Thursday, July 30, 2009

#13 Full House

Defenders of San Francisco, often ex-San Franciscans recently relocated to New York and brimming with a new-found elitist generosity, say that San Francisco is a wonderful place to live, just in your later 30s, once you're married and somehow "settled", which is an endorsement so specific in scope that it essentially functions as a sweeping theological renunciation. San Francisco is great, the implication is, once everything interesting in life is over. It's like saying Rwanda is a fabulous vacation spot, so long as you've reached the point in your existence where you want to contract HIV.

Curiously everybody who's youngish in San Francisco basically concedes the accuracy of this account, even though it doesn't make any sense. Despite all the counter-culture stuff and intellectual, entrepreneurial ethos, there's this deep seated, subconscious feeling among the younger generation that San Francisco's best suited for the domestic ennui of married life. Picnics, baby strollers, opiate smiles and the like.

The cause for this is the television sitcom Full House. Full House ran from September 22, 1987 to May 23, 1995 on ABC. Everything anyone born between 1972 and 1988 thinks deep down about San Francisco can basically be attributed to this show.

One effect of TV’s pretend reality is that exposure to it when you're coming of age, when the cement's still wet, makes it intractably real, emotionally and existentially, no matter what countermanding intellectualisms you later formulate. This is why the prospect of visiting Miami makes us feel dangerous. We secretly think that if we go there, we'll get force-fed cocaine and shot at by dudes in leisure suits. We saw Miami Vice and Scarface, we know. Beneath the gild of palm trees and Dan Marino fans is stripper-grade mayhem.

Full House was not even directly about San Francisco - almost every episode occurred within the titular full house - but you never forgot it was set in San Francisco because the show opened with the now iconic image of the Tanner family cruising in a cherry red convertible across the Golden Gate Bridge, backgrounded by the city’s hilly skyline.

Full House's plot details didn't matter much, but the basic idea was that three harmlessly screwball guys looked after four cutsey, albeit histrionic school girls. John Stamos played Jesse, the show's charming, swashbuckling never-do-well, so footloose that it took him all of 2 and half episodes before he was engaged and married to an attractive Aryan woman, who then showed up pregnant in every single episode that followed.

In retrospect the show's self-conscious promotion of family values and themes seems absurdly forced. Youngish men sat on a sofa, making cheesy banter and hoping a nice wife-to-be would walk in the door while little girls made drama over who would take the dog Comet for a walk. The conceit that Danny Tanner could convince two of his buddies to sign up for this hell is hard to reconcile with what we know about human behavior.

But what we think now isn't relevant because back in 1990 our impressionable, Freudian little minds were conditioned to link San Francisco with the edgeless, wholesome tyranny of Danny Tanner's domestic bliss. The show's producers weren't trying to construct a highly specific collective unconsciousness. They weren't trying to destroy San Francisco's singles scene. But screw those bastards because they did.


  1. Another reason is that you probably need two incomes to live in SF. I actually don't think SF is that great for a family to settle because the schools are terrible and there is nowhere to park, but I guess some people love the place.

  2. Why would vacationing in Rwanda give you HIV? Your outlook on sexual relationships is more than a bit troubling, good sir.

  3. Sam - if you want some insider's information: smithyinsf AT

  4. Wow, this is directly opposite to my experience living in SF in the early 90s in my early 20s. Compared to the Silicon Valley where I'd lived briefly, San Francisco was full of young, eligible women. It was so expensive to live and crowded and dirty though that I couldn't imagine settling down there (a big part of the reason why I left). I'm still there often and it doesn't seem like it has changed that much to me...

  5. freaking funny... strangely true... even if only half so. but still.. too much truth to not fall down laughing ... i blame SF's lack of libidinous night life on the fact that everything good closes at 10pm.. nothing fun happens before 10pm.. but all the fun bars are closed by then. or at some unreasonably early hour -- unless you go to the tourist section of the marina, or to the mission..

  6. Yeah, this post is totally backwards.

    When you're young and unmarried with no kids, SF is great - there are so many bars, restaurants, clubs, bands, etc that it's like a giant adult playground.

    When you're in your 30s, married with kids, you can't afford to live in a big enough place, the schools are crap, you don't have the time or money to go to restaurants, clubs and bars anymore, and there's no yard for your kids to play in.

    There's a reason that when you move outside the city it's mostly families.

  7. really witty writing, hilarious in fact. but i've been told by numerous good friends who live there (or have) that the opposite is true, especially that SF is heavenly for singles, especially single straight men. straight-men with some appeal and charm that is. these sources tell me that due to the large gay population, and computer geeks, and general counter-culturer's, that a "normal" guy is golden in the Golden gate city!

    anybody corroborate?

  8. Guile? Or did you really mean guild?

  9. Sorry, what???? This is the first time I've EVER heard ANYONE suggest SF was the place you settle with kids. It's like I'm watching the twilight zone...

  10. Aloha from SF. Ex-New Yorker, who moved out here for my masters degree. I think a lot of what you said rings true about SF, especially the opiate smiles! But, I think it is great for Single, Straight people -- because of the large gay population. What I find most disturbing about SF is the Passive Agressive behavior. They've taken the liberal angle way too far, and purport to be tolerable of everything. They've had so many deviants stop by that they are now intolerant of everything and too PC to say out loud, so they express it in Passive Agressive behavior. SF is perfect on a sunny day, but when the fog rolls in - you can see the mood in the city go dark as well. All in all -- great small town with big city like characteristics - but I'm convinced that the people of NYC are definitely a more interesting and exciting group. And I think it is a much better city for singles than families -- have you seen the house prices?!?!?