As far back as I can remember teenage, high school, melodrama television programming has existed. And whether it be watching reruns of Saved By the Bell, or guiltily watching The O.C. on DVD with kids who live on my hall, it is impossible to watch these shows without noticing the way in which cultures are represented in certain time periods. Watching, Gossip Girl for our class was the first time I had seen the show, but I was taken aback (although I probably shouldn’t have been considering the class) but how much the show was projecting a culture of “millenials” and the way in which technology is infused in their lives. To define them as millenials may be to broad, as the characters in the show do not represent all millenials but rather a sub-category of “teen-mill-enials.” The reason I make this distinction is because I would be remiss to lump early-thirty-year-old computer programmers and bloggers into the same category has the catty high school gossip texters that were depicted in the show. But I digress…
The point I am trying to make is not how to define these characters, but rather what they are depicting on the show. Audiences watch a body of youth who are deeply attached to their mobile devices so as to stay in touch with up-to-the-minute information. As a community they are learning important (at least to them) information together at the same time. While this is a representation of a society and an audience that we live in now where everyone can receive real-time info at any given moment, I still think this is not the most important takeaways from the show.
The first issue illustrated by our screening that I think is significant is the idea of power and the weight of what is posted on the world wide web. In one episode we are witness to gossip being posted online that results in student expulsion, parent uproar, and eventually faculty termination. In this way the episode really gives evidence to the power of the blogger in society. As simple as it is to post something on the internet (in this case it was done via text with no factual evidence given), the ramifications of that information being as public as it is are massive. This represents a time in our culture when there really is a struggle for power amongst many parties including, the press, the authorities, institutions, bloggers, and readers. We are in a transitional period where the rules are changing, and while the situation in Gossip Girl may be kind of insignificant and melodramatic the idea that is behind is much deeper and still unclear.
The second message I took away from the Gossip Girl episodes screened for class is much less subtle. In the season finale we watched, where students try to expose who the Gossip Girl actually is, the episodes ends with Gossip Girl saying something along the lines of “you are all the Gossip Girl because without you this would not exist” (a bad paraphrasing perhaps). This addresses another idea that we have been examining which is the necessity of audience participation and read/write culture. The only reason why wikipedia, or heavily followed blogs, or transmedia practices work is because the community exists to fuel it. Unlike TV programming in previous generations Gossip Girl is addressing this need for audience participation, both in a large sense for our culture and also specifically for itself.