can tell his family the truth when they need to hear it, even if they don’t want to face it themselves. That can be hard to do. But, Lip knew that being real with Fiona was the only way they could get past this.
7 When Lip gives up a full ride to MIT to stay closer to home
Mandy submitted a college application to MIT for Lip without his knowledge. At first, he was very angry about it and pushed Mandy further away. But, he got accepted into MIT. Getting accepted into a prestigious school like MIT would have been seen as impossible in their neighborhood, regardless of Lip Gallagher’s high-level intelligence. The scholarship would’ve covered his entire tuition, but he chose to go to a university closer to home. Maybe he didn’t believe he could make it at MIT or he thought it would still be too expensive to go. But, he also believed that his loyalty is to his family. Being closer to them means he can come home and help them out whenever they need him. He might be their ticket out of poverty, but he also has a strong sense of loyalty to their roots.
6 When Lip is willing to give up his goals to be a father figure to Karen's baby
Lip Gallagher wants to avoid becoming like Frank at all costs. So, when Karen told him that she was pregnant, Lip wanted to become the type of father that he never had. He wanted to be there in the baby’s life. He decided not to go to college and chose to stick around and try to be there for Karen. It turned out that he wasn’t even the father of her child, though. Lip eventually chose to go to college, but he had been more than willing to give up everything to be a good father. He may have also wanted an excuse to not move on with his life. And he felt responsible for Karen, no matter how many times she worked to push him away.
5 When Lip tells Mandy that she is a worthwhile human being
Mandy had a terrible home life. Her father abused her and she never had anyone who supported her or even treated her kindly. Lip began his relationship with her for fun and began pulling away from her when it became clear that Mandy wanted much more. Still, Lip cared about Mandy in his own way and recognized the brokenness in her. One of the sweetest moments in the series was when Lip told Mandy that she was gorgeous, smart and kind. He wanted her to know that she mattered. She was a worthwhile human being and didn’t deserve any of the horrible things she had suffered in life. While Lip eventually ended their relationship, he still cared about her as a person and worried about the decisions she made. He wanted her to be safe and happy (just not with him).
4 When Lip has his first job interview at a cool tech start-up
Job interviews are rarely enjoyable. Most of the time, you show up to the interview as a nervous wreck and have to hide the fact that your prescription-strength deodorant doesn’t seem to be working. Lip Gallagher went to an interview for an internship at a cool tech start-up. But, Lip doesn’t pretend to be someone he’s not. Normally, you shouldn’t curse when you go to a job interview, but Lip lets the F-word slip, without a second thought. The bruise on his face probably would turn off most employers, too. The interviewer wanted to know if Lip is willing to do the job and Lip told him that he can do advanced physics, but will get coffee with a smile if that’s what the job requires. He also doesn’t shy away from his lack of experience in the field.
3 When Lip tried to hold onto college, even though he was about to lose it all
Lip Gallagher’s drinking problem had begun to affect his life. He got kicked out of his RA job and then out of his job at the sorority house. All he had left was his teaching assistantship. He went to the Alibi to work on grading papers for Professor Youens. The TA job provides him with a scholarship for college, so he has to keep that job no matter how much he hates covering for the alcoholic Youens. Lip cares about getting his education and has no desire to become a washed-up professor. Lip still got straight As in high school despite his home life and he wanted to succeed in college, regardless of the odds against him. His relationship with Helene (another professor) had blown up and ended and things were not going well at all. Yet, he decided to grade papers anyway.
2 When Lip finally told off Professor Youens
Lip Gallagher often covered for Professor Youens, who spent most of his time drunk or hungover. Lip would teach classes in his absence, grade papers and more. But, Youens took credit for one of Lip’s theories in a research paper he had published in an academic journal. When Youens threatened to fire him, Lip decided to let him have it. Lip reminded him of all he had done for him. Youens is an educated loser, but just like Frank in all other respects. It was a loud and tense exchange in the hallway at the university. Lip had looked up to Professor Youens, only to be let down again by another father figure in his life. Later, Professor Youens tries to patch up their relationship and pays for Lip’s alcohol rehab program.
1 When Lip decided to overcome his alcoholism
Lip struggles with alcoholism, like his father Frank. Alcoholism can run in families and Frank had also allowed his children to begin drinking at very young ages. Lip’s alcoholism nearly cost him his future, as he had lost both of his campus jobs and been kicked out of school. Going to rehab had helped him to overcome his addiction and he tried to get back onto the right path. Debbie never lets him get away with sneaking a drink. She knows that he has begun drinking too much again and works to get him back to sobriety. Throughout the show, she has often been the one to remind him that he doesn’t want to turn out like Frank. Like the rest of family, Lip will need to work on his addiction in order to beat it. The key is not giving up on himself or his family.