I watched all of Gossip Girl so you don't have to
And no, I don't just mean the reboot.
During the pandemic, I’ve become a television person.
I don’t mean real television—it’s not 2009/I don’t have
access to my parents’ cable—so I guess I mean ‘streaming.’ Anyway. In 2020, I found that where I once had a rich social life, I now had Downton Abbey. And Insecure. Parks and Rec. Sex Education. Shitt’s Creek. Succession. Search Party. I am going to end the list there, but rest assured that this is a very abridged version of said list.
I started with shows I hadn’t yet watched. Shows with many seasons. Shows that my friends had been telling me about for years.
Even now, in 2022, after reconstructing the skeleton of my pre-pandemic life, my new habit lives on. (I regret to inform you that my social life is not something I was able to “build back better.”)
So here I was minding my own damn business when something possessed me to watch Gossip Girl. I cannot tell you why I embarked on this journey. Maybe it was a thumbnail image on HBO Max. Or maybe it was a GG meme. Or maybe it was the haunting sound of Kristen Bell’s voiceover that has been stuck in my head ever since I watched the first few seasons of the show back in high school.
For whatever reason, I found myself with an ambitious goal: watch all six seasons of this teen drama as fast as possible. And, dearest readers, I’m proud to go on record today as having accomplished this goal.
I did come up for air a few times. I took breaks to “go to work” and “go on vacation” and “write” and “sleep.” But I really committed to GG.
For the uninitiated, here’s the premise. The show focuses on the best of frenemies, Serena and Blair, (played by Blake Lively and Leighton Meester respectively). Serena and Blair are two ultra-wealthy Upper East Siders who are still in high school, yet parade around the city drinking at clubs and jet-setting and doing other normal teenage things. Oh, and then there’s the show’s hook: Gossip Girl, the anonymous blogger who shares secrets, lies, and…well…gossip about Serena, Blair, and their circle.
Over the course of its many seasons, the question of Gossip Girl’s identity fades to the background, only to be revealed in the sixth season in an underwhelming and implausible way. This sixth season meltdown is representative of Gossip Girl’s arc; the truth is that for as entertaining and engrossing as the first few seasons are, a number of seasons are truly duds. And yet I watched it all.
Which brings me to the question of motive. Why did I watch all six seasons? Was it some deranged sense of hope? Of optimism that it would get better if I just stuck with it? Or was it masochism, my way of punishing myself for being a couch potato?
I think it has something to do with indulgence: indulging in a show with a highly improbable plot. Indulging in the suspension of disbelief. Indulging in the most decadent wardrobe. Indulging in the memories of being a high schooler watching a show about high schoolers who were uncannily confident and put-together and hanging out on the Met steps like it was their playground. If suffering through a few bad seasons was the price to pay for all that indulgence, I guess I paid it.
As we sit tight and wait for the Senate election results, I think we could all use some indulgence. And if Gossip Girl isn’t your flavor of indulgence, all I can say is that I hope you find your very own Gossip Girl. May we all be so lucky.
For those who thought I was actually going to tell you anything about Gossip Girl, I won’t leave you hanging. After dedicating over 100 of my precious hours on this planet watching this show, I do feel qualified to share a few thoughts about what makes the original Gossip Girl good.
1.) It is essentially a soap opera, and the drama is addictive.
2.) The fashion! The fashion! The fashion! See below.
3.) The music! All the songs that my pen pal burned onto CDs and mailed to me that I thought were super indie and cool were, in fact, just the GG soundtrack, which did and still does slap.
4.) The New York City of it all.
5.) Hilary Duff’s cameo. Love her!
6.) The old Hollywood cold opens.
But, upon rewatch I rediscovered that the show was not all glitter and headbands and Gatsby-themed parties. For example, there’s the inherent classism, elitism, racism, ridiculous beauty standards, and sheer pettiness of the entire plot. Chuck Bass Is Problematic. Armie Hammer’s cameo is icky.
I never claimed it was all good. My only claim was that I watched all of it. Even the reboot. Don’t get me started on the reboot.
And who am I? That’s one secret I’ll never tell. You know you love me.
Watching: Gossip Girl, new and old | Abbott Elementary
Reading: “A best friend is a different kind of home entirely, one that reveals itself to be more miraculous with the passing of time.” —Mira Jacob on her best friend moving away | What Comes After Ambition?” by the brilliant Ann Friedman | Maira Kalman’s inspiring new book, Women Holding Things | “Nope”, a metaphor for the Biden administration | A peek at some gorgeous 8,000 lb. beehive sculptures | A reminder from the archives that we love figs here on planet earth.
Eating: When the weather gets shitty, soup gets all the credit. In a way, I sort of understand. Soup is great. It’s like a warm bath for your stomach. But what about pasta? Why don’t we give pasta a shout-out every now and again?
For team soup, I recommend this green curry lentil soup.
And for team pasta, what’s better than cacio e pepe? Cacio e pepe with mushrooms, which is why I’m endorsing this incredible mushroom pasta with pepper and pecorino situation.
Other projects: I’m helping my friend Christopher Blackwell raise funds to expand the work of Empowerment Avenue, a program that supports incarcerated writers. Please consider donating to his fundraiser here.
And, if you’re interested in supporting this fundraiser but you’re also looking for some art, I’m selling my original paintings (see below for examples). For the months of November and December, all the proceeds of these paintings will support his fundraiser. For more information, feel free to email me!
Recommended Reading To Get You Through the Worst Season: Now that it officially gets dark at approximately 1 PM, it’s time to dust off your SAD lamp and curl up on the couch. Here are a few books to help pass the time.
* My recommendations are mine alone, but if you do purchase the via the links below, I make a small commission via bookshop.org.*
In case you’re asleep and haven’t noticed, the economy is a dumpster fire. So why not self-soothe by reading a novel set during the 2008 financial crisis? Might I suggest Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue.
Set in New York, this captivating novel is the story of Jende Jonga, a man who has emigrated from Cameroon and works as a chauffeur, and Clark Edwards, the Lehman Brothers exec who employs Jende. The novel examines the ripple effect of the financial crisis on lives and livelihoods of both the Jonga and Edwards families.
It’s hard to be a human. Sometimes it can be helpful to read about someone else who is having a hard time out here. For this, I recommend Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason. It’s all the things—funny and tragic and relatable.
If you’re looking for a wild ride of chaos, ethical quandaries, and characters behaving badly on the campus of a liberal arts college, I recommend Vladimir by Julia May Jones.
This novel’s unnamed narrator, a fifty-something professor, enters dangerous territory after her husband (also a professor and department chair) is called on to resign in the wake of major #MeToo accusations. This novel expands the idea that culpability belongs solely to the perpetrator, ultimately asking: what about the enablers, too?
If you’re someone who misses your BFFs who live far, far away and you’re also always thinking about mortality… The Weekend by Charlotte Wood is a perfect read. Dark, humorous, and true to life.