Gender Roles in “Full House”

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Production

The series Full House, created by the very well-known and talented producer, Jeff Franklin, is a well-acclaimed television sitcom that first aired in 1987. ABC picked up the series in 2003 where the show was able to return to the channel it was originally written for. Another intention for Full House was that it was originally intended to be called “House of Comics,” which would have featured three comics living together. However, when Franklin first proposed this idea to ABC, they told him they were looking for something more kid friendly at the time so instead, he changed his ideas a little and Full House became the final product. This show took place in San Francisco, California but most of were actually shot and produced in Los Angeles, California at the Warner Brothers Studio. Like any series along the way there were obstacles that Full House faced. In the first season they expercined troubles with the writing staff. Only two writing staff members survived the first season and Franklin was the only writer to remain writing the shows for all eight seasons of the series. Along with Franklin as a producer of Full House there was also, Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett of Miller-Boyett productions who originally helped to produce this television series. The Miller-Boyett team was founded in 1969 but it did not always include Boyett. It’s original name was Miller-Milkis productions, Edward K. Milkis was the film editor. In 1979 Boyett joined them, the producing company was now called, Miller-Milkis-Boyett Productions at this point they were set up with the Paramount Television company. Milkis resigned in 1984 and the company then became Miller-Boyett productions and began to work for Lorimar Television which eventually tied in with Warner Brothers Production. The Miller-Boyett duo was successful and not only produced Full House but, other well known family sitcoms, like Perfect Strangers and Family Matters.

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Another interesting aspect of the production of Full House aside from its producers, is the shows theme song. The song “Everywhere You Look” is a catchy upbeat tune that, Jesse Frederick not only performed but helped co write with the assistance of Bennett Salvay and the creator of the series, Jeff Franklin. Frederick success did not end at this theme song though, he is also the writer for other theme songs on the ABC channel at this time, like Perfect Strangers, Family Matters and Step by Step.

Full House was not always a fan favorite. It’s first season had relatively low ratings and overall was pretty unsuccessful. The reason season one did not do well was because the time slot ABC aired it on was not a great viewing time. Overall season one’s rating on Nielsen was #53 and it’s estimated viewers were 9,632,400. Despite season ones low ratings ABC decided to air it for a second season. This time it was strategically aired following the hit show at the time, Perfect Strangers in order to gain more of an audience. Season two went much better, it’s ranking on Nielsen was #27 and its viewers increased to about 11,875,800. Season three onward just got better and better for the series it remained in the top 20 and 30 rankings for the entirety of the show. Full House’s Finale was an hour long and aired on May, 23 1995. With 24.3 million viewers it was #7 ranking for the week and had a 24% audience share as well. The show’s ratings grew after the first season and became one of America’s most well known family sitcoms. Rotten Tomatoes, a popular media critiquing website gave all eight seasons overall a 76% rating. Common positive comments about the show were that, it is excellent for families and each episode teaches an excellent message about life, and that it’s funny. Steve Sonsky from Miami Herald said on media criticizing website, Metacritic, “Full House is your standard-issue, cheap-laugh, bankrupt- of-new-ideas, claustrophobic, one-note-samba sitcom. It’s enough to make you wish “”Webster”” were back. For provoking that sentiment alone, it should be razed” (22 Sept 1987, p.C1). Many felt similar opinions on the series and thought in some ways it was cheesy, but overall one of the best parts about it was it was good for all ages.

The reason that the show was eventually canceled was for it’s increased production cost that would happen in season nine. “Meanwhile, “”Full House”” had become one of the industry’s most expensive sitcoms to produce after so many years on the air, due to escalating producer fees and cast salaries. The $1.3-million budget per episode was easily double the average cost of most sitcoms” (Cerone, 1995 p.12). In response to this issue, Warren Brothers wanted to pick up the ninth season from ABC. John Stamos, “Uncle Jesse” did not like this idea and said he would not be appearing in that season if that was to occur. Candace Cameron, “DJ Tanner” also had plans to attend college after filming the eighth season and without their appearances in the show, Full House had decided to cancel the show all together after season eight.

Distribution/Circulation

When Full House originally aired from September 1987 to May 1995 it was accessible to viewers on the ABC channel. It’s premiere time of new episodes were every Friday night, for a brief time in 1987-88. Then they also aired during a time slot on Tuesdays also in order to help it gain more fans, once it gained popularity, it went back to just showing on Fridays for the following three seasons. After that it was moved to Tuesdays long term, for season five through eight. Full House’s eight seasons and 192 episodes stopped being made, the reruns of the seemingly popular shows are still being show to this day. Following the cancelation of the show, syndicated reruns aired on NBC Daytime from 1995-2003. In the following years, various other networks started to pick up the reruns of it. It was shown on both Superstation WGN Chicago and Superstation TBS Atlanta in 1998–2002 and again in 2013–present. Nick at Nite also aired episodes of Full House from 2003-2009, for a few months after that in 2009/2010 it was moved to TeenNick called The N until September 28, 2009. The reruns shifted from one Nickelodeon channel to another for the next seven years. In May 2018, the CMT Channel also began to air reruns of Full House

