Thursday, November 08, 2007

The unbearable anachronism of Gossip Girl

The show makes no sense whatsoever. This much anyone who's seen it can agree with. But why? Gawker has a post on one of the main problems, that the show is shockingly racist, yet within the show this angle is never dealt with at all. Then there is the standard teen-show difficulty of the 'kids' and the 'parents' looking the same age. That, and kids never go to class, do homework, or otherwise exist in the world of actual teenagers, however wealthy. But who wants to experience precalculus in prime-time?

What makes the show odd beyond all else is the would-be engagement between Nate and Blair. Both families are pushing for it, but these are high school students in Manhattan. They are not Hasids or Christian fundamentalists. They do not live in the rural South or Midwest. Their parents, if this were in any way plausible, would be encouraging them to eventually marry someone appropriate, but not before college, networking, internships, and other respectable achievements. In the NYT Weddings pages, the women of this demographic were all "until last month" busy working in PR, as kindergarten teachers, something, before tying the knot with the inevitable i-banker. And the brides are certainly never under 23, let alone 17, and are often well over 30. Anonymous Fellow-GG-Watcher says that this bizarre part of the plot is meant to allow those all over the country to relate to the show. That's certainly part of it. But combined with the non-speaking minorities, what this ultimately adds up to is that the show is meant to be a fantasy version of another era. Whose fantasy is unclear--as is which era--but the show clearly does not take place in 2007. Or does it? Isn't the whole show centered around a blog that the mysterious Gossip Girl is updating via some kind of hand-held device? I, for one, expect more from a prime-time teen soap opera that I half-watch while cooking dinner.


Miss Self-Important said...

I do! I want to watch precalculus in prime-time! I stopped watching GG weeks ago b/c I gave up on the possibility of ever seeing the inside of a classroom.

Phoebe said...

The fate of "My So-Called Life" is a reminder that the public wants to see teenagers (or, more accurately, those portraying teenagers) have sex, do drugs, and prance around, but not under any circumstances attend class. It is a shame.

Kellen said...

Are the upper-crust schools that GG is portraying really that diverse, though? The show's exclusion of minorities is probably the most accurate thing about it.

Phoebe said...

Can't speak for today, but there was diversity of sorts at such schools in the 1990s. I remember there being a great deal of self-segregation in the grades above me, largely because most minority students came in either in 7th or 9th grade through a program called Prep for Prep, which meant that they were on average both smarter and from poorer families than the white kids. It also meant that the class was almost entirely white until 7th grade. In the promotional/fund-raising materials my former school still sends my parents, there is always an effort made to include the few students and alums "of color" in as many photos as possible, preferably standing with their white peers to imply integration that, at least as I recall, did not exist. One year there were literally white and non-white yearbook pictures for one of the classes, and this was the students' doing I believe.

What I'm almost certain was not the case was anything like the GG silent pair. If the minority girls were not talking to the white girls, it was not because they were in silent and obedient awe, but because they had lives of their own, partly outside of the school or "interschool" world.