Words by Issy Anthony
Money, mayhem and a sex drive that just won’t quit can only mean one thing: Gossip Girl is back on our screens. As part two of the reboot was released on New Years Day, I of course binged it during my procrastination sessions. Warning: spoilers ahead.
The original Gossip Girl is an artifact of nostalgia for me, and probably many teens who grew up during the 2000s. Blair’s hairbands and Serena’s blowouts meant an escape from reality, to a world that the vast majority of us would never know. The characters were far from likable, but that wasn’t the point.
We were given Dan Humphrey as the audience’s voice of reason; we felt his annoyance when his classmates didn’t remember his name or his utter confusion at just how much power their parents held. While Dan is arguably a sociopath (for those of you who haven’t watched the original gossip girl, this isn’t really a spoiler, he is pretty creepy from the first episode onwards), his outsider status mirrored that of the audience and gave us at least one character who was aware of the real world—although let’s not forget that Dan and Jenny pretended like they weren’t living in a Brooklyn loft that is likely worth a hefty sum.
But I digress. We were never meant to like the characters. And this is where the new Gossip Girl fails. It has attempted to make us like the characters, but without giving them any redeeming qualities that would actually make them likable.
The show clearly wants us to view them as developed from the old Gossip Girl, no longer selfish and self-obsessed. Obie protests his parents’ capitalistic ways, and Julien turns on her sexual predator father. But they are still spoiled teenagers, desperately trying to get us to pity them, and failing.
Julien has a god complex, almost as if she knows she is the main character of the series, and therefore everyone’s lives must revolve around hers. At first, we feel sorry for Zoya, her mum having died while giving birth to her and having been bullied at her old school, but dating your sister’s ex-boyfriend barely 24 hours after they have broken up is a serious no-go, and after that my respect for Zoya seriously depleted, no matter how much Julien deserved it. Obie, who dated his ex-girlfriend’s sister, and then cheated on that sister with the ex-girlfriend, somehow still views himself as above it all because he has a ‘Right to the City Alliance’ pin.
And then let’s not forget Aki. Poor, beautiful Aki, who I think might be the only character in the show with any redeeming qualities, his shyness and love for his girlfriend Audrey giving him some of the humility the others lack. Aki realises that he is bisexual, which causes Audrey to think that he needs to also date a boy to satiate both desires. Who is going to tell Audrey that this is not how bisexuality works and that this is actually a part of bi-erasure? No one it seems, as this is quickly skipped over as the couple settle into a ‘triad’ with their friend Max. And I really don’t want to start on how painful the teachers are.
While the reboot has succeeded in diversifying its cast, which was very much needed after the overwhelmingly white, heteronormative world of the old Gossip Girl, it fails to draw you in. With the characters being neither good enough to be likable or evil enough to love to hate, we are left in limbo, wishing we were watching something else.
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