Gossip Girl was portraying celibacy as a form of failure.
If there is one TV series that has marked my teen years, it’s Gossip Girl. As in any teen dramas, there were protagonists whose stories we were following, waiting for the next event that will change the course of their lives. But if Blair and Serena were supposed to be the main characters, from my point of view they actually weren’t. The two real protagonists of this show were the City itself as well as the intertwining of love stories that throughout episodes and seasons, were made, unmade and remade once again.
LOVE STORIES USED AS THE STORYLINE
Overall, the main thing that was to be expected from Gossip Girl was to see the succession of love stories : who is going to end up with who, who is having sex with who. If this is part of every show, it’s particularly present in Gossip Girl. Romance relationships have a predominant place in the writing of this show : they are what rhythms the episodes and ultimately became the very storyline.
The initial plot is the following: Serena is coming back home from Connecticut, which raises questions about why the bitch got away in the first place. But really, Gossip Girl starts with the possibility of a relationship : the one between Dan and Serena (the true purpose of the first scene is to foreshadow their love story to come). Their romance, as well as the one between Blair and Chuck, is used as a guideline through the entire series. What Gossip Girl does really, is recount the ups and downs of their love stories and describe the impact that these have on the characters, influencing their every choices. And when not in a relationship, the characters are seeking one or are, waiting for a new opportunity.
That dynamic actually sums up the entire mood of the show. Some will argue that there are some real plots not love related : about whether or not Blair will manage to get into college or about Jenny launching her own clothing brand. But really, these are just used as a way to cover up their true purpose : the romantic relationships that surround these so-called plots. For instance, Jenny’s clothing line is also the story of how she finally got to kiss Nate during her fashion show - it’s not her own story, but more the story of how taking a risk for her own success allowed her to reach such a desirable boy.
CHARACTERS WITH WELL DEFINED ROLES
In these love equations, each character has a defined role in the establishment of romantic relationships.
Serena and Nate are vectors, for their only purpose is to accumulate love stories - which at times can also serve as a way to introduce new characters and plots. These two characters only exist with someone and are always portrayed as the ultimate goal in term of girlfriend/boyfriend. That’s mainly through them that the relationships are created, and they are the ones with the bigger number of partners - hence their scenaristic importance in a show that sells romance as a the main source of entertainment.
On their end, Dan and Blair are receivers : they are waiting for love to happen for them. And although the show wants to make us think that they learnt to put themselves first, that’s actually not 100% true : they only manage to reach true happiness after they’ve gotten together with their “soulmate”. Indeed, at the end of the show Blair gets with Chuck after she’s done working on herself and Dan finally ends up with Serena after he’s published his book - and only then, they’re portrayed as fully happy, as if before something was missing.
Regarding Jenny and Vanessa, they are activators. When one of them gets with someone, it’s never meant to last. They are only here to emphasize how much some characters are meant to be together. For instance, Jenny has sex with Chuck but that only makes him want Blair more. On her end Vanessa dates Dan but turns out she was just a rebound for Serena. However, Jenny and Vanessa’s romantic stories are not addressed at the end : their role was to be the “in between” girls, nothing more.
BEING ALONE AS A CATALYSER FOR DOWNFALL
In Gossip Girl most of the time, love - or more precisely, the absence of love - acts as a catalyser for downfall.
Let’s take Blair for instance: one of the hardest times for her happened during season 2 : she got rejected from Yale - or every good university for that matter - and she came to the point where she was actually begging to get into some random community college. Was that the result of the mistakes she’d made by bullying a teacher and telling many lies ? Yes, and no. The mess in her life started with Nate dumping her because he found out that she’d had sex with Chuck. For the first time in her life she was single and that’s this very fact that lead her to losing everything.
Same thing for Serena who, although she was planning on choosing between Dan and Nate after her holidays in Paris, she came back to find that the two of them already had a girlfriend. Truth be told, she deserved this but what’s problematic is that it’s through her being alone that the show finally chose to portray her for what she’d been all along : a selfish and self centered b*tch. Which could have been done before at many occasions, but no : they had to wait until no boy wanted her anymore to highlight the flaws that were previously justified by her attractiveness.
Something else we can note is how dichotomous the way the show portrays the characters based on their relationship status is. Have you noticed how all the evil actions are made by single characters? Jenny, Vanessa, Juliette (during the Serena gate in season 4), Georgina (all along the show), Eric (as soon as Jonathan dumps him), the list is quite long. However the message is clear: their celibacy was one of the reasons explaining the instability and unhappiness that made them act the way they did. On the contrary, couples always came across as content, fulfilled and mentally sain (until the next breakup).
.. AND LOVE AS THE HIGHWAY TO SALVATION
Curiously, we keep forgetting that beside being an 18 years old millionaire, Chuck Bass is also a sex offender (just saying). He tried to rape Serena, then Jenny and possibly a great number of girls. He is an awful person and yet, Blair seems to find a beauty in him and everyone still talks to him as if his past actions didn’t matter. And guess what’s the reason for that? Love. The love that Blair shares with Chuck changed him (apparently) and turned him into a decent, mentally stable person. However, as soon as Blair rejects him, he manages to have sex with an underage girl and to get shot in dark alleys of Budapest within a few hours. Wow. So if we believe what Gossip Girl is trying to tell us, love is the only thing keeping the man from being a reckless rapist.
Juliette (along with Georgina) is one of the biggest sociopath of the show : but as soon as she falls in love with Nate, she decides to let go of her machiavelic plans to bring Serena down.
Same thing for Blair after her breakdown following her college rejection : it’s because of the attention that Nate gives her that she manages to get a grip and become her old, focused self again. Pretty annoying and simplistic for such a strong character like Blair.
In many ways, Gossip Girl is an echo to our societies that have always created a strong link between happiness and romance. Obviously, romance is part of happiness but does it mean it is required in order to be happy? I don’t think so Sir. Whether it’s through how the characters behave or the way the show portrays them according to their relationship status, overall it fits with the idea that being single is something to be sorry about. Though it was good entertainment, is that an ideology that is healthy for young people?
by Jessica Ayinda