Gossip Girl : The Old, The New and ‘You’

The Beginning – Because You Have To Start Somewhere

Gossip Girl. A seminal work of literature that would later evolve into a series that shaped the minds of an entire generation of teenagers and by the time its effects began to wane, a reboot of the classic to keep the legacy going. 

Alright then. I’ll be the first to admit that Gossip Girl is often, not very good. But its cultural impact is undeniable. The problem is, it’s addictive. Once you start watching, you want to keep going. I will not call it a guilty pleasure but it’s definitely somewhere in that league. 

That’s not to say it’s a bad show. It has its moments. It’s entertainment, scandalous drama, shocking twists, overall debauchery all consisting of teenagers living beyond the means of most, you want to watch more even if you think you’re better than it. 

I’ve watched all six seasons of Gossip Girl and I bring that up more often than anyone needs to. I watched it after the show ended so I knew who Gossip Girl was from the get go and I still decided to watch it. Why, you may ask? And the answer is, I don’t know. I think it seemed like required reading (watching, in this case). 

It’s easy to forget just how big this show was at its prime but on a re-watch, there are enough cameos (not all good) to remind you that this show was right up there.

The High Highs

Gossip Girl found itself at the heart of pop culture from season 1, arguably the best season of the lot. Season 1 doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s about rich kids being rich kids and the Humphrey siblings trying to find their place in this ridiculously unstable world, despite not being rich kids themselves. 

Blair & Serena

Season 1 is interesting because it’s fairly simple, Dan and Jenny are trying to fit into a world in which neither of them belong and they both have to navigate the schemes of Blair Waldorf, in different contexts. Blair Waldorf makes this season as the scheming rich girl, obsessed with the social hierarchy that keeps her on top. She’s a bit of a tyrant but she’s also just another student, but she inspires fear in everyone who comes across her but she’s also humanized throughout the season with her fierce protectiveness of the people she cares for. 

Gossip Girl herself also sees Blair as their main subject as the series progresses. Yes, Serena and the rest of the gang are also referenced regularly but Blair has the biggest moments. 

I haven’t revisited the series recently because I’m not big on rewatching anything but almost every important, iconic, gasp worthy moment has to do with Blair. 

I also think the way Gossip Girl presents itself is sort of reminiscent of Big Brother from 1984 (yes, I compared Gossip Girl and Orwell, I’m aware it has been done before and I’m going to say it again). The concept of a being that sees and hears everything you do or say and being judge, jury and executioner, reminded me of the classic, despite their philosophies having nothing in common. 

The ‘You’ of it all

And now, we see how much further technology has come and how much more it could be used for and we have ‘You’, starring Dan Humphrey himself, Penn Badgely as Joe Goldberg, a twisted stalker who would make an excellent, if murderous, Gossip Girl. 

‘You’ is a more accurate take on social media today. It should have been a PSA but the drama was too juicy to stop after a single season. It is almost a continuation of Dan Humphrey’s arc seeing how the last episode of Gossip Girl has a flashback that makes this rather believable. 

Joe from ‘You’ uses social media to his advantage and to get an entry into the life of a woman he interacts with once and is instantly obsessed with. It’s scary and believable and instills the same fear in me that Gossip Girl did in the fictional characters of the Upper East Side. 

‘You’ does what the Gossip Girl reboot fails to do, it helps you realize just how creepy the whole concept is. 

Oh! How the mighty have fallen

The Gossip Girl reboot is a lot like Legacies (The spinoff of The Originals which was itself a spinoff of The Vampire Diaries). Wasted potential, relying a little too heavily on the reputation of what came before, entertaining sometimes but lacking in consistency. 

Gossip Girl (2021) does use social media but it doesn’t capture the essence of the original. That can primarily be attributed to the audiences knowing who Gossip Girl is from the very beginning rather than leaving that as a mystery, but that may have been an improvement on the original had the drama lived up to the mark. 

The New Gossip Girl

In the original, Gossip Girl was horrible and didn’t hold back, she was ruthless and her vendetta remained consistent at least for the first season. Which is why everyone feared Gossip Girl. 

A look behind the curtain should have made it more interesting but that’s impossible because Gossip Girl is now the teachers and that’s gross and creepy on so many levels. Plus, it hampers the access Gossip Girl has to the information about the teenagers. It also dramatically reduces the tension within the group and presents them as a united front. 

In the original, there was always this possibility that one of the kids was Gossip Girl. They were all aware of that. And that automatically made them distrustful, it amped up the drama. And I happen to like drama of the fictional sort. 

Final Thoughts

A show that pulls off the mystery and the look behind the scenes a lot better is Bridgerton. While season 1 is problematic and season 2 is not without its flaws, it manages its gossip writer reveal and subsequent portrayal rather well. Plus, you’ve probably already heard of it. 

This has been a long and rambly look at a series I will likely continue thinking about once every few months. I don’t know if I’ll continue watching the reboot or if I’ll give up on it like I did with Legacies but it has been insightful to say the least. 

I think there’s something to be said about the evolution of the content being produced and the impact social media has had on it. In a sense, the new Gossip Girl could never capture what the original had because of the way the world has evolved since then. The original aimed at being scandalous and wasn’t afraid to take it too far, admittedly not the best approach but the risks it took allowed itself to cement itself in pop culture, long term. 

What’s to say what becomes of the Gossip Girl legacy beyond this point but it’ll be interesting to see if it manages to recapture a moment in time as convincingly as it did in 2009-10. 

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