The CW’s “Gossip Girl,” based on the 2002 novel of the same name written by Cecily von Ziegesar, was one of the most popular teen dramas to hit television. The original television series, which first aired in September 2007, starred Blake Lively (Serena Van Der Woodsen) and Leighton Meester (Blair Waldorf). Set in the heart of New York’s Upper East Side, the show details the adventures of a group of young, attractive and ridiculously wealthy teenagers. The original “Gossip Girl” shines a hot spotlight on the rivalry between best friends Serena and Blair, portraying the ups and downs inside the friendship dating from the final years of high school into their adulthood. The sultry sensation of a show had its fanbase in a chokehold, and its effect on pop culture hasn’t been matched since — although HBO Max is taking a swing at reviving the cult classic. However, fans of the original aren’t too happy with the new reboot.
The next generation of “Gossip Girl” stars Whitney Peak (Zoya Lott) and Jordan Alexander (Julien Calloway). Following in the footsteps of the original series, the main conflict of the show features a rivalry trope between two girls, but this time around, with a twist. In the revival, Zoya and Julien aren’t just friends: They’re sisters. The duo lead two contrasting lifestyles, Zoya coming from a calm life in Buffalo, New York, and Julien exuding the glitz and glamour of the Upper East Side.
In an attempt to connect with their deceased mother and each other, the girls secretly devise a plan. Zoya will move to the Upper East Side and attend the snobby pretentious Constance Billard St. Jude’s private school that’s featured in the original series. When the plan works, things begin to unfold differently than the girls expected. Julien’s clique of nepotism babies rejects Zoya and tries to devise any way possible to ruin her reputation. Julien stands by and even aids in the harassment against Zoya, even though they share blood. This soon leads to tension between the girls, which boils over when Zoya becomes interested in Julien’s long-term boyfriend, Obie (Eli Brown).
In the CW’s “Gossip Girl,” viewers anticipated the identity of Gossip Girl for six full seasons and 10 additional episodes. However, HBO Max is paving its own way and reveals the culprit behind the secret in the very first episode. Spoiler Alert: Gossip Girl is the teaching staff at the high school. They bring back the well-known gossip site that caused so much pain and destruction in the past because of the constant mistreatment they face daily at the hands of their students. However, this fight-fire-with-fire method of retaliation on the part of the adult figures left many fans confused and unhappy — especially as a scene in the season opener reveals one of the school staff members non-consensually snapping photographs of underage Zoya and Obie unclothed.
This is a major fault line in the series, and it also happens in the original “Gossip Girl,” as many of the main characters get involved with teachers and authority figures. Throughout the series, these relationships are romanticized, and the damage caused by these relationships is never explored. In no way, shape or form should inappropriate relations with a teacher be graphically glorified and marketed as sexy. This seems to be one of the biggest failures in “Gossip Girl,” both in the past and present.
Despite comments about the show being a stale attempt to measure up to the iconic, OG “Gossip Girl,” the reboot has its strengths. This time around, the main cast of the series features people of all different races, which is something the original didn’t do. The representation of people of color in the media is so important, and its neglect in the previous “Gossip Girl” didn’t go unnoticed. Everyone should be able to see themselves in their favorite characters; that’s why the casting of such productions is so vital. Television characters can save lives. All viewers deserve to have a comfort character.
The new “Gossip Girl” also takes another page out of the original’s book but makes it better. In addition to featuring people of color, the new “Gossip Girl” main cast features three members of the LGBTQ+ community. For the character Aki (Evan Mock), who’s questioning his sexuality, the writers carefully illustrate his mixed emotions about accepting who he really is and how this will affect his relationships moving forward with the people closest to him. They also touch on other LGBTQ+ issues such as femmephobia, and they depict the emotions that accompany being outed.