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How to react to your first episode of Gossip Girl

It all started with Monte Carlo[1].

Well, that's inaccurate, it all started with an accelerated math course in elementary school but to follow the threads back that long would just be boring[2] so we're going with the abbreviated version and it all started with Monte Carlo.

I used to watch a new movie every day which is relatively easy to do between Netflix and OnDemand and, you know, the internet. One of the last movies in this multi-year habit was Monte Carlo, starring Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester and a blonde woman who seemed very replaceable the entire time. The movie is an intense look into the differences between people as stipulated by classes and also there is a scene where they play polo and also Selena Gomez meets up with her true love while casually working at a Romanian charter school. Also Cory Monteith is in the movie and he doesn't sing[3] so that's a plus I guess.

Regardless, I watched the entire movie trying to figure out where I had seen Leighton Meester before. My first guess was Episodes, best known as the show that earned Matt LeBlanc a Golden Globe for playing Matt LeBlanc. However, a quick trip down Wikipedia lane proved that incorrect[4]. I also that it might be Elizabeth Moss but it turns out that Leighton Meester and Elizabeth Moss are two seperate people and only one of them has kissed pre-skinny Jonah Hill.

Then I forgot about it.

Just kidding, then I watched Monte Carlo again because it was on HBO before Real Sex[5] and I like having very confused junk. The second time around I discovered that the film was a clever commentary on a gendered society done through a gender-inverted version of the classic parable, the prince and the pauper and also the replaceable blonde woman is a waitress right in that douchey French guys face and also they could have made a very shocking sequel in which Riley, the carefree Australian goes all Wolf Creek[6] on Leighton Meester.

After this viewing I forgot about it entirely.

Several months later I was at a neighborhood joint I frequent often[7] when Gossip Girl came on. My only knowledge of Leighton Meester up until this point was as the wounded Meg Kelly. A woman driven by academic ambition who learns to accept levity into her life, by way of a very attractive Australian.

In Gossip Girl she plays Blair Waldorf, who is a huge bitch.

Blair is manipulative and just a meanie-pants in general. In specific, in the three episodes of Gossip Girl I saw she blackmailed two people and was really mean to another one and then kissed all the boys and I believe I've discovered the perfect analogy to what watching Gossip Girl was like.

Watching Gossip Girl was like the first time I went to visit my brother[8] in college and we got into a huge street fight with some other guys and then went downtown to a suite and sat around in the hallway passing around bottles of André and then me and this other guy got hungry so we went downstairs and ate Popeye's. Gossip Girl is that chicken. I enjoyed the show a lot at the time, but later when I try to access it again it has turned into shit via entirely normal physical processes.

I have fond memories of watching Gossip Girl, but I'm not sure if that's because I liked the show or because I was watching it with good company and I was in a great mood. That said, watching the show reminded me of something once said by noted cultural critic and current expatriate John Edwin Foster regarding the inevitable proletariat revolution.

J.E. and I were watching It's Complicated[9], a movie where there are literally zero considerations for things like money and whatnot, and J.E. told me that when the proletariat revolts it will be because of It's Complicated. They will rise up banners of fire and counter-oppression and as we look down from the diamond balcony we will have very little soul in our argument and they will justly rend us limb from limb.

Gossip Girl works in substititution for It's Complicated[10].

The entire show could be summed up as #firstworldproblems. In the episode I watched, a character was removed from all his money, a problem he solved not through any great effort. He just fucked a cougar. Then he got called out on it and the explanation “I fucked a cougar because I needed the guapamole” was perfectly sufficent.

Similarly, someone's mom was running a fashion show and the cool kids had to show up in order to make sure it was covered by the press. The cool kids did show up but the models didn't so they had to be the models!

At this point, someone reading this should have bridled as the unfairly one-sided portrayal of Gossip Girl by someone who has admittedly seen a very small amount of the show. “What gives him the right,” you may be asking, “to decry such a show? It's not like they're trying to make a really deep show or anything.”

Touche.

Some people don't know this about me[11], but I've seen every episode of Sex and the City and both movies. While the second movie is not really worth mentioning[12], I love the show. My mother suggested the reason why she likes Sex and the City and not shows like Desperate Housewives or Cougartown is because the show, on a very elementary level, is about friendship. That's what seemed to be missing while I watched Gossip Girl. Blair and Serena have moments of comradery but their relationship is built on mutual antagonism.

The men in Sex and the City are mostly[13] one-dimensional coitus puppets. But the show uses them as plot devices to advance the women. If Berger hadn't broken up with Carrie via post-it-note then we would have never realized how he, an intellectual foil to her, represented all her insecurities in a relationship and her constant desire to find easy happiness over lasting contentment.

