No one actually enjoys Gossip Girl. No one. Currently in its fifth season on the CW Network, the half-baked schemes of the young and privileged of upper-east NYC have become a weekly chore for the show’s dwindling yet loyal viewership. Watching is an exercise in patience as well as masochism. Blair Waldorf’s unbridled, yet unfocused, angst-riddled affections remain frustratingly predictable, leading to probably some of the worst premises in the history of televised melodrama. Ms. Waldorf (Leighton Meester) literally became a princess in the latest installment, the proverbial riches to riches story, and somehow remained a caricature of a distressed damsel, clamoring for Hepburn’s legacy (overtly Audrey to top off this episode, Katharine where applicable.)
Elsewhere, Serena van deer Woodsen (Blake Lively) dreams of being Marilyn Monroe circa Gentleman Prefer Blondes – a gimmick so uninteresting that NBC is trying it out this coming mid-season with Smash. This 100th episode sort of meanders about from there, using old tricks to showcase old storylines and aging characters – Michelle Trachtenberg reprises her role as Georgina Sparks only to devise a relatively archaic plot to ruin Blair’s wedding. It’s then that five years begin to feel like forever. It’s too apparent that everyone on the show refuses to mature, grow, learn. Everyone from Nate to Dan to Blair to Chuck to Serena simply ignore past experiences and prove to be incapable of charting a new course – overtly represented by the barely half a season costly top-tier university educations even mattered to the gang.
Still, the show does such a great job of convincing the viewer that personal growth is in fact the enemy. Taylor Momsen grew up before the Gossip Girl cameras pretty much as Serena-light Jenny Humphrey – finding herself on paparazzi-riddled Hollywood red carpets and in smokey Soho nightclub stages. Promptly, she was berated then jettisoned because of it. Taylor Momsen’s exposed vagina on Perez Hilton or belligerent TMZ solicited quotes depict growing pains. Likewise, Serena struggling to tell Dan that she has feelings for him or Chuck and Blair’s perennial missteps of love depict the cyclical and unescapable pain of never growing up and actively fighting growth with each ounce of your very being.
So it follows then that Gossip Girl is for each of us that remain 2007 revisited weekly. The CW celebrates its birthday and flips through an album of photos and trinkets from its youth every time Serena flips her golden hair or Chuck pours a scotch. Luckily, they also have the benefit of moving forward to the Secret Circles and Vampire Diaries of its present (and foreseeable future.) As a Gossip Girl viewer however, we consistently find ourselves entrenched in the past, weary and dissatisfied.
Nonetheless, many will return for psychic time travel next week. To say this is surprising would be undermining how Gossip Girl and television drama in general can function on a singular level so well it simultaneously compensates for its faults and highlight its virtue. When the series first presented us with rich, self-indulgent high school kids having sex, lying and manipulating one another, the fiction was rich but more importantly the motifs were familiar if not palpable.
Constance isn’t your high school, these aren’t your friends, but they can be if you want. You can hold on tightly enough to the series that it changes shape in your hands like clay. You may then call it ‘racy’ or ‘provocative’, buying into the marketing sluglines. Or you can hold it so firmly in your grasp that you no longer see what’s inside, too cynical or afraid to loosen your grip and ruin what you imagine to be in your hands, alternating between shamefully hiding the series from the world (and your friends) and loyally defending it from those that mean it harm.
Gossip Girl undeniably merits both sorts of adoration, along with its fair share of abhorrence. Like a lover you still see sometimes when it’s clear you shouldn’t. But it’s not really clear, is it? Not for those that stay. Whether you’re the scorned victim who should just let go or the serial heartbreaker who should finally do the right thing, clarity never comes easy. How could something that has Harriet the Spy becoming the new face behind Veronica Mars’ voice be in any way bad for you? The city of New York gave the show a fucking day for Szohr’s sake! You gotta love it (even when it’s most ridiculous, even when it’s truly unbearable, even if you really shouldn’t, for a 100 episodes more.) XOXO
[At this point, an ending as predictable as a Gossip Girl sixth season renewal]