‘Fuller House’ and the Disappearance of Marriage

A year and a half ago, I reviewed the first season of Fuller House for this site. Despite enjoying the throwback, I was ultimately unimpressed with the fact that it was just a more adult version of the show I grew up watching. In my review I wrote,

As an adult, I’m enjoying the series redux, even given the lack of family-friendly content; it’s harmlessly vapid and an enjoyable way to spend 45 minutes. It will, like most other shows on Netflix, be good for a binge and a quick forgetting. And yet although it was recently renewed for a second season, Fuller House lacks the staying power of the original series because it never succeeds in making us invest in the goodness of its characters, and it never aims to do what it set out to: restore to the screen some engaging family-friendly television. Needless to say, I doubt my kids will one day ask for a box set of Fuller House to watch with their own children.

I’m not the only person who found the first season lacking in family appeal. One of my Twitter followers, Mike, remarked, “My wife and I watched the first season. It was nostalgic and a nice throwback but the masturbation reference aimed at one of the boys in one episode and some other crude sex jokes seemed out of place and a cheap ploy to be ‘hip.’ We’re not prudes but it was weird seeing Full House go that route in the updated version. If they stopped with the crass sex jokes I’d be open to watching the new season.”

Perhaps the writers read that review, because the latest season of Fuller House to hit Netflix on December 22nd was far more family-friendly and reminiscent of the wholesomeness of the original series. Unlike previous seasons, the show didn’t rely on thinly veiled adult jokes and references, or use flashbacks and characters from the original series as a crutch. Now that the show is in its third season, viewers are engaged enough with the storylines of the main characters that it’s far less necessary to bring in cameos from Danny, Uncle Jesse and Joey.

In this season, each female lead has a steady love interest; there are no more love triangles for the eldest Tanner daughter, DJ. Love stories were largely absent from the season; instead it featured the kind of short, interchangeable storylines the original series did so well. The episodes don’t have to be watched in order; a problem is presented, and thirty minutes later, it’s been solved.

There was one storyline, however, which ran through the course of the season: the potential motherhood of the Tanner’s middle daughter, Stephanie. In a previous season, viewers learned that some kind of medical issue prevented her from becoming a biological mother. This season, the possibility of Tanner and her boyfriend using a surrogate arose. Because of the series’ avoidance of adult themes and romance, the father part of the equation was largely absent. Her boyfriend spends perhaps five minutes total on air, the vast majority of which was spent proposing being Stephanie’s “baby daddy” in a mock proposal with a ring from a toddler stacking ring toy.

What is perhaps most notable about that fact is just how unremarkable the arrangement is; and that writers perceived not just unwed motherhood, but unwed surrogacy and fertility treatments as commonplace. This isn’t just unplanned pregnancy, but extremely expensive and carefully plotted pregnancy. With four out of every ten pregnancies now occurring in unmarried couples, it’s unsurprising that the show’s writers felt that adding a pregnancy out of wedlock would be uncontroversial. The couple barely seemed to mull over the life-changing ramifications of bringing a child into their relationship: they just wanted to skip to the kid part of their life.

Why is it the writers wanted to skip over the romance of Stephanie and her boyfriend Jimmy Gibbler getting married? With this season’s emphasis on short stories, a wedding would have been consuming for at least an entire episode, if not more. And yet, the same reasoning for avoiding weddings is used by American couples who decide the baby carriage can now come before marriage. A wedding is too much work, too much planning, too much of an interruption, and no longer necessary in modern America. What’s unfortunate is that while that may be true of a wedding—which can be done in twenty minutes at City Hall—that isn’t true of a marriage. Despite the reams of research we have about the importance of marriage for children, it appears it’s viewed as so unimportant nowadays, even family-friendly shows view it as optional.

Image: Netflix

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10 responses to “‘Fuller House’ and the Disappearance of Marriage

  1. I disagree I like the updated version. I like that it shows women today do not NEED to be married to be a mother. The shows are fun, the characters are engaging, and I hope it goes on for many seasons. I do hope at some point that one of the Olsen twins would do at least a cameo for Michelle. I love the show.

    1. A woman may not need to be married but the kids need it. Plenty social studies and observations since the 1960’s bear that out.

      Just because you can parent solo doesn’t mean that you should. Good parenting is foremost about the kids- being and doing what they need.

      It’s disheartening when people compromise what’s best for kids by putting their own happiness and self-fulfillment above the kids’ best interests.

      1. I agree that good parenting is key, but it is also not good for children to be in a home with two married parents who are miserable.

        1. I was raised in a miserable 2-parent home, so I’m familiar with the short-term and long-term implications.

          What you presented is a dichotomy of false choices. It’s not fair to assume all 2-parent households are miserable and all 1-parent households are peaceful.

          The real choice is whether parents willfully create a broken home to make themselves happy or are they forced to to create a broken home to keep their family safe and healthy.

          Single-parenting should be done to protect child and parent. It’s not to be done just for the parent’s fulfillment.

          Single-parenting is not without consequence or struggle for parent or child, so it should be done for kid’s sake.

      2. This whole thing is just an attempt to justify fornication and promiscuity as something “normal” and not to be frowned upon.

    2. “I like that it shows women today do not NEED to be married to be a mother.”

      Gosh, I wonder why the West has been declining over the past century. I can’t figure it out. /s

  2. I thank the Director is doing a good job on the season’s of fuller house i thank the first 3 seasons are pretty good my kids may not watch them because they watch other shows but me and my mom and my brother we love watching them we cant get enought of theme were hoping they will go on with them were looking fowared for a season 4 please rewned them im looking for to it if i had a choice of how many stars to rate them i would give them a 10 stars beacuse thats how much i love this show my whole family and friends love it so people may not like this show but yall got alot of fans on fuller house

  3. The baby thing has just started. You have no idea if they will get married as the baby is being born. I personally love the show and will for years to come

  4. Marriage may come before the baby. If it doesn’t, the age of the female character/ potential mommy-to-be may be the factor that speeds baby ahead of a wedding. It is simply too soon to tell.

  5. “We’re not prudes but”

    What is so wrong with being a prude? The world needs an army of prudes to fix the mess the “enlightened” people have created.

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