By Rachel Zimny
Gossip Girl has returned in an all new, post-pandemic line up of reboots, carrying over only old sets and some outfit inspirations from the original. Gossip Girl in its initial run was a real moment in pop culture as it had all the high fashion, famous guest stars, and problematic whimsy the mid to late 2000s had to offer. There was ridiculous high society crap paired with horribly written bad decisions all under the watchful eye of gossip girl herself. And it was delightful.
The new series picks up 15 years after the start of the original with an entirely new racially and sexually diverse cast. This is an improvement in TVland where obviously representation matters, however isn’t really true to real life. Elite private schools like Constance are still highly segregated. This is an ever-constant truth in New York City especially where rich families raise hell to keep their schools to themselves. The Upper East Side is by far no outlier.
And on that note, this reboot has gone completely over the top with its performative wokeness. To the point that it overshadows the shit-storm the new gossip girl unleashes. I have a lot of trouble suspending my disbelief that a bunch of super-privileged, narcissistic Manhattan teenagers would be so concerned about identity politics and social justice as much of the dialogue of the show implies. I do expect to see some white guilt amongst the characters though, which they did give to one character. I have yet to see how that plays out.
I am almost a decade out of high school, so I’m not completely up to date on the behaviors and attitudes of Gen Z teenagers but I can definitely tell you they don’t sound like how they were portrayed on the show. We’ve officially entered the period where the current generation of TV writers dramatically mischaracterizes the current generation of youth culture because they’re out of touch. I feel like this could’ve been solved by anyone in the writers’ room actually talking to a real-life teenager.
What the show tries to promote in social justice awareness it lacks in common sense. The premise behind Gossip Girl’s revival is that the teachers are behind it all. The school staff is tired of being abused by the power-hungry students so they band together to become Gossip Girl. Seriously. The adults in the show publish private information about these children and stir up drama in order to humble them so they’ll be nicer on school days. Convoluted right? Also seriously unethical, but okay, it’s TV, whatever. The real shock to me is that this scheme somehow works. The first episode ends with the lead character Julien showing some respect to the teacher that she bullied in the intro. In what world would these things correlate? If anything, I would expect a self-absorbed brat like Julien to be even meaner now that her social standing is being threatened by some anonymous rando.
I’m not sure how any reboot of this show could’ve lived up to the original, in part because the original was truthfully wrecked. The original’s first episode included a 14 year old being roofied and almost taken advantage of, for Christ’s sake. It was messy and horrible and the characters were ultimately not very likable people. It was an unobtainable, a complete fantasy of the highest caliber. As a viewer, it was hard to root for anyone and that’s what made the mess so fun to watch.
I don’t think the reboot will have the same effect at all. It won’t pick up on the teenage demographic because of the stilted and unnatural dialogue and it wont grab the former, millennial fans because it’s a poor imitation of the original.