What started out as a Monday evening TV trifle for me has somehow turned into must-see weekly viewing. Gossip Girl is still more of a cult TV show than ratings extravaganza (if you only count the Nielsens as a barometer of success), and yet it’s the one show that has truly captured my weekly attention during a season where the networks are desperately trying to win back our devotion after the strikes. I find myself disappointed that I have two weeks to wait for Serena and Blair’s confrontation at Yale, to see if Jenny will abandon high school for a burgeoning fashion career, if Chuck can find room in his cold, black heart for an actual friend in Dan? (I hope not.)
But why do I care? While there are some new actors with potential (Ed Westwick and Leighton Meester are the show, as far as I’m concerned) it’s not a quality show or even a realistic show(which can be accepted and forgiven on a show that follows the lives of privileged New York teenagers – of course they can order martinis in a hotel bar without being carded. They’re rich!) And yes, the clothes are great. But in the past couple of episode of this season has highlighted something more for me.
I personally noted it during the show’s first season last year, but the real heart and soul of this show is the complicated friendship between main characters Serena and Blair, who defend and hurt each other in equal measure. Neither of them are victims: flighty Serena sleeps with Blair’s boyfriend and skips town, never truly owning up to her faults. Blair forgives her – but only after months of emotional abuse; bitchy Blair fears and resents being in Serena’s shadow, and she swiftly sets about destroying the reputation and self-esteem of the person she calls her best friend. Yet when Serena goes into a downward spiral of alcoholism and self-destruction (thanks to the ultimately lame subplot involving a girlfriend from Serena’s wild past) Blair pulls out all the stops to save her friend.
In its own over-the-top, dramatic way, GG really gets at the heart of complicated female friendships, and how heavily the pressure of being a “perfect” girl can mess us up in the head. Most of us (hopefully) don’t act out in the same way that these young women do, but the fear and doubt and resentment that does come from of a lifetime of enduring social pressure to constantly measure yourself against other women, against your friends, in looks, our achievements, in our personal relationships, while at the same time giving lip service to “sisterhood” and “girl power.”
So I like the bitchy catfights of Gossip Girl, because it’s really the road for these crazy, stupid girls to find their way back to each other; they are two peas in a pod. They’ve both seen each other at their very worst, and managed to stick around (who else would want to?) It’s hard to ask for more from a messed up friend.
I know, I know this probably sounds like some armchair women’s studies 101 critical analysis, and I am certainly not saying that Gossip Girl is the new hallmark of feminist media commentary or anything. I’m just saying that we so rarely see the dark side of female friendships, that even the best of girlfriends can sometimes hurt each other, and that sometimes those fights are bigger than fighting over boys, but about feeling worthy, because many of us females, even the rich, pretty ones, don’t hear that we’re worthy often enough.
Addendum: I think New York Magazine’s weekly recap/scorecard of Gossip Girl is the absolute best way of keeping up with the show. In some ways it’s better than the show itself. XOXO!