Due to some pretty extreme busyness, I sort of fell off the horse with our class blogging and reading at the beginning of last week, so now I’m trying to play catch-up. I really wish I had done the reading about Gossip Girl before doing my response to the screening, specifically the NY Magazine article, because it probes a lot of the issues I ended up talking about, and I think I could’ve gone deeper if I had had that stuff as a groundwork. In any case, I loved the NYMag article and it told me a lot of things about GG that I simply was not aware of. That article is going to be the main thing I focus on here.
Some of my favorite writing about pop culture is the stuff that really brings out its inherent contradictions — in its production, its presentation, and in writing about it. This article did that really well. Here’s some of them:
1) The way shows can really seem “made for” its fans, like, as if the producers had some real respect for them, and still be so blatantly trying to pull the money out of their pockets. We’ve talked about this uneasy relationship between producers and fans a lot this semester, and GG seems like the perfect embodiment of this. People love that they get to consume this show yet it is so obviously marketed in so many ways. In the article about CW’s moves towards mobile technology, one of the bigwigs said “We’re not afraid to talk to them like they talk to each other, we understand their lingo,” which demarcates a clear “us” and “them”, and indicates that the producers must feel they must penetrate into the zeitgeist of a demographic in order to market most effectively to them, and they do so shamelessly.
2) The strangely lovable quality these characters have (onscreen and off) despite their obvious immaturity and the fact that their lifestyle is somewhat detestable (onscreen and off). I had NO idea just how huge and successful this show was, and how friggin famous its stars are. (The people I discuss television with and the places I read about it on the internet lead me to believe in an imaginary media landscape in which, say, Breaking Bad is one of the biggest TV success stories of the past five years. Not so.) Unless these two writers are just over-mythologizing the lives of these actors and actresses (quite possible), GG is one of the biggest series in pop culture right now and the crazy, postmodern, contradictory lives that its stars are living are weirdly fascinating.
3) This one definitely hits home with almost everything we’ve discussed in this course throughout the semester: the mixture of fannish obsession and critical, journalistic intellectualism that this article’s authors write with. They throw in a number of breathless, “OMG” moments with what is most an article written with great astuteness and discretion. (Surely you must meet stars all the time working for New York Magazine! Could they really be so starstruck as they make themselves out to be here, or is it part exaggeration for the sake of sarcastic self-deprecation?) “I thought this was New York Magazine. I thought you were supposed to be classy,” says one of the stars. But perhaps it’s just impossible (not to mention a bit wet rag-ish) to complete ignore all the pulpy, fame-and-wealth stuff when talking about a show that is so completely centered on the same.
Most of all, the article really brings out one of the central (and one of my favorite) mysteries of pop culture, regarding how we can never know how much public image is being shaped and constructed — especially when it mentions the fact that GG’s creator could sort of be a real life Gossip Girl, planting information about the stars in the tabloids, making life imitate art. But of course he would never admit to it, so we can never know. This goes back to what I loved about the Louise Brooks article, and it’s why we should never completely forsake a focus on the artists themselves and just study their art — because the two can never really be separated, and studying the way they blend can be really fun.