Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

OMFG GG xoxo

Written by Liz Wasserman
The show Gossip Girl, where wildly wealthy Upper East siders navigate bars, limos, social nightmares (most often of their own creation) and occasionally high school classes, hooked me with the unseen gossip girl’s snarky, scheme-y voiceover. While we don’t know who the actual gossip girl is, her omniscience is our point of view as we watch these beautiful characters flit across screen wreaking havoc.
The show Gossip Girl, where wildly wealthy Upper East siders navigate bars, limos, social nightmares (most often of their own creation) and occasionally high school classes, hooked me with the unseen gossip girl’s snarky, scheme-y voiceover. While we don’t know who the actual gossip girl is, her omniscience is our point of view as we watch these beautiful characters flit across screen wreaking havoc.

 When I actually think about it: there might be no good reason for me to actually like this show. Serena seemed like the stronger character; she’s comfortable with her sex life and past experimentations and is trying to bust out of the socio-economic well-decorated box she’s been placed in (how very third wave feminist of her). While she no longer dives into drugs and indiscriminate sex when she feels helpless, she just fails to communicate fully about anything: but especially about what she wants. Not so empowered, young lady. Meanwhile Blair’s tightly controlled and vindictive character seems only focused on her small social world of school (which of course mirrors the small social world of the female parents on the series), however, I loved that when Chuck failed to show, Blair Waldorf was not one to wait. Do any of the female characters talk about their dreams or god forbid, their interests other than clothes, boys or gossip girl? We know that Dan wants to be an artist, and Chuck, an entrepreneur. Serena and her mother are floating in the muck of New York Society, but both women appear to pin their only hopes of escape on relationships with men (and ironically yet deliciously, men in the same pseudo-bohemian family) that fail to work.

With the arrival of Georgina, we have a very empowered female character who trades only in social currency. While we don’t know her end game for her supreme bitchy insanity, it doesn’t appear related to getting into a good college, starting a non-profit, or writing her first novel. Little Jenny might be the one to escape this small world. Previous to the finale, she just flitted around the periphery of the show: with her eyes on the social and economic status prizes. At one point, marrying up is mentioned in relation to Jenny’s actions, noting that her social climbing can culminate only in status bestowed by a man. However, little J got an internship this summer….and not in social climbing. Jenny and Dan’s mom Alison left the show to be with her boyfriend, perhaps because she’s also the only woman on the show (other than Blair’s mom) who has a career.

Most shows survive on escapism; and certainly, Gossip Girl’s gigantic apartments, thousand dollar outfits and beautiful people fit the bill. And one could argue that we all need a little escapism from the economy, the United States's falling stature in the world, the wars, and the world’s environmental crisis. However, escaping into female role models that have strength and intelligence but squander them on social capital and male approval…that’s something to escape from as well.

As a now ‘older’ viewer (I’m 27) I’ve worried a lot about girls’ role models today. When I was a pre-teen I had Juliana Hatfield, Liz Phair , TLC and Ani Difranco to look up to, and the remnants of Riot Grrrls still floating around. Younger women today have Britney Spears, the Pussycat dolls, and perhaps Serena and Blair? Gossip Girl has abysmal ratings: it’s the web traffic that’s been creating the buzz, and most of the viewers regardless of platform are under 18.

Due to the unique web/tv demographics of the show: marketers are watching eagerly to see how all the multi-platform tie-ins work out. Despite the fancy outfits, the premiere episode was sponsored by Wal-Mart and featured tie-ins for the game Halo 3. If you visit the Gossip Girl website you can check out a character’s desk: complete with Dell red PC, LG products (for the Gossip Girl’s featured music you can download), a Sony Camera, and well placed copies of Vogue, Rolling Stone and a Gossip Girl book. You can also dress exactly like the characters by checking out the featured brands on the show. Like Serena’s socks? A few clicks and you can buy them from the retailer yet never leave the Gossip Girl site. Can’t get enough? You can join the gang in Second life, all from the comfort of the CW main page.

Despite all the marketing and the tie-ins: we tune in because Gossip Girl is a coming of age story (or in this case, soap opera). In many novels about strong female characters: there is a transformation that takes the young heroine towards a stronger, more focused future. In Emma and Pride and Prejudice, both by Jane Austen, the character becomes a better, stronger character and finds true love in a flawed and also recently improved hero. And in the case of social climbing, Sara Crewe, in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, is at the start queen bee of her school. When economic misfortune befalls her she is sent to bottom of the social chain. By the book’s end her kindness and levelness has been rewarded and she regains her social status (and her fortune). In Blake Nelson’s more contemporary version, Girl, main character Andrea remains open to change but more in charge of her own future.

I look forward to the transformations awaiting Serena and Blair and Jenny and Lily and maybe even Georgina (but seriously, that girl is t-r-o-u-b-l-e). And that, for now, will have to be my justification for watching Gossip Girl like, OMG, 4 real 4eva.

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