Review: Fuller House

How can a theme song for an old TV show I don’t even like make me all teary-eyed and nostalgic? This reboot thing has gotten out of control. Spoilers ahead.

I can’t help but feel like this one shouldn’t have worked. I mean, did anyone over the age of 10 actually like Full House? I have a pretty high tolerance for sitcom cheesiness but that was over the top for me. But I read an interview just a few hours ago that said its reruns were doing great, so I guess maybe other people enjoyed it.

So how’s the sequel? I’ve seen mixed reviews and I have some problems with it, but mostly I think it worked. Always keep in mind first episodes are always terrible. A lot of the criticism I’ve seen was based on the first episode, in one case in fact just the pre-theme-song intro. In fairness, that was a long intro and until the theme song started up again I thought we were just in the show and this was how it would be all the way through. But it’s not, and once things get going I think it strikes a nice balance between the references (catch phrases, overly sweet family moments and constant hugs, in-jokes about cast members) and new content more in line with current sitcoms.

It’s very similar in feel to ABC Family sitcoms such as Melissa and Joey, Baby Daddy, and Young and Hungry. I happen to like those, so it’s no surprise I liked this too. They’re simple, even shallow, nothing particularly new or unexpected, which makes them really easy to watch when I’m doing something else or just need to relax. I don’t see that as a negative in any way, fancy plots and deep exploration just aren’t the point. I enjoy watching the characters and the relationships between them, and the paper-thin plots just mean there’s more focus on dialogue.

This is where I think Fuller House really shines. The two older kids start off not liking each other much but become pretty good friends right away. Same deal with Kimmy and Stephanie, which means a lot to me. Stephanie was my favorite character growing up (for obvious reasons). When I moved to a new city and started at a new church, the first thing the teacher said to me was “Do you watch Full House?” It was one of my favorite shows at the time and I was really excited when I said I did. “Great! I’m gonna call you Gibbler.” And he did. For 3 years he was my teacher at kid church and never once called me by my name, or any name that didn’t upset me. I wanted to cry and I’m still a little mad at him. Luckily we moved again and I didn’t have to see him anymore once I started high school and probably wouldn’t recognize him if I did.

(Teachers/volunteers, seriously, don’t do that to kids. I mean really, why? He had to have known it upset me, and if he didn’t know instinctively I told him so many times. I worried about it a lot, too. Her whole role in the old series was to be as annoying as possible. Did he find me annoying on sight and that’s why he picked it? Did everyone think I was annoying? What about me was so bad I deserved to be called Gibbler? He didn’t have nicknames for anyone else, so I felt like I must have done something wrong to deserve it. It was very upsetting at the time. Now I realize it’s his problem and he didn’t mean anything by it, he’s just insensitive and thought he was hilarious. But it wasn’t funny and I don’t understand why someone who wants to work with kids would hurt their feelings for a laugh.)

Anyway. Later when I discovered the world of blogging, there was a user on Livejournal who blogged as Kimmy. She upset a lot of people and they were calling her a troll and being terrible to her. Looking back, I think it probably was a troll account and if I had come along earlier or discovered her later I would have recognized that. But I was brand new to the internet, had no idea what a troll was, and it looked to me like everyone was ganging up on this poor person who just wanted to make friends but who people inexplicably hated. So I befriended her and we actually had some good conversations.

So Kimmy now kind of has a special place in my heart, and I really didn’t want them to make her just a comic relief character and especially not focus on her being obnoxious. I’m so glad they went a different way and let her grow up. She’s still Kimmy, but she’s also a (mostly) responsible adult and a generally cool person. And she and Stephanie get along and almost seem closer now than Kimmy and DJ! If I had been asked to make some predictions about this series, I definitely wouldn’t have thought that my favorite thing about it would be a friendship between those two. But it is! And Team She-Wolf Pack is amazing in general. Everything about them just makes me happy.

I think kids could watch this with their parents and there are subplots in it that should interest them, but it’s worth noting that it’s not really for them in the same way Girl Meets World is kids-first, nostalgic adults second. If the friendships are the strong point, values are its low. Regardless of where you fall on a conservative-liberal values spectrum, you’re going to be disappointed.

It falls far from the saccharine family values of its predecessor. Lots of innuendo and adult humor. And a lack of consistency about it. In the first episode DJ doesn’t want Stephanie exposing her kids to music that references violence, sex, or drugs, but later she takes them to a wrestling match where the star wrestler talks about ripping hearts from chests and uses the phrase “pimped out.” (I know that’s not actually a sexual reference as used but the source of the phrase is not great and I think they could have found a better way to say it.) She also jumps in the ring and beats up the professional wrestlers. There’s also a lot more drinking in this show than I would have expected, which doesn’t bother me but I could see it being a problem for some.

