By Sol Noya
It’s really only fitting that 2020 ended with my favourite trash-TV show being taken off Netflix. Ever since I first watched the pilot in 2014, Gossip Girl has been a show I go back to whenever I need to escape and be absorbed in someone else’s, often ridiculous, problems.
If you’ve never watched Gossip Girl, you’re in for a real treat. To my mum and I, it is the epitome of trash TV done correctly. The characters, whose lives are documented by the eponymous gossip blog, usually range from morally questionable to downright unbearable. They are ridiculously wealthy, all living in the Upper East Side of Manhattan (except for Dan and Jenny Humphrey, who live in Brooklyn with their former-musician father.
Their living situation, to the other characters, is apparently equivalent to living in a desolate corner of the Appalachians). Their problems are mostly traceable to their own actions, and the solutions they come up with tend to be appalling. It may sound surprising, then, that the show manages to be delightful almost every episode, save for the third-season finale, which we do not discuss.
Indeed, the aesthetic of the show is one of its strongest aspects
To begin with, the setting of Manhattan is absolutely fabulous. The show often includes at least two lovely takes of the city, usually highlighting some iconic feature like Central Park or Brooklyn Bridge. Indeed, the show could be seen as a love letter to New York – you couldn’t produce it in any other city. It’s escapism at its finest, because save for Central Park and the steps of the Met, it rarely takes you to the touristy places that you’ll have visited if you’ve ever been. Blair Waldorf wouldn’t be caught dead at the Statue of Liberty. Instead, the show immerses you in the high-rises the characters live in, the stores they shop at, and the private schools and prestigious universities they attend.
Indeed, the aesthetic of the show is one of its strongest aspects. The characters’ styles are all clearly defined and well thought-out. Serena, the rebel girl of the Upper East Side, embraces the boho-chic style in a way that made her a style icon for a generation. Blair, the show’s queen bee, is often the best dressed, taking inspiration from classics and translating them impeccably to the 2000s.
Gossip Girl is one of the main reasons for the amount of tights, headbands, and skirts in my closet. The characters’ homes are all distinguishable and reflect their families and personalities. Gossip Girl’s use of set and costume is almost masterful in helping you get to know the characters.
Gossip Girl is a masterclass in trash TV
The plot often goes into outrageous territory. Despite being minors for half of the show and in university for the other half, the characters party hard, cheat on each other, and devise elaborate schemes to punish their enemies for offenses ranging from breaking their hearts to making them believe they’ve committed murder. But somehow, the way it’s written, with just enough miscommunication and deviousness, keeps you on the edge of your seat. The episodes often end without tying all the strings neatly, which means that, more often than not, you end up saying “just one more.”
I did say earlier that the characters can be, and often are, fairly unlikable, particularly the longer you think about them. That being said, one of the reasons I keep coming back to this show is because of some firm favourites. Dorota is nothing short of an icon, with her devotion to “Miss Blair” and her sharp comebacks. Blair herself is, in my opinion, far more likeable than Serena, who is usually listed as the protagonist.
Blair can be more cruel, more selfish, and more cunning – but at least Blair knows it and holds herself accountable. She knows exactly what she wants and what she’s willing to do to get it. Lily’s parenting is often questionable, but her intentions are good, and she genuinely cares for her children. And though Nate’s decision-making skills make you despair at the fact that anyone would make him editor-in-chief of anything, he’s fundamentally sweet and usually well-intentioned, being the one core character who never submits a rumour to Gossip Girl.
All in all, Gossip Girl is a masterclass in trash TV. Grab some popcorn – or macarons, if available – and enjoy!
Illustration: Verity Laycock
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