I think it’s safe to say that the original “Gossip Girl” played a large role in my adolescence, so I was excited for the reboot — until recent comments by showrunner Josh Safran.
I was 12 when I read the original book series and 13 when the first season of the original show premiered. I was an 18-year-old college freshman when the show ended, and it was truly the end of an era.
I have mixed feelings about the reboot. I’m not a fan of the clothes in the reboot because they’re not nearly as extravagant as the fashion in the original show, but the gritty tone of the trailer renewed my interest. However, recent comments from showrunner Josh Safran make me want to skip the reboot altogether.
Showrunner Josh Safran’s Comments
In an interview with Variety, Safran said, “These kids wrestle with their privilege in a way that I think the original didn’t. In light of [Black Lives Matter], in light of a lot of things, even going back to Occupy Wall Street, things have shifted.”
Safran continued, “I think the first [‘Gossip Girl’] showed a little bit of wealth porn or privilege porn, like, ‘Look at these cars, or here’s a montage of the best plated food you’ve ever seen.’” He said the aspirational aspect of the show will come from “more in wanting to be like the characters and less having what they have. Also, looking at it through Zoya’s eyes, you get a little bit of, ‘Careful what you wish for.’”
There are several things wrong with Safran’s statement. First of all, the character Zoya appears to be the equivalent of Dan and Jenny Humphrey in the original show, who were middle-class students on scholarship at their elite school and were ostracized for their lack of wealth. A big part of the original show was them realizing that the rich kids at their school didn’t have it as easy as they thought they did. Wealth and privilege didn’t repair Serena van der Woodsen’s estranged relationship with her father, and it sure didn’t keep Nate Archibald’s family from being torn apart by his dad’s cocaine addiction and embezzlement scandal. A huge part of the show is the Humphrey kids realizing that the glitzy world of the Upper East Side is a façade, so why is Safran acting like this will be a new aspect to the reboot?
Furthermore, Safran seems to be forgetting that the aspect of characters exploiting their wealth is one of the many reasons why fans loved the original show.
Gossip Girl Was Good Because It Was Absurd
If I could explain the absurdity of Gossip Girl by showing you one scene from the show, it would have to be the dinner scene during the Thanksgiving episode of the third season titled “The Treasure of Serena Madre.”
I don’t think that I’ll ever get over how ridiculous this scene is. While Jason Derulo’s “Whatcha Say” plays in the background, it’s revealed that Serena is having an affair with a married congressman (who just happens to be Nate’s cousin and a Vanderbilt), Blair thinks her mom is pregnant and overreacts, Vanessa’s mom is more annoying than she is, Eric sabotaged Jenny’s cotillion, Lily has been lying to Rufus about her mom’s cancer, and Rufus’ Thanksgiving dad joke falls flat due to all of the drama. I know it’s been almost 12 years since this episode aired, but fans deserve to know the rest of Rufus’ joke!
Despite Chuck uncharacteristically staying out of the drama, this scene encapsulates the soap opera-like drama that makes the show so great, and a lot of it has to do with the majority of the characters being extremely privileged, wealthy, shallow, and materialistic.
Blair Waldorf and Chuck Bass are two of the most beloved characters (and ultimate power couple) from the original show. Blair is the daughter of a wealthy businessman and her mother is a fashion designer, and Chuck is the son of a billionaire. Both characters are wealthy beyond what most of us could possibly dream, shallow, and materialistic. They’re not the most likable characters on paper, but audiences grow to love them as they develop and mature. Despite their relationship being toxic at times and their addiction to scheming, audiences can’t help but root for them because they’re just so entertaining.
The original Gossip Girl was an escapist show. I remember tuning in every week in high school to watch it and forget about the stress from school and friends for an hour, and how could I forget talking about it with friends at school the next day? I can’t be the only one who developed friendships over a mutual love of Gossip Girl in high school. The characters living extravagant lifestyles and going through unrealistic scenarios is what made the show the perfect escape for teens and young adults when it first premiered, so why would the showrunners take this away from the reboot?
Do We Really Want To Watch Woke Rich Kids?
Imagine a teenage girl with wealthy parents tweeting from their Upper East Side mansion about how much she hates capitalism and how she thinks that we should “eat the rich.” Nobody would support this girl because she’s biting the hand that’s feeding her and her lack of self-awareness is beyond comical. This is a person whom everyone would hate in real life and a character that we couldn’t grow to love despite how well the writers try to give her a redeemable character arc. I just made up this character, and I already can’t stand her.
Even progressive publications think a woke reboot is misguided. Marie Solis of Jezebel writes, “Safran seems to misunderstand the original intention of the show, which, it seems to me, was not to provide viewers with a neat moral lesson or role models to aspire to. The Gossip Girl of the late aughts and early twenty-teens was about escapism, melodrama, and even camp; more in the vein of a soap opera, it was never particularly concerned with social realism. (Might I remind everyone: Chuck Bass’s dad gets killed off in season two, brought back in season five, and then killed off again in season six.) Though one could certainly argue that it would be more realistic if the Manhattan private school students in Safran’s reboot — the children of the 1 percent — participated in slut-shaming, so-called cat fights, and various unself-conscious displays of wealth, as I suspect many do in real life.”
In short, nobody wants to see woke teenagers on Gossip Girl. If the show’s creators wanted to make a show like this for a more progressive audience, they should have created something from scratch instead of turning it into a reboot of one of the most beloved teen dramas of all time.
Fans React, and Nobody Likes It
I wasn’t the only one confused by the new direction of the show, as many fans and pop-culture writers took to Twitter to express their confusion and frustration, and I can’t help but agree with them.
One fan replied, “If I wanted to see rich woke white teenagers I would log into tiktok.” I love this response because it says so much by saying so little. I couldn’t think of a better way to describe how Safran described the reboot other than this reply.
Another fan echoed this sentiment by tweeting, “the whole appeal of gossip girl is that they're spoiled, rich kids far removed from reality, obsessed with materialism and themselves...rich people aren't socially conscious. their morals are questionable, their lifestyles opulent which makes them ENTERTAINING FFS!”
Pop-culture writers (who appear to be fans themselves) agree. Julia Alexander of IGN tweeted, “This...defeats the purpose of Gossip Girl. What if we make one of the best young adult satires absolutely not that?”
Pop-culture writer Bianca Gracie also tweeted, “Must everything be so ‘woke’ & PC with this new generation?? Gossip Girl’s M.O. is to flaunt filthy richness, like it’s okay for shows to provide obnoxious escapism…”
I spent at least a half-hour scrolling through tweets about this only to discover that nobody (at least on Twitter) thinks this new direction for the Gossip Girl reboot is a good idea. Even the most progressive fans think it appears tone-deaf, which would defeat the purpose of Safran’s vision. I ask again, if they wanted to make a show about woke rich white teenagers, why not make a show from scratch? Why did they feel the need to take away what made Gossip Girl great to make their point?
The original Gossip Girl was amazing for so many reasons. It was the most popular teen show of the late 2000s and early 2010s because the teenage characters were so unrealistic that it was comical, and it was as overdramatic as a soap opera. Taking away the aspect of characters flaunting their wealth in the reboot to seem “woke” is taking away one of the main aspects of the original show and what made it so successful, leaving many fans disappointed before the reboot even airs.
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