Why it’s Okay that the Olsens Aren’t on Fuller House
This is an unpopular opinion, but I don’t want Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen to be part of Fuller House.
That is, of course, unless they suddenly want to.
Fuller House, a spin-off of the classic family sitcom Full House, premiered as a Netflix Original Series at the end of February. Despite generally negative reviews, the show is immensely popular among viewers in their 20s and 30s. It really is the perfect pop culture recipe containing two ingredients millennials love most: 90’s nostalgia and Netflix binges.
Case in point: The review aggregator Metacritic has given it a 35/100 based on weighted reviews from credible media critics, but its front-end users have awarded the show a 6.2/10. It has been called an “inescapable nightmare,” “the worst kind of nostalgia,” and “a porn parody without the porn.” Yet the sitcom has been renewed for a second season.
The whole gang is back for more family-friendly shenanigans. There’s Uncle Joey in his footie pajamas, hunky John Stamos inexplicably looking 35 years old, and the delightfully annoying neighbor Kimmy Gibbler, who, even in adulthood, just can’t leave the Tanner family alone. There is even a golden retriever present in the cast, an homage to the original series’ Comet.
Everyone, from Bob Saget to Jodie Sweetin have reunited for the Netflix show. That this, except for Mary Kate and Ashely Olsen, the celebrity duo who got their start on Full House at 9 months old. The Olsens, who have not acted since 2004, declined being on the show.
Fans are bemoaning the lack of Michelle Tanner, the youngest of the three sisters on the show. Fuller House explains her absence with cheeky dig. Danny Tanner explains in the first episode that Michelle is “busy in New York running her fashion empire,” and the entire cast literally turns and stares at the camera. The live studio audience howls. Uncle Jesse, I mean John Stamos, has also been vocal about the twins’ absence from the Full House universe.
Combined, the real-life twins have a net worth of $300 million. They founded Dualstar Entertainment Group, which was their media and retail empire that, before folding in 2007, was valued at $1 billon. Dualstar was responsible for the release of the Olsens’ cute little movies, books, clothes, video games and various other childhood flotsam ubiquitous during the 90s. They starred in feature-length films like Billboard Dad and Switching Goals. The Olsens also own three clothing lines: Olsenboye, Elizabeth and James and The Row.
Despite being media moguls while still in elementary school, they didn’t fall completely victim to the “child star” trap. Sure, Mary Kate Olsen attracted media attention in 2004 when she was admitted to rehab for an eating disorder, and the twins were known for loving the party lifestyle in their early 20s (who doesn’t?). But if you Google “child stars,” the search engine yields results with tabloid-esque headlines such as“20 Child Stars Gone Bad”, “12 Child Stars Gone (Very) Bad,” and “Top 20 Child Stars Destroyed By Fame.” The sisters Olsen are largely absent from this roster, which includes former 90s child stars like Lindsay Lohan, Macauley Culkin and Amanda Bynes.
How have the Olsens escaped child stardom with their sanity mostly intact? It could be that they got out of the Hollywood Junior game while they still could, and pursed the lives they wanted on their own terms.
The Olsens used their fame and finances to pursue a career that (presumably) generally interests them. Not only are they pursuing fashion, they are succeeding. This past June, The Row won the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s award for Top Womenswear Designer. This prize is the most coveted of all the awards the CFDA bestows. They are grouped with the likes of Tom Ford, Betsey Johnson and other fashion icons. And they aren’t even 30 yet.
It is weirdly infantilizing that fans of the series alike are so desperate to keep these two women in the grown-up version of roles they played as children. When Full House premiered, the twins were only 9 months old. When hearing “Mary Kate and Ashley,” most people automatically associate them with doe-eyed Michelle Tanner, pigtails bobbing as she flashes a thumbs up and a big “you got it, dude!”
To wit: they are now grown adult women. In the same way that Miley Cyrus went a little rogue in an effort to shed that squeaky-clean Disney girl image, the Olsens are distancing themselves from their child actor roots. As women, and as human beings in general, it is their right to sever ties with aspects of their life that just aren’t working. In fact, the famous sisters have repeatedly stated that they just aren’t actresses anymore. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.
Maybe it’s easier for me to suggest this because I am not a die-hard Full(er) House fan like the rest of the world seems to be. To be clear, I am not a hater of either show. Full House is a fantastic piece of early 90’s nostalgia that millennials can’t seem to get enough of (as evidenced by the recent surge of TV and movie reboots). I wasn’t even born when the show aired in 1987, and was three years old at its conclusion eight years later. I’ve seen about half of the syndicated re-runs. It’s great entertainment for when you’re home sick and don’t feel like watching Jerry Springer. I haven’t binge-watched Fuller House on Netflix due to lack of time and interest. I know enough about the Full House universe to know the characters, their MOs and their catchphrases (“Have mercy!”); but I’m simply just not invested enough to carve viewing time for it out of my week.
The Olsens don’t owe anybody anything. All actors, musicians, designers, writers, stock brokers, bartenders, marketing specialists, chefs, race car drivers and literally everybody in almost every profession needs to get their start somewhere. This is why contracts and other legal agreements exist – to specify the terms of service and commitment between entities. When the Olsens fulfilled their tenure on Full House with the season completion in 1995, they were under no obligation to continue ties with the brand if they don’t want to. To put this in perspective: Could you imagine booking a catering service for a party in the afternoon, and then later calling them up at 1am to come make you a late-night snack?
Fuller House doesn’t own the Olsens. Netflix doesn’t own the Olsens. John Stamos doesn’t own the Olsens. And American viewers certainly don’t own the Olsens just because it will satisfy their hearts to have the fully-rounded out cast from an old TV show.
As long as the Olsens aren’t involved with an international gun smuggling ring, they are entitled to pursue whatever career field they want, be it high-end fashion or burger flipping. With Fuller House being the sinking 90s nostalgia ship that it is, the Olsens are smart to pull away and chase after their own dreams. Gracefully declining being part of the monstrosity that critics deem Fuller House to be was a smart business move made by two incredibly savvy young entrepreneurs, which is exactly what Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen are.