It has been described as “an inescapable nightmare” and “a new low in the current culture’s inability to leave behind the blankies, binkies and wubbies of one’s youth.” Writer Rich Juzwiak described the viewing experience as “what tripping on ayahuasca must be like.”
Critics do not like Fuller House.
Though, as of today, the new Fuller House has earned a paltry 38% on Rotten Tomatoes and seems to offer little more than aggressive nostalgia and thinly veiled jabs at the Olsen twins, the somewhat forced existence of this Netflix sequel has given the world an unexpected and well-needed gift: another glimpse into the life of Kimmy Gibbler, one of TV’s most underrated heroines.
Kimmy Gibbler is the socially awkward friend of D.J. and next-door neighbor of the Tanner family. Her role in the show is to permeate the often sickeningly wholesome Tanner family environment with hijinks and unsolicited opinions. Despite D.J.’s unclear motives for interacting with Kimmy—”whether it’s because she can live on the edge a little by hanging around her, or because she gets to practice her leadership skills and guide her, is uncertain”—many episodes of Full House include at least one scene with this eccentric teenager.
Taken as a whole, these scenes tell the courageous story of a unique, independent female who, which grace and wisdom, rejects the antagonistic behavior of those around her.
Make no mistake: the Tanner family hates Kimmy Gibbler. Or, at the very least, they have no respect for her as a person. Brush away the lukewarm greetings and tepid small talk—most of which are accompanied by shrugs and rolling eyes—and mostly insults remain. Some jabs are dismissive, like when Uncle Jesse admits that he actively avoids talking to Kimmy. But other insults are shockingly combative for a 90s sitcom about family values, like when Uncle Jesse shreds Kimmy’s list of song suggestions for no apparent reason. The writers of Full House even temporarily abandoned their usual commitment to family-friendly puns and overused catchphrases when they allowed young Stephanie Tanner to call Kimmy a whore. (Though, to be fair, some argue that Stephanie’s comment refers to Kimmy’s alleged horrific qualities—not her supposed whorish qualities. Regardless, Stephanie’s joke hurts, especially considering that D.J.—Kimmy’s “best friend”—responds to the burn with what seems to be a wry smile.) In one episode, Danny and Jesse attempt to dissuade Kimmy from marrying the wrong person, which is an arguably considerate endeavor, but their rushed speech to Kimmy includes a series of random insults, as if they can only be kind to Kimmy after exhausting their supply of cheap jabs. And no member of the Tanner family seems concerned after they launch Kimmy into a tree while trying to fix a stubborn teeter-totter.
Kimmy does not allow the Tanner family’s cruelty to damage her self-worth. Despite the negativity, Kimmy remains confident and opinionated. She rarely misses an opportunity to flaunt her quirky individuality. Yes, Kimmy’s brand of self-expression includes stinky feet and shouted responses, but these eccentricities complement her larger-than-life persona. When Stephanie notes in one episode that a traditionally dressed Kimmy (wearing a black dress and pearls) seems “so lifelike,” she implies that everyday Kimmy (usually sporting vibrant, mismatched colors) does not adopt a typical lifestyle, which is true. Through the eyes of the Tanner family, Kimmy’s existence is an enigma, a puzzling juxtaposition of candid vulnerability and unapologetic panache. Kimmy should not be able to exist within the Tanner ecosystem, yet Kimmy flourishes in their presence, as if she is fueled by the doubt and insecurities of others.
Few television characters have matched Kimmy Gibbler’s impressive and courageous f**k-it mentality. Even the socially inept, bespectacled Steve Urkel from Family Matters had enough self-doubt to alter his own DNA and transform into Stefan Urquelle, the suave womanizer with 20/20 vision. Kimmy never compromises her originality. She fights standardization with some sass, a smile, and a shrug.
Just as Antonio Salieri is the champion of mediocrity, Kimmy is the champion of originality. Any individual who has ever felt unwanted or unappreciated can draw inspiration from Kimmy’s reaction to the Tanner’s pretentiousness.
Kimmy Gibbler is one of the few characters on TV to say loudly, in effect, “Screw you. I am who am.” This makes Kimmy a hero. If I ever have a daughter, I hope that she has Kimmy’s courage and self-reliance. I hope she grows up to be like Kimmy Gibbler.
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