There’s an episode where the middle kid supposedly learns not to lie because it backfires. Except that he totally doesn’t because when he makes the outrageous claim that he can get a ride in a fire truck whenever he wants, his family makes it happen even though the fire chief explains it’s against the rules. For bonus points, Danny makes it happen by lying. Fantastic. DJ leaves her baby alone with a teenager who doesn’t seem to have ever baby-sat before and doesn’t know basic things like “don’t flush diapers” and “don’t leave a baby unattended on a high surface” and no one thought to give her instructions.

I’d skip the wrestling episode and the one with the retirement party for DJ’s boss. I can’t actually say anything specific about it was offensive (not because it isn’t, just because I don’t actually know), but it seems like maybe in a cast full of white people it should have occurred to someone that it might be offensive to do an “Indian-themed” party based on stereotypes and featuring an impromptu Bollywood-inspired dance. Like can we just learn to ask ourselves simple things like “Is this part of my culture? Then do I actually have any right to it? Can I be certain I know the proper context for it and am treating the people it came from with respect?” And then if the answer to any of those is no, just stop. (I have a few problems with this article, but it’s the only one I’ve been able to find and gives a bit more explanation and reactions from other viewers if you want more information.)

It’s the worst case of a privileged ignorance that shows up throughout the series and is as big a problem for my liberal values as I expect the sex jokes would be for my mom when I was a kid. Accents are hilarious! Hey, you know what we should do when people don’t pronounce words the way we do? Pretend we don’t understand them and refuse to give them the water they asked for. That’ll teach them to talk American when in America!

(Don’t get me wrong, Stephanie’s British accent is terrible and needed to end ASAP and really shouldn’t have been a thing in the first place, and the way everything Fernando says is played for laughs is a lot worse. But that “nope you don’t get to have water unless you can say it like we do even though we clearly know what you meant” really got on my nerves. And the idea that the accent was just something she picked up while in another country but that she quickly drops when she’s brought back to her old self is pretty messed up, especially since she immediately says “Hey, I’m American again!” like that’s the standard and people with foreign accents don’t really belong.)

I don’t think anyone’s surprised the main cast is almost entirely white and there are only a few supporting characters of color. But we should be, we should really demand better by now. There are also no canonically LGBTAQ+ characters, but same-sex romantic-appearing contact is played up for laughs and awkwardness. The only character of the main three who doesn’t have kids wants them but just can’t physically have them, because of course every woman wants kids (and not only that, ones that come out of her body) when she grows up.

Both Full House and Fuller House are great examples of alternative ideas of family and I’d like to see that embraced more. I read an article that stated Joey almost had a wife and kids show up here but there wasn’t room for it. I’m glad there wasn’t and hope they don’t add it in later. I mean, the guy helped raise 5 kids. Are they really going to say he didn’t have a family “of his own” and that Stephanie can’t really have one of her own unless she gives birth to them? She’s in the home, taking part in these kids’ lives every day. She’s already a parent to 4 kids. Who cares who made them?

I feel like if I was watching this with my kids I’d have to constantly be having talks with them afterwards to discuss all the problematic jokes and assumptions…kind of like my mom did with me whenever there was something that opposed her beliefs in anything we watched together. Weird. I’m becoming my mom after all, just with very different ideas about what things need discussing and why. 😀

So…your mileage may vary? For me, it’s a nice trip down memory lane and I’m halfway through my second time watching because I liked it so much. But it has its problems and people should be aware of them, especially if they’re planning to watch with kids.

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2 thoughts on “Review: Fuller House

  1. I’m not watching mostly because I don’t have Netflix, but I’m glad to read your reviews.

    My sister – also a Stephanie – had Jodie Sweetin’s memoir, and recently when she was giving me some books to give away at book exchanges, it was among them. I decided to read it before giving it away, and her struggle with addiction is troubling. Well, I read her book just as all this Fuller House talk is going on. And she mentioned how going out for drinks with people just ended disastrously for her. So I really hope she is able to stay clean – if she even is. She talked about shows she hosted and talks she gave where she was completely stoned on cocaine and meth. She’s use those drugs just before her speeches, in fact. It was terrible.

    Anyway, back to the post…thanks for it! I love seeing what stood out to you, and what you would talk to your children about. 🙂

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    1. That would be an interesting read. I did kind of wonder about that, I thought it was strange that they had her playing the hard-partying sister and that she was okay with it. But from what little I’ve heard it seems she’s doing well now, hopefully it stays that way. 🙂

      Like

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