The concept of a world like Gossip Girl is a simple one. Watch dramatized teen problems through the lens of the elite super-rich kids who behave like adults.
It is all about drama. Who cheated on whom? Who is sleeping with who? Who is taking what? High drama, fashion, and extravagance are the cornerstones of the series and have been a consistent thread through the original novels and screen adaptation.
However, when showrunner Joshua Safran began promoting the reboot of Gossip Girl as more socially aware and sex-positive with greater exploration of the consequences of wealth, some were a bit skeptical. Talk of a more socially conscious Gossip Girl deterred fans that thought the reboot would lose the series’ original edge. Not only this, but fans feared that elements that they had fallen in love with would be changed or lost. Can you imagine a Gossip Girl with mediocre fashion and a group of loving friends and family? Unheard of!
So if this describes the reboot, is Gossip Girl still Gossip Girl?
Of course it is, silly! Gossip Girl is still the same as it always has been. It is just as dramatic with just as many questionable character choices. So, if you were ever concerned that this Gossip Girl would betray its predecessors, you need not worry. Even the original costume designer, Eric Daman, makes their triumphant return to put a spark of fashion in the reboot, and believe me the fashion is in fact still sparkling.
image via TEEN VOGUE
To bookend the episode, letting the audience know that fashion is going to be playing just as large of a role as it has in the past, there is a fashion show displaying the designs of designer Christopher John Rogers. One of the main characters of the show, Julien, walks down the runway at the end of the first episode showing off Roger’s Black and White Graphic Cotton Halter Maxi Dress.
Referring back to the idea of social awareness, the seemingly closed bubble biosphere of rich privilege is somewhat popped in the reboot of the series. The novels, generally, didn’t possess social awareness with the original television show falling largely into the same category. By socially aware I mean characters’ acknowledgment of problems outside themselves or how they exist in the wider world. For example, the original television series, having launched just the year before, didn’t acknowledge The Great Recession of 2008 despite being a show centered mostly around wealth. Without wide social awareness being present, a fantasy world was created. Not necessarily a soap opera, but similar in build, where drama can unfold and be introduced to a reader without them batting an eye – in fact, that drama is what most love about the series as a whole. So, while maintaining the dramatic essence of the series, the show’s creator did feel a need to infuse a certain newness.
“I felt like this was a new direction and it wasn’t just retelling the same story”
~ Joshua Safran
This reboot is more socially aware than the series has been in the past. Essentially, it’s Gossip Girl but in 2021, which might sound like a cop-out but it is the truth. It is aware of its place in the world, both politically and socially, but it hasn’t gone deeper than an acknowledgment of it. And it doesn’t have to, because it captures the essence of the original novels and the show. The show is just as devious, populated by questionable people, and drama-filled as its source material and predecessor was. Fans of the original novels and television series will love the nods to old characters, like Dan Humphrey and Nate Archibald, as well as recognize some fun visual easter eggs if they watch closely enough.
I don’t know about you, but isn’t it kind of fun to consider where this growing awareness might take the series as it moves into the future? Who knows what a tertiary reboot might look like in a decade or so. Heck, who knows what the rest of the season of this reboot will look like! Also, if the series continues to make jumps between mediums maybe we’ll return to Gossip Girl novels in a few years. I personally would love for Cecily von Ziegesar to dip her toe back into new novels set in the world of Gossip Girl. Except for this time, take a broader look at the privilege these young students are so immersed in. Cecily von Ziegesar, in some ways, has been moving this direction herself recently. For example, her 2020 novel Cobble Hill took a more introspective look at people living in upscale Brooklyn and their struggles. The question still stands though, will Gossip Girl still be Gossip Girl if it becomes a more socially aware world, novel, or show? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…XOXO