Monday, July 15, 2024

Fuller House Season 4 Cuts its Men Slack

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It’s back. Somehow, Fuller House is back. Perhaps even more mystifying still: I’m once again reviewing it.

You know, I’ve written some pretty unpopular things here on The Fandomentals. That shouldn’t be a shock; at least 80% of what I do takes aim at the biggest and most widely acclaimed cultural hit in frenetic detail. It draws ire on occasion, true. Yet nothing has resulted in more consistent censure than my Fuller House reviews.

Granted, I started things off with a cynical, morbid enjoyment at the apparent self-loathing that colored the acting performances and at times seeped into the writing, before tackling the writing itself. Season 2 is where I was told to stop reading into the multitude of gay jokes wherein the humor was, you know, the possibility that a straight character is gay. Are you in stitches yet? Season 3 was tragically split into Part A and B, which gave me twice the opportunity to bemoan Stephanie’s plotline—one of two tolerable characters on this show. Can’t I just stop examining the plots? Can’t the banal jokes and harmless, wholesome family fun just be accepted for what it is, even if its undercurrent is painfully regressive?

So here we are with Season 4. As far as any kind of review a fan of this show would want to read, I can offer you any assurance you’d want. If you’ve enjoyed Fuller House up to this point, then you’ll definitely want to watch the new episodes. They are exactly what you’d expect. There is absolutely nothing surprising to worry about, save potentially one ad-libbed line by Jodie Sweetin. Your kids can consume this age-appropriate media and will not be overtly taught anything damaging aside from the usual “accents are funny” and “here’s some big, gay stereotypes!” If you found that acceptable before, there’s no reason anything will change.

You tried, Jodie

I personally have never found such unabashedly outdated humor acceptable, nor have I made a secret of it. To me, even if there’s a wholesome packaging and sentimental speeches about tolerance, when jokes rest on the hilarity of stereotypes or deviation from assigned societal roles/norms, and the plotlines hinge on women choosing incontrovertibly unsuitable men as their partners, the positives are taken away. I am not a parent at this moment in time, but I am an aunt with three nieces who doesn’t even want them to consider accepting or expecting mediocrity in their partners, nor would I want them to find the differences that separate us to be funny. Call it PC culture run amok if you want; I call it basic human decency.

So yes, I’m sorry—I’m not going to ignore these “features” of Fuller House, even if I seem to be the only one calling them “bugs.” Kimmy and Stephanie react to their respective partners with either concern at their extreme stupidity (which in Jimmy’s case is to the point of legitimate concern), or playful irritation at their multitude of thoughtless decisions. This includes the time Fernando and Jimmy chose to buy sandwiches rather than getting to the hospital when Kimmy goes into labor. The only positive interactions we see these couples have have is when Kimmy and Stephanie both want to have sex with their respective mates. It’s good that they find them attractive.

In fact, Kimmy and Stephanie have so much more between each other in terms of emotional support and a hard-fought friendship that the only logical solution for me was to ship them. It’s surprisingly easy to selectively tune-out that time Stephanie spent an episode worried that Jimmy didn’t like her enough to commit rather than the fact that he is not able to keep up with the confusing words being said in every single conversation throughout the season. This is not an exaggeration.

Jackson was not particularly fantastic as a boyfriend this season, though very mild credit where it’s due: we were supposed to view him in a negative light. He finds out he’s magically good at kicking footballs despite never practicing this skill before and is placed on the football team. Once there, he tries to impress his new teammates by drinking, and later calling his now-official-girlfriend Rocki a lot of very insulting names, not realizing she was standing behind him the whole time. He is a high school boy going through high school things so that the audience can learn positive messages, but at the same time we’re supposed to find him very sympathetic and I’m guessing somewhat likable, we’re supposed to be on board with his lame apologies after the fact (at least, the studio audience always says “awwww”), and no one really gets too mad at him.

Ramona, for some reason, has that deep and torrid relationship with Popko restarted in the penultimate episode, even though she had no interaction with him all season, and there’s nothing to recommend him for a second chance. He just…gets beamed in and she’s happy he wants to dance with her.

Heck, even Max with his 8-year-old relationship ended up torching that to run for Class President—a position he didn’t particularly care about or think about until DJ suggested it—against Rose, and later put out a cruel attack add when he was behind. The audience liked his apology, too.

(As a side note, Rose is delightful and her lines even produced an embarrassed giggle from Griffin, who was four feet away and trying very hard to block out everything but Hollow Knight.)

It should say something that Steve of all people became the model boyfriend on this show, after low-key stalking DJ before going on to date and almost marry a near-clone of hers. I guess the silver-lining is that this season in isolation he was fine?

Legitimately good move Steve, though why you kept it is beyond me.

Anyway, my point is that we have every single woman or girl in the cast with someone wholly unworthy of them, while their respective men ask for forgiveness for their hi-jinks or outright unsupportive behavior. Awwww.

I’m sorry to say, but this messaging is not helpful to anyone. Girls, just learn to put up with it and be consistently exasperated and boys, don’t worry: you’ll always be forgiven. Frankly, isn’t this insulting to men that so little is thought of them in all instances?

At least for me, this definitely the single biggest take-away I could find in Season 4. Well, that, and also how millennials are hilarious because they don’t like gluten and use apps for everything!

Somewhere around the episode where DJ, Kimmy, and Stephanie dress up as Charlie’s Angels and board a boat thinking “70’s night” meant disco rather than septuagenarians-on-up meeting to get laid, I began to wonder who this show is actually targeting. I assumed they were going for older millennials and younger Gen-Xers who watched Full House as kids and now have children of their own. But all the fun references seem more like they’re meant for Boomer parents who originally showed their kids Full House, and now are super bored or something. It’d explain 90% of the jokes and the focus how f-ckable John Stamos still is. Is the babysitting-grandparents demographic a lucrative one to chase?

This piqued my curiosity about the writers’ room to the point where I finally looked them up. The main showrunner is the same person who produced Full House. No shock. The first six writers’ credited with the lion’s share of the episodes have basically no other experience. Here’s hoping Fuller House becomes that show at the very bottom of their IMDB pages that make people in the future looking them up go, “Oh, weird.” It also likely means that these writers were fans of the original show and definitely didn’t want to touch the sacred formula.

I also have a feeling, given the mystifying quantity of gay jokes—yes, they are still present—that they want to do something on the topic, but are restraining themselves. StephaniexKimmy, you cowards! Put Ramona with that one new friend of hers who disappeared after an episode!

But most of all: get them all away from their mediocre partners. They grew up with the sage and caring advise of Danny Tanner and Uncle Jesse. I just would have hoped their words had influenced the men, too.

Images courtesy of Netflix

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