Whatever Happened to Predictability?

19 Mar

If you want a giggle, go Yelp the “Full House” house. It currently sits at 3.5 Yelp stars- not so good for a “local flavor” entry.

fulllllI don’t remember how I ended up on this Yelp page. Like all good internet rabbit holes, I must have searched something, then just kept clicking away. I tend to get sucked into things like forums, because they provide such interesting insight into human behavior. I see Yelp as a sort of a social experiment where we can learn about people’s biases, preferences, and perceptions.

fullhouse_house_01The “Full House” house, or FHH as I am going to call it, is featured in the opening credits to the original “Full House” show. It’s where we’re told the main characters of the show “lived” throughout the show’s run. It’s not actually where the show was shot, of course, because that’s just how TV works. But it’s become closely tied to our memories of the show, and many a San Francisco tourist sets out to find it. The show’s opening also includes shots of Alamo Square, a park nearby that host beautiful Victorian homes known as the “Painted Ladies.” So a lot of people think the FHH is IN Alamo Square, which it isn’t- it’s a 20 minute walk away. Many Yelp reviews point this out so that future inspired tourists don’t make the same mistake of going to Alamo Square to see the FHH.

As I scanned through the FHH Yelp reviews, I saw 2 key perspectives:

  1. You owe your childhood self a trip to see the FHH. It is a must-do if you’re in SF.
  2. It’s too disappointing to visit the FHH because it doesn’t look like it did on the show. Plus, its location away from the Painted Ladies is a disappointment in itself.

Now, let’s unpack that a bit. First off: you “owe” yourself a trip to see this house, because nostalgia is a powerful thing. We all know the Full House characters aren’t real people, and that nobody we’d recognize has ever lived in this home. Yet, nostalgia for seeing this house within a specific media context is enough to make it relevant. This is why pop culture-themed tours thrive: Sex and the City themed tours in NYC, Lord of the Rings tours in New Zealand. Even though we know movies and shows aren’t “real,” they feel real to us. So we seek out experiences that remind us of the emotion and joy we feel. Visiting the FHH is supposed to give us pleasure, let us reminisce, and make us feel happy about a childhood icon.

But- it can also be disappointing to chase this nostalgia. As many reviewers have noted, the house doesn’t look like it did in those opening credits many years ago. The current owners have repainted it. Plus, they’ve put up trees that sort of block the view. So when you’re trying to peep on the house, it’s harder than you’d expect- and it doesn’t look “right” anyway.

The Yelp reviews span a range of tones. Some reviewers are totally self-aware that they’re dissing someone’s private home for not matching their own hopes. Others seem genuinely upset that the owners have changed the house. And some are just annoyed at the house’s location on a “boring” street rather than in the iconic Alamo Square.

What is this, exactly? Is it entitlement? Or just sadness that memories don’t sync with reality? This happens a lot with nostalgia. You have these built-up memories of how something used to be/taste/feel, and you treasure those memories with passion. So when you re-encounter those memories years later, if it doesn’t match what you thought you’d feel- you feel let down. We’re seeing lots of reboots and sequels these days- but many of them flop, when they don’t match expectations for what they should look like, based on pop culture memories.

In reality, the current FHH owners don’t owe our nostalgia anything. They must have realized what they were getting themselves into when they bought this house- and hey, maybe they painted it gray to deter people from wanting to bother. I’m sure they were the least happy campers when the “Fuller House” series was announced! But at the end of the day, we don’t have a right to be mad at them. The people writing these negative Yelp reviews are simply encountering what happens when reality doesn’t match memory.

So as the Full House theme song alludes- predictability isn’t always a given. And when we latch on too hard to “how things were,” we get a bit flustered by how things are today. And while the FHH has a measly 3.5 stars, the Mrs. Doubtfire House has 5- because it still looks “as it did in the movie.”

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