The series is not just available on cable television anymore. As of September 29, 2017 Full House and other Warner Brothers Productions became available to stream on the well known entertainment and media company, Hulu. Hulu is a service that requires a monthly fee, and can be accessed on computers, cellphones, tablets and smart TVs. Hulu and Netflix were in competition for the Full House series, but since Hulu had intentions of including other ABC sitcoms in their library they had received the rights to stream it. In an article on Hulu’s recreation of ABC’s TGIF, Friday night lineup, author Cynthia Littleton quotes, Craig Erwich, Hulu’s senior VP of content. He says, “It’s hard to believe we’re talking about ‘Full House’ and ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ in the same sentence — but these are stories that stand out and serve different needs. Sometimes people are in the mood for something that is very new and challenging, and sometimes people want something comfortable. Our job is to have the shows that feed those experiences.” (Littleton, 2017). Many viewers were excited to hear that they would be able to binge watch Full House on Hulu from almost any location.

Along with Hulu, Amazon’s Prime Video is also another location where the full series of Full House, seasons one through eight are available for purchase. The content can be purchased by episode or season. This source appears to be the least costefficent for viewers of the forms in which the Full House series is accessible in. Each episode costs $1.99 and each season can be bought from $17.99 to $19.99 depending on the season and the amount of episodes it contains.

Before Hulu and Prime Video were popular, the complete Full House series was also for purchase as a DVD and can still be bought today. Between the years 2005 and 2007, Warner Brothers Home Video first began to release Full House seasons one through eight on DVD. The full series for purchase, contains 32 discs with all of Full House’s 192 episodes. This option is still available for purchase on the target website for $59.99. Amazon also has the complete Full House series of DVDs for sale. They sell separate DVDs with each season for sale too. The separate seasons sell for $9.96 each. Amazon also offers customers exclusively seasons one through four on DVD for $39.99 and this has a five star review.

Full House’s circulation process has come along way since its original airings in 1987. Originally, viewers had to sit home on Friday and Tuesday nights to wait for it to come on their cable television screens and were not able to fast forward through its commercials. Not long after cablevision, in 1999 DVR came out, this made watching viewers favorite shows much more convenient because they simply could record the reruns of it on cablevision channels that were airing the show and they could come back later to watch it at any time that is most convenient for them, while having the privilege of fast forwarding through the commercials. Now, viewers have various different ways to access reruns of Full House episodes, including through the original way: cable television, as well as DVR, DVDs and online streaming sources like Hulu and Amazon video. All the different mediums that gives viewers access to Full House is a factor as to why a show that originated 32 years ago remains so well known, popular and still viewed frequently today.

Critique

Episode 24, Girls will be Boys in season five of Full House has a lot of content within it that can be explored and interpreted in many different ways. One significant method that can be used to analyze this episode overall is the Queer Theory. The Queer Theory is defined as “An interdisciplinary perspective that seeks to disrupt socially constructed systems of meaning surrounding human sexuality” (Ott and Mack, 2014, p.216).

In this episode of Full House there are two different issues going on that relate to the Queer Theory Perspective. The one issue is between characters, Uncle Jesse and Joey Gladstone. Uncle Jesse is practicing his role in Joey’s performance as a lumberjack, Joey tells Jesse to act more manly and strong. Jesse replies that Joey does not know about being manly because he still where’s footie pajamas, while Joey says his feet getting cold does not mean he is not a man. This scene can be viewed in a more specific matter than just the general Queer Theory. This is also what the textbook refers to as sexual othering, “The Process of stigmatizing homosexuality (or really any other non-heterosexaul practice) in order to privilege heterosexuality” (Ott and Mack, 2014, p.217). In this scene in the show both characters are thinking of the world as binary. They express the idea that there are only two ways people can act and identify themselves in this world, those two ways being either feminine or masculine. Since they both identify as men in the show they are trying to prove that they are, strong and express other masculine characteristics. When Uncle Jesse is saying his lines for the lumberjack man and Joey says he does not sound manly enough this offends him and makes him want to sound more like a man. In their minds men should express masculine characteristics only and females should only express female characteristics. When this show was recorded in 1987 things like homoesexuality and non stereotypical gender roles were not something that were often seen in family sitcoms like this one, which is why they get so defensive when they call each other not manly.

Another issue going on in this episode is between young characters, Michelle and her best friend Teddy and his friend Aaron. After Teddy’s friend Aaron joined in on a playdate that was just supposed to be Teddy and Michelle, they are mean to Michelle because she is a girl, and this upsets her. They first play superheroes, while the boys play as Batman and Superman, they make Michelle be Superman’s Mom and prepare them breakfast as they run around and play. This specific scene can be viewed regarding the theory of gender performativity. Gender performativity is perfect for this situation because although the boys are still very young, they have already learned the binary way of gender and know the characteristics that girls should stereotypically possess versus the ones that they think boys should stereotypically possess. Different theories of gender performativity are included in the Critical Media Studies textbook. One theory is that gender performativity “…generally refers to a school of thought that traces the source of internal identity structures to external actions” (Ott and Mack, 2014, p.219). This makes sense as to why the little boys acted the way they did toward Michelle. From a young age, they known that they are internally different from her because they identify as male and she identifies as female so their external actions must be different from hers, which is the main reason they do not allow her to be a superhero with them.

