So I sort of fell off with the Gossip Girl blogging this year for two reasons: 1) I’ve sort of fallen off with all my blogging and 2) it got really hard to come up with things to say besides “So, Dan and Serena got back together and then broke up again. Again.” Though I loved parts of this season, there was definitely an ebb around the period of Blair getting kicked out of Yale (twice) for (as TWOP’s Jacob has pointed out) inviting someone to the opera at the wrong time, and the aforementioned Serena-Dan relationship yo-yo, not to mention basically the fact that disgusting Aaron Rose was ever on the show. It’s like they had 19 episodes worth of story, but they had to shoot 25.
However, it’s not like this season of Gossip Girl didn’t have much to love. The part where Serena turned kind of bitchy for about two seconds after her and Dan’s first break-up, because it’s nice to see girl grow some backbone (also on display in the later on with the whole trying to get the money back after she helped her boyfriend scam everyone at her building out of cash and then even in the finale with the whole attempt to end the vicious reign of Gossip Girl). Chuck and Vanessa boning, even though that never really went anywhere. The whole Age of Innocence episode, which was so meta that it basically all but explained the entire artistic programme of the show, except if they were being really explicit they would have talked about new technologies and how much they’re revising the whole idea of privacy. Jenny’s runaway fashion career with a crazy teen model was wonderful, because it was a storyline in a television show (ostensibly*) aimed at teen girls that was about a really talented teen girl who put on a really awesome guerilla fashion show, and tried to start a business, but was stymied by realities like her business partner being a totally crazy and her dad being totally lame. Also, virtually anything with Blair. Because she is awesome, but also because she spends the whole season figuring out how to she wants her life to be. She tries on a committee here and a van der Bilt family wedding there, but you know, Blair’s no socialite. She’s not a Jackie O, she’s a Hillary. (I love that Serena meant that as a compliment.)
I think as critics and educated viewers and students of postmodernism, we get caught up in like “themes” and interpreting and noticing clever parallels and self-conscious winks at the audience (especially on a show like Gossip Girl). But at its core, this is a show about figuring out how to live your life – how to figure out which privileges to profit from and which ones to disown, how to literally exist in the world and be a self that you can live with. I don’t think this is fundamental to all stories, but it is definitely fundamental to televised serial melodramas.
The actual finale was pretty great for me as a fan – the best bit was how they put Blair in a 1920s dress for that striptease scene with Chuck, which was a great callback to Victrola, when she first took off the headband for him. I also like how they did the same “One week later” bit as last year, and that it turns out Gossip Girl lives in all of us, like Santa.
Getting back to point one though, I did read some complaints about the anticlimactic secret revelations at Nate’s grad party, where Blair’s boning Uncle Jack, and Chuck’s boning Vanessa, and Dan’s boning the English teacher, and Jenny’s brief, chaste toplessness, were all kind of just dropped in the air and then didn’t have any effect on the story at all. I sympathize with those people, because from the perspective of storytelling these things are half from left field and half examples of things they set up but never really did anything with (too many secrets!), but from the Gossip Girl perspective it’s amazing because it really underscores the show’s pattern from the beginning. The pattern is this, and I’m not going to give any examples because this is just me saying obvious stuff about the entire show: there are secrets. Someone is scared the secret will get out, because then Bad Things will happen. The secret gets out! Oh no! Everyone is mad and there is crazy drama for about five minutes and then whatever the secret was ceases to be a big deal. The finale just accelerated all the crazy drama so that it almost completely skipped it – but the fact of secrets and the keeping of secrets and most importantly, the way secrets completely lose their power when they stop being secrets is still at GG’s heart. It’s about how to live in the world, but the world it lives in is a world of constant surveillance, of constant, uncontrolled publicness, which is something new. Gossip Girl is about what happens when you totally cede privacy. What happens seems to be, it’s kind of freeing, apparently. You can try to fight it, like Serena suddenly decided to do – or you can just shrug it off. It goes with the territory, and Gossip Girl’s argument appears to be the loss of privacy that “Gossip Girl” (which stands for, like, the internet and social media and celebrity culture and everything else) makes you live through is worth it.
This is really where Dan is important. Before he actually met Serena, Dan was pretty content to be anonymous. But really, it’s like his life didn’t even start until Gossip Girl noticed him. You could certainly paint this kind of thing as negative message to be sending to teen girls, but is it really? Being scared of either what people will say or your concept of yourself as an outsider seems like a really stupid reason to avoid doing things that will make you happy, like dating a rich, beautiful girl or trying to have a successful life at the profession of your choosing.
I don’t really have a better conclusion than that, other than to point you to Foucault.
You know I love you!
*Though I think they court the Gawker-reading media nerd audience that watches sort of earnestly (because the show is actually good) but sort of ironically (because it is Gossip Girl) just as hard.