So I’ve been thinking about the deal with Gossip Girl this year. It’s not really suffering from the “high school show goes to college” Veronica Mars-type problems, more from “the first couple of episodes of every season feel a little off, until some Secrets have time to Build Up and cause Tension that needs to be Resolved.” For me it hit its stride around Rufus and Lily’s wedding, with the reappearance of Scott, and his big revelation leading to the reaffirmation of love at the centre of the show. And Sonic Youth.
Since then, the stakes are getting weirdly higher. The theme of this week was basically “we’re not in high school anymore,” at least in the A-story. The B-story centred around Dan and Olivia’s one-month anniversary, which is actually one of the most charmingly eighteen-year-old things that ever happened on Gossip Girl and still managed to feature Jimmy Fallon.1 But I can think of at least three different characters who pulled the “this isn’t high school anymore” line: Vanessa, to Nate when he asks her to sit on potentially damaging video of his cousin who is running for public office because of their “friendship”; Chuck, to Serena, in explaining why she had to suck it up because she couldn’t just take Blair (or anyone) for granted now; and Blair, to Serena again (because Serena really needed it, I guess), about how Blair is trying to “make a life for herself” while S is just kind of treading water, alienating people over her stupid PR job, and fake dating Robert Pattinson, and that’s not really someone Blair Waldorf needs in her life.
The point is: the high school code isn’t working anymore, which is a problem, since for Gossip Girl, high school is supposed to be a sort of mini-life, where you learn to deal with being a public person when that’s something you can’t really control the boundaries of anymore. But the “real world” isn’t so tight or so easily controlled.
My spiel has always been that Gossip Girl’s about letting go, about realizing that “privacy” was out over and has been replaced with this new gossip-surveillance-world. But that this is okay, and that this configuration allows for its own various pleasures and games. You see it in the way that Blair’s liberation started with a public striptease; in the way Serena uses the paparazzi for her own gain, in the way Nate and Chuck and everyone instinctively manage public perception. But that’s easy when it’s as schematic as it is within the high school setup, where Gossip Girl basically stands for the media. It gets messier when the knowledge and power isn’t so centralized; it’ll be interesting to see how Gossip Girl deals with all this.
Which, with 30 Rock, makes two of my favouite shows he appeared on within a week. He knows his demo, and his demo is me. Well, it would be if I didn’t have a real job that makes it impossible for me to actually watch late night TV. ↩