Judith Butler also gives a similar example to what is occurring in this Full House episode. The example she gives that shows why mae develop an internal sense of masculinity is, “A little boy, for example, long before he understands himself as “masculine”, may find that his parents praise him for being “a man” when he happens to knock over a tower of blocks, The more often he receives this praise for knocking over blocks or enacting fights between action figures, or wrestling with his cousins, the more likely he is to continue these actions in order to be “the man” his parents and society appear to want out of him” (Ott and Mack. 2014. p.219). This example can very well be the type of praise that Aaron is expercining at home and he carries this attitude with him into the Tanner House and pushes this masculine behavior on Teddy when they are having a playdate with Michelle.

Another incident that occurs during playdate is the boys start to wrestle and pick their favorite characters to be, and Michelle says, “Don’t tell me I’m the macho man’s mother” and Aaron points to her and says, “You got it”. Michelle getting more annoyed tells them they have to play house since it’s her room, Teddy is excited about this idea but Aaron knowing stereotypical girl and boy behavior tells Teddy house is for girls and tells Teddy to go play with him at his home, and if he keeps playing with Michelle he’ll tell the whole school he’s a girl lover.

Generally, the phrase “girl lover” can be interpreted many different ways. The most literal interpretation of it would be someone who loves girls, such as a heterosexual male. This is not the general meaning that Aaron had of it when he told Teddy he was going to tell everyone he was a girl lover. The little boy Aaron meant it in more of a homosexual way then heterosexual. In this case, girl lover can be interpreted as a boy that likes to play with girls and engage in feminine activities with them, like playing house, dressing up and other things that only little girls are supposed to do according to stereotypical gender roles within society.

Another aspect of this episode that can be critiqued using the Queer Theory is when Michelle gets so upset that her friends won’t play with her anymore because she is a girl that she invites them over again and this time is dressed differently in a hat, baggy clothes and a biker jacket and she says, “I’m a boy now” in a deep voice. This wins the boys back into wanting to play with her again. This can also be viewed as heterosexism because it refers to a diverse set of social practices that make boys different from girls. In this case according to Michelle’s perception of it, boys are different because they dress different, act different and have a deeper voice. In her mind by her performing the stereotypical roles of a boy made her a boy. This idea makes sense for a young person that does not have much background information on the other factors that make up a person’s sexual identity, but this idea should not continue to be advertised because it overall puts a very heterosexual and binary way of thinking into the auidences mind.

Social Reproduction

Users that significantly benefit from the behaviors in this show are fathers, especially single ones. It is no doubt that Danny, Joey and Jesse do an exceptional job in raising three girls. They also break the stereotypical gender norms of women being the primary caregivers. These three men break the stereotypical sitcom roles of fathers who are typically clueless and resemble childlike behavior. By raising three girls and taking care of a household they show that this behavior is possible for any men to do. They do this all while bringing out emotions and laughter in their audience. They make the troubles of fatherhood funny and memorable. Like, when Joey and Jesse have to change Michelle’s diaper for the very first time, this comes along with a lot of laughs and trial and error, but they do not give up until the job is done. The social behavior that the father figures in Full House exemplify can carry out to all fathers and essentially teach them lessons about how to raise children, now it is becoming more and more popular to see fathers fulfilling the caregiving role. An article in Time Magazine says, “These days the portrayals of fathers in TV shows and commercials are improving overall, such as in the “Dadvertising” of Super Bowl 2015. Producer Jason Katims created three-dimensional men in Friday Night Lights and Parenthood. The title character Castle is another positive example. But there’s still a way to go” (Levs. 2016. p. 12). Since Full House has been released there have been many other examples in media that follow the same role of men being the primary caregivers.

The social reproduction of the well known American Family sitcom lays far beyond fathers. Each episode has its own message that teaches the audience a lesson, whether it be to stop bullying, stand up for yourself or deal with the consequences of your actions there is always a lesson within each episode. These lessons within each episode often have a significant impact on the viewer, helping them to deal with situations that are going on in their lives. The social reproduction of this series is to use the advice or lesson hidden in each episode and have viewers apply it to their own life choices. By including lessons within the show it makes viewers want to pay close attention to what it going on so they can reciprate this behavior when they are in a similar situation. There is no doubt that some of these lessons sometimes embark emotions and even a few tears on the viewers. Emotionally charged moments are also easier to remember than non emotional ones which could be the reason behind producers emotional lessons at the end of each episode, to help make the episode have a longer lasting impact on their viewers.

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Gender Roles in "Full House". (2020, Apr 23). Retrieved December 3, 2022 , from
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