When Chuck hits Blair it's shocking, but it's shocking in a way that American Psycho[14] is shocking. There's no emotional fear, just a physical revulsion to the act. Patrick Bateman was created as a satire of east-coast elite, and so his violence is somewhat representative of the arrogance and incosiderateness of an entire class. When Chuck hits Blair it becomes apparent that you are watching either very deeply layered cultural criticism or a soap opera.

This begs a further question: what is wrong with a soap opera?

There is a prevailing theory that stating a genre informs the experience of the viewer on a fundamental level[15]. If you watch Gossip Girl through the lens that the production value would suggest, then ultimately you will be disappointed. The show is not as glitzy as the location scouting would suggest, it is base, and that is not an insult though it may sound like one. It is less than it claims to be, sure, but if we learned anything from the Nolan Batman trilogy[16] it was it's not what you say, but what you do that makes you who you are. Despite Gossip Girl's vehement claims to the contrary, it is just a tabloid you peruse while waiting to check out at the grocery store. You might enjoy it, and there's nothing wrong with that, but you should stay conscious of its deliberate sensationalism which fundamentally undermines any sensationalist aspirations it may have.

A final note:

Metafilmic influence is a crazy thing.

Remember Monte Carlo[17]? That was where I saw Leighton Meester for this first time. Usuaully, when an actor has a definitive role[18] it informs how the audience views them in subsequent roles (or previous roles viewed subsequently). This can also be true for the first role you see an actor in.

Imagine watching Gossip Girl through the lens formed by Monte Carlo. Blair Waldorf becomes an act to appear tough, a protection against something. But what?

Does Riley leave Meg after Monte Carlo ends? Is Blair just a girl who opened up her heart, only to have it Temple of Doom'd, forcing her to act as heartless as possible to avoid being hurt again? Maybe all of her politicking is intentionally self-destructive, as she has seen how the only thing she needed for happiness was an oft-shirtless Australian.

Do you think that Blair ever finds herself sitting by a window in winter? She looks out onto the snow and sees not a blanket but a smothering force. She remembers the beach in Morocco where he told her that the key was not to worry and so she doesn't. She laments. She ponders the consistency of words when their speaker has been proven to be so inconsistent. She might run a finger over her lips, but only if she is sure no one is watching.

Her phone vibrates. Serena wants to get drunk because she can taste Conneticut in her mouth and she wants to drown it out anyway possible.

When they are having sex with their boyfriends, they'll think of each other.

It will not be a sexual thought. It will be the absolute misery that comes from realizing that in all of existence there is only one other person who understands your position, and that's because she is also on her back, legs up in the air and over-priced liquor in her stomach too.

Later that night Blair will turn her head to the side as if to vomit, but nothing will come up. Her stomach has become too fortified against all the poison she ingests.[19]


[1]   I was trying to come up with the name Monte Carlo once and said Montenegro. Very different films, I recommend neither.

[2]   A lot of the time in grades 6-8 would be spent at Yu-Gi-Oh tournaments, a notoriously difficult game to report on.

[3]   I feel very bad for a lot of the actors in Glee because how can any other work be fulfilling after that?

[4]   In my more vain moments I like to imagine that there is a conspiratorial council dictating rapid-fire changes to Wikipedia just to foil the discovery of pleasant coincidinces in my life. Also I was banned from editing Wikipedia so I'm still a little sore about the whole thing.

[5]   There's a really good drinking game where you drink and watch Real Sex and wonder what went wrong to lead you to this point.

[6]   This is a movie I recommend. If more people see it, then they'll get what I mean when I drunkenly threaten to Wolf Creek their ass.

[7]   It's called the Kitten Shack and three Zeta's live there because only the best can wear the crown.

[8]   http://www.youtube.com/user/kamroyal1

[9]   I liked It's Complicated but then I really like Roxanne so maybe I'm just a Steve Martin fan

[10] So does Catcher in the Rye, sorry.

[11] All of you who don't know me shouldn't know this, but some people who do know me also don't know this.

[12] Think Godfather III

[13] Except Aidan. Carrie and Aidan forever.

[14] I only own three DVD's: American Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, and Remember the Titans.

[15] This is why Rian Johnson never told the cast of Brick that they were making a noire film. Genre conventions, etc.

[16] Those movies are worth watching a few times, which is independent of how good/enjoyable they are.

[17] You didn't think I was never going to come back to it?

[18] So for John Lithgow, clearly it's The World According to Garp

[19] The necessary accusation is that in order to write fan-fiction one must, on some level, be a fan.

We want to drunkenly live-tweet a movie, and we want YOUR input!

The Sherman Ave 2012 Presidential Debate Drinking Game: Town Hall Edition