Fuller House Review: Why Are We Nostalgic for Casual Racism?

Having grown up watching Full House, my sister and I were as excited as anyone else when Fuller House was first announced. Don’t get me wrong, our expectations were low: in our adulthood we realized that Full House wasn’t exactly the high-quality program we perceived it to be as kids. That being said, it was still a huge part of our childhoods, and we figured that, even if it was just as cheesy as its predecessor, the show would at least be a fun, harmless watch. What we found was anything but.

In one of the first episodes of the latest season, two main characters attempt to convince another character to let them plan his Japan-based wedding by putting on a presentation that perpetuates a plethora of Asian stereotypes. From dressing in geisha to adding “-san” after everything they say, these two characters portray White appropriation and reduction of Japanese culture in one of the most uncomfortable scenes I’ve ever seen in current media. And what’s worse - they emerge victorious, with the now-client seeing this racist display as a perfect alternative to true Japanese culture. Though we’ve made progress since Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, it’s media like this that makes me question how far we’ve really come.

Fast forward to the next episode, where the show’s token Hispanic character decides to show his patriotism on the Fourth of July by changing his name from “Fernando” to “Frank” and speaking in southern-isms for the entirety of the episode. The show plays this off as a goofy quirk of his character, refusing to acknowledge the very real, and currently very prominent, belief system that equates being White to being American. Instead of exploring the hardships around maintaining identity in American society, Fuller House promotes “melting pot” ideology and has Fernando succumb to the dominant White culture.

These moments are just the latest in a long line of bad choices in the show (White women in bindis, anyone?) that extends into other problematic territories, from its dismissal of a depressed teacher for the sake of an insensitive joke (“He puts pills in his sandwiches!” Cue laugh track), to its misogynistic plotline about one of the main characters finding her “true purpose” by becoming a mom, a decision she only comes to after her entire family pressures her to enjoy a “more fulfilling” life. The show’s quality is not at all helped by its bad writing, unlikeable characters, and recycled plotlines. Why, then, has the show garnered three seasons?

It seems like every week I see another headline announcing a new reboot of a 90’s show. Our nostalgia is constantly being targeted for new media, which we eagerly consume, if only to feel like a child again. However, what was once child-like naivety can quickly turn to ignorance in instances like these. Shows like this will continue to capitalize on problematic content if we choose to focus only on our nostalgic instincts and consume blindly.

I will be the first to admit that I am part of the problem: though I am watching in horror, I am still watching. Netflix still benefits: they are still gaining viewership, and they will continue to produce content like this because it’s what’s being watched. Our intentions may not be to support the beliefs reflected in shows like Fuller House, but that is not what will be reflected in Netflix’s statistics. By consuming this media, we are in turn feeding into the system and allowing the makers of this content and the holders of these beliefs to profit.

Fuller House’s greatest failing is the fact that it attempts to recreate Full House for a new era—without ever actually moving it out of the 90’s. Though the lazy Trump jokes and current slang will try to fool you, the viewpoints forming the show are dated and cannot be treated as reflective of our current culture. If we are going to continue to indulge in our nostalgia, we must be willing to do so without blinders on. We must be willing to question content that we wouldn’t have in our youths. I can only hope that by the time we see Fullest House on our TV screens, we will have progressed past the racist humour which continues to limit conversation in the media today.

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