Gossip Girl

Gossip Girl

2007 - United States

“XOXO, Gossip Girl”

Review by Jennifer AJ

With that iconic line, you know you’re in for a juicy ride featuring the lives of upper-class Manhattan teenagers through the lens of an omniscient gossip site. Debuting in 2007 on CW, Gossip Girl immediately became a snazzy sensation among teens the world over. Its impact reverberated beyond the small screen, becoming the benchmark for teen media in the 21st century and foretelling how social media would go on to impact our society.

Adapted from a book series of the same name by Cecily von Ziegesar, Gossip Girl follows a bunch of privileged teenagers living in Upper East Side, the most prestigious neighbourhood in New York City. Their scandalous travails are documented by an anonymous site called Gossip Girl, who’s somehow always privy to the most intimate details about these people.

Gossip Girl

The series begins when UES it-girl Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively) makes a grand return to the city after vanishing for a year. This confounds and infuriates her best friend Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester), who’s become the queen bee in her absence. Blair’s secretly jealous of Serena – in part because her boyfriend, the dashing Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford) seems to have an affinity for Serena. Meanwhile, middle-class Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley), who goes to the same school as these rich kids, gets swept into their orbit when he catches Serena’s attention. Rounding out the core gang is Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick), Nate’s mercurial best friend and resident bad boy. 

For 6 seasons, we watch as these kids navigate everything from a merry-go-round of romantic entanglements, imposters, and scheming rivals to a royal wedding and a shady business takeover. 

Even though it’s based on an existing source material, the genius of the show actually lies in all the creative liberties the showrunners took. The show’s similarities with the books end with the main character names and initial starting points. After that, Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage simply fashioned a whole new couture out of Ziegesar’s garment. The whiz-bang plot turns, so deliciously lurid and unhinged at times, are all the show’s original creation. More crucially, the show is able to capture the prescience of Gossip Girl as proto Deux Moi, totally capturing our society’s voyeuristic fascination with the 1% even before social media was a thing. The show was also a bold move away from typical teen shows of the era with its provocative storylines. The show’s ads even drew protests for loudly proclaiming itself as “every parents’ nightmare” and “mind-blowingly inappropriate”. To top it off, the soapy messiness is delivered with such snappy dialogues that unapologetically paint the characters as bored intellectuals with money and entitlement. 

Gossip Girl

Indeed, the show worked because it was fully embracing its decadence. In real life, these characters would instantly be called out-of-touch pricks. And yet, the writing fully commits to portraying their complexity. The show knows they’re horrible and just owns it. That level of unapologetic commitment is honestly entertaining to watch. That’s also why it's hard to replicate the show’s magic. So many storylines would never get made with today’s rigid black-and-white standard. The 2021 remake tried and failed spectacularly precisely because it attempted to sand the rough edges, taking away the charm of the original.

Gossip Girl’s influence on pop culture extends to its aesthetic and fashion. Shooting on location in New York City’s glitziest corners truly brings out the magnitude of the extravagant lifestyle. The fashion styling is unprecedented for a teen show, regularly featuring haute couture pieces and creating craze for items like headbands, oversized bags, and ballet flats. If someone asks what mid 2000s visuals look like, point to this show.

A hallmark of the mid-aughts with an addictive guilty pleasure factor, Gossip Girl has proven to be a timeless hit. With all 6 seasons available on Netflix, it’s found a whole new generation of fans who embrace its naughty sensibility and decadent glamour. Technology might’ve changed, but one thing’s for sure: ogling the rich never dies. You know you love it, XOXO. 

Published on January 17th, 2024. Written by Jennifer Ariesta for Television Heaven.

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