Muhammad Asad Ullah
While some derides the pop culture, it won’t be erroneous to say – we wouldn’t be who we are today, without deriving an inspiration from it, one way or another. From a television show, to a movie, book, or a cultural phenomenon that has taken over the face of stereotype over the years, there have been episodes that have inspired us profoundly.
“Hey there, Upper East Siders. Gossip Girl here. And I have the biggest news ever.”
The first words spoken on television series, Gossip Girl, were by the mysterious Gossip Girl,
voiced by Kristen Bell, star of Veronica Mars, back in 2007 when the pilot episode aired; these three sentences sparked a massive following of an entire generation of digital age kids. The show’s narrative is told through the eyes of the eponymous, always anonymous ‘Gossip Girl’ – a blogger in the midst of its well-heeled characters, who relays the what-they’re-wearing, who-they’ve-been-dating details about their lives with an eyebrow arched as high as ours.
The series lasted six seasons before coming to an end in 2012, and since then, largely thanks to Netflix having the program available to stream, new generations have been able to bask in the secret lives of Manhattan’s elite. Although when it first stormed the screens, the social media landscape was utterly different from what it is today; 2007 was still a time when people worldwide were adapting to Facebook and Twitter was still in its beginning and Instagram didn’t even exist, let alone the hoopla of selfies, gifs, memes and Whatsapp that would later come tumbling out of Pandora’s proverbial box.
The teenage drama set in New York’s exclusive Upper East Side became the hottest thing in showbusiness and cult; and changed the way the world watched television. A more than a decade ago, the show left an entire generation of youth permanently obsessed with the old money elite living, playing and raving up in Manhattan.
The cult phenomenon, which ran for six seasons between 2007 and 2012, was based on the best-selling books of the same name by Cecily von Ziegesar. It made stars out of newcomers Blake Lively, playing uptown blonde Serena van der Woodsen; Leighton Meester, Blair Waldorf; Chace Crawford, Nate Archibald; and Ed Westwick, Chuck Bass; as members of a wealthy clique of New York teenagers from the Upper East Side. Joined by the Brooklyn-residing scholarship student Dan Humphrey, played by Penn Badgley, who was the ultimate outsider, striving hard as ever but subtly to be the insider of Manhattan’s elite. The group’s every waking moment was broadcast to their peers by Gossip Girl, an anonymous blogger whose posts revealed many of the gang’s deepest, darkest secrets.
Gossip Girl’s identity was kept a mystery till the last episode when Dan – the perpetual outsider often referred to as ‘Lonely Boy’ – was revealed as the eponymous blogger – to mass hullabaloo.
With its realistic portrayal of the ups and downs of female friendships, accurate enough representations of family struggles, and loads of characters with a willingness to do everything to get what they want, Gossip Girl enormously affected those who watched the show, sometimes in a good way and sometimes just ridiculously bad.
Whether it was Chuck leaving his mark on the Manhattan skyline, Dan publishing a novel while he was a student at NYU, or Blair creating a new junior line for her mother’s fashion company, we always found the characters’ passion for what they loved contagious. Of course, the characters’ passions also included the harassment of fellow students, multiple up-town parties, glamorous tiaras and total slanderous scheming, but the show allowed to live vicariously through the characters and their outlandish adventures. It allowed the entry into the most vulnerable and relatable time of these characters’ lives—the end of high school and the beginning of college, adulthood, and everything else.
Fashion and film have been inextricably linked for the past century, with designers drawing inspiration from the silver screen and auteurs going to great lengths to secure the perfect costumes for their characters. Would Blair Waldorf have become a sensation without Valentino and Givenchy’s sophisticated designs? And what would the blonde Serena be without Balenciaga or Harry Winston?
From the moment Serena stepped into the frame in a natty brown jacket, with bags in hand at Grand Central NY, GG had us totally buggin’. Although the lavish lives of Serena, Nate, Blair, Chuck and even poor (literally) Dan and Jenny were too glamorous and scandalised to be true, loads of us were still hooked. And once you got past the Chanel bags and private jets, the characters were actually kind of relatable; relatable in the sense that even the rich have problems too. We all can recall ourselves behaving in a similar way or struggling with a similar battle at some point in our lives which allowed us to sympathise with the characters. Despite all their flaws we still rooted for them. Gossip Girl had many protagonists that all had their own timelines.
I’m back, Xoxo
We are living in the age of the reboot, with shows like Charmed and Will & Grace finding their way back to television. And while some of these reboots and revivals flop, others excel, combining nostalgia from when they first aired with relevance to today’s culture. But not all shows that were popular in the past are able to be reflective of the time we currently live in. We had seen this moment coming for quite some time now: the reboot of Gossip Girl. It has been officially announced recently, that show will be making a comeback. The fans like myself, were rooting for it – but it all depends whether it will hit the right relatable chord or not.
Xoxo! The high heels of Constance Billard School Manhattan, from where the Gossip Girl started, seems to tip off again! It seems that those phantoms halls, prowled by the likes of Serena van der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf, will once again halo the tolls of horrid pretentious laugher, the whispers of scandalous secrets. An updated reboot of Gossip Girl, is reportedly forthcoming from HBO Max!
Can lightning strike twice? How much fun can we expect to have? Will it feature the original Blair and Serena, because we’re obsessed with them, And perhaps most importantly, what will the cast wear this time? Because we certainly remember what the original characters wore – giving major glitzy goals. In order to reboot Gossip Girl for today’s viewers, so much would have to be altered and changed. Is that possible? Maybe.
In the first series, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump once had cameos on the show, who would be making this time. Would someone even agree – knowing the reach of the show and media now? But apart from that, the biggest question remains – will original cast members return on the screen?
Helmed by original executive producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, and one-time showrunner Josh Safran, the reboot will focus on a new generation of high-school students who are ‘introduced to the social surveillance of Gossip Girl’ when the old site is mysteriously restored.
The new series promises to address how social media has changed in the intervening years, but surely social media is what killed Gossip Girl in the first place? By the time the show ended, the idea of one blogger had ceased to be a concept. The power had already been redistributed to the masses, who were taking to their laptops to post anonymously on public platforms and share every aspect of their lives themselves. Gossip Girl, which practically predicted the rise of the internet troll, can no longer claim to be “your one and only source to the scandalous lives of the Manhattan elite”.
“We’ve reached out to all of them (original cast members) to let them know it was happening, and we’d love for them to be involved if they want to be involved, but certainly didn’t want to make it contingent upon (them being involved),” said Josh Schwartz, Executive Producer of Gossip Girl, in a statement.
“They played these characters for six years, and if they felt like they were good with that, we want to respect that, but obviously...it would be great to see them again,” he added.
According to Variety, the series will address “just how much social media — and the landscape of New York itself — has changed in the intervening years.”
Schwartz went on to explain how Gossip Girl — as a character — would change as well, “So we thought there was something really interesting about the idea that we are all Gossip Girl now, in our own way; that we are all purveyors of our own social media surveillance state and how that has evolved, and how that has mutated and morphed, and telling that through a new generation of Upper East Side high school kids. We felt that a version with our cast grown up, regardless of what the challenges would be of assembling those actors again...it didn’t really feel like a group of adults that would be patrolled by Gossip Girl would make a lot of sense.”
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