HBO Max has finally debuted the continuation series to the hit CW show Gossip Girl. A teen drama that was both shocking and ahead of its time for its portrayal of privileged New York teens and the use of social surveillance. Now that everyone has had a chance to soak in episode one, let’s break down what we saw.
Long before the days of TMZ, Instagram, and Perez Hilton, New York socialites were under the watch of an anonymous blogger who relied on emails, push notifications, and texts – all forms that required a direct line of contact to spread their secrets and gossip. No identity was known; no motive was made evident, and you were either a target or collateral damage.
This was the world that Joshua Safran wanted to revive for a new generation, one that grew up more social media savvy than those that invented the social apps. Unfortunately for the masterminds behind this “Gossip Girl 2.0,” Millennials ran so Gen Z could walk, and what might have once been “appalling” for a teen soap is now the new norm. Not to mention, the mysterious underlying story plot that played throughout the show’s six seasons is very much gone this time around.
The mysterious allure of the original show was that you didn’t know “GG’s” motives, let alone who they were. However, the blogger knew all the secrets and doings of both the teenagers and the adults. In this remake, viewers will see not just the face behind the posts but the birth of a new gossip girl – and her name is Kate Keller (Tavi Gevinson), a teacher at Constance Billiard.
When Daniel Humphrey (Penn Badgley) came forward as “gossip girl” in the series finale, his motive was so he could “write himself” into a world that would never accept him, and in doing so, he demonstrated power to a ruling class. However, Kate has now taken up that mantle, but her motive is not to show dominance but to scare the over-privileged students of Constance straight so that the teachers can regain control.
So, know that you know who it is and their motive; the question is no longer “who and why?” But, “how long can they continue this?”
While this new cast is much more diverse and different from the original, some similar personality traits can remind viewers of the “OG” cast. A guilty rich, and socially conscious teenager who wants to use his influence and power to help change the world. A devilishly charming bad boy who divulges in all that life has to offer, with no regrets. The career-driven influencer who takes her life very seriously and is always surrounded by her two loyal best friends/advisors. The school villain. The brutally honest best friend. An idealistic teacher. And an outsider/ new student who doesn’t buy into the world of the overly privileged.
What made Gossip Girl such an allure to teenagers in the early 2000s was the lifestyle of these Manhattan teenagers. The parties, the clothes, the plotting, all fantasies that the average teen could only dream of. Unfortunately, episode one of GG 2.0 did not live up to those fantasies or the expectations. The clothes – while yes stylish – were not elaborate enough. These are, after all, teenagers with access to designer clothes and exclusive designs, yet the clothes fell short of the Blair Waldorf standards. The scheming is nowhere near as crazy and outrageous as the schemes Georgina Sparks would pull on Serena and her friends.
Critics called the original show “every parent’s worst nightmare” and “bad for you.” Production even used the reviews as part of their marketing ploy to grab attention. Considering that the show ran on the CW, the same network that ran “One Tree Hill,” “Smallville,” Gilmore Girls,” and countless other family friendly-ish shows, Gossip Girl was groundbreaking in its teen portrayals and social media usage. But, this new Gossip Girl is not giving viewers anything that they haven’t already seen on TV or experienced on their own. And given that the show is on HBO Max, the expectation on scandal and excess was pretty high and sadly not met. But it’s only episode one, so there’s still hope.