Guilty Television Pleasures: In Defense of Gossip Girl
There is no cool way to spin the fact that I am obsessed with a teen soap opera.
It's one that airs on the CW, no less. The network is home to Rachel Bilson-starring Hart of Dixie, which finds yankee doctor Zoe Hart relocating to a small, southern town, and upcoming, abysmal looking Sex and The City prequel The Carrie Diaries. But to judge Gossip Girl based on its proximity to these programs would be, in a word, stupid.
Sure, Upper East Side-dwelling, super-privileged high schoolers having their oversexed lives dissected through a TMZ-style celeb news blog isn't a relatable premise. But to presume that the viewer should deeply and meaningfully connect with the show's characters would also be, you guessed it, stupid.
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Party girl Serena van der Woodsen struggles with substance abuse and perpetually makes poor decisions, usually when it comes to men. Her "poor" ex-boyf from Brooklyn, Dan, has a '90s rocker dad who marries and then divorces Serena's mom, Lily.
Van der Woodsen's on-again, off-again BFF Blair Waldorf revels in Machiavellian abuse of everyone around her, and effectively isolates herself from the world. Her soulmate, heir to real estate bajillions Chuck Bass, consistently comes up with reasons to not date, marry, or hang out with Waldorf. Most recently, Bass put off their tumultuous relationship because he wanted to send his evil dad (who faked his own death not long ago) to jail for illegally trading oil to Sudan.
Meanwhile evil dad, whose name is Bart, is blackmailing Chuck's best bud Nate, a WASP-y bozo who has made out with nearly everyone on the show with a vagina. Nate has cooked the books to keep his media empire afloat while his own coke-addled dad does time for embezzlement.
Sound silly, ridiculous, and unnecessarily complicated? Yeah. It is. Making matters worse, my mini-recap above makes me sound like your grandma when she tries to catch you up on who banged and betrayed whom on One Life to Live. I know this. I am aware.
The show's about exploring our sordid sides. Seeing beautiful, wealthy, and promising young people squander their luck, embarrass themselves, and frequently fail in manners public and spectacular is, sick as it sounds, mesmerizing.
Think of it in terms of the pop culture fixation on the train wreck that is Lindsay Lohan. The occasional actress crashes luxury rental cars, gets hospitalized for exhaustion, steals jewelry, hangs out with Terry Richardson, and stages a Lifetime movie comeback. It's impossible to look away.
Gossip Girl knows it's a soap opera. It knows it's satisfying my desire for outlandish drama. And, meta to be sure, it knows how addicting it is to stare, wide-eyed into the lives of those who are too rich and too thin to know what's good for them.
As the storylines overcomplicate themselves and the unbelievable, intra-click hookups mount, the palpable drama (however unrealistic) keeps me watching week in and out.
And I have. When I commit to a show, I commit to it wholly. I have thrown myself head first into the Real Housewives franchise, The Wire, Gilmore Girls, 30 Rock, Skins, Sherlock, and spent a couple weeks watching each and every episode of Seinfeld in chronological order. So it goes: I have seen every episode of Gossip Girl at least once -- if not twice.
Why? Because for all the twists and curveballs, there's a comfortable familiarity I have with GG. In spite of using the show as a substitute for splashy headlines at the grocery checkout, I've come to love the characters, bizarro baggage and all. And all that will be gone with tonight's finale.
The truth is, I'm going to miss it. I already do.
The annual Thanksgiving episode, classic cinema references, wildly inappropriate levels of cleavage exposure at breakfast, enviable wardrobes -- off they go, along with my easy fix for trash talk, dirt digging, and backstabbing.
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