Gossip-we’re all guilty of it-intentionally or not. While in real life, gossiping can be hurtful, let’s face it-it’s also addictively fun. But the characters on my favorite TV show, Gossip Girl, take talking about each other to a whole new level, and I have to admit, I love every second of it. Sure, you may laugh at my obsession with this overdramatic teen show, which airs Monday nights at 8 p.m. on the CW. Yet the characters are portrayed so perfectly as privileged, spoiled New Yorkers, and the dialogue between them is so sharp and witty, that I wish I were a member of their Upper East Side world.
If that’s not enough to convince you to take Gossip Girl seriously, this just might: After reading The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton’s classic novel about New York’s high society in the late 1800s for one of my classes this semester, the parallels between this book and Gossip Girl seem endless.
For starters, one of the main characters on Gossip Girl is Lily, who was married to a millionaire named Bart. And the heroine of The House of Mirth is named Lily Bart-coincidence? I think not. I’m also not the first person to make this discovery. “Serena’s mother is named Lily, and she is engaged to a billionaire named Bart, a sly reference to Lily Bart, the heroine of The House of Mirth, who is socially ruined by, among others, her manipulative BFF Bertha Dorset,” writes Alessandra Stanley in her review of Gossip Girl for The New York Times last May.
Just as Bertha Dorset, that “manipulative BFF” of Lily Bart’s ruins Lily socially, Blair Waldorf (played by Leighton Meester) plots to ruin the reputation of any girl who stands in the way of her “Queen Bee” status-friend or not. Meester is so convincing as the conniving and cunning Blair that I can’t help but root for her. “Do you know how hard it is to get revenge when your enemy is changing every five minutes?” Blair asks in “The Age of Dissonance,” a play on Wharton’s other classic novel about New York’s upper class, The Age of Innocence.
And it just so happens that in this episode, the high school students are putting on a performance of The Age of Innocence.
The characters on Gossip Girl have many more tools at their disposal than did the characters in The House of Mirth, making it even easier for them to ruin reputations. The show is named after a Web site where the characters can post any juicy information-regardless of the validity-about others. Once they make a post, text messages with the information gets sent to everyone.
Take for example, the storyline about a new, young, female teacher who gets a job at Constance Billard, the high school that many of the characters attend. Rachel Carr ruins Blair’s chances of getting into Yale, so Blair takes it upon herself to ruin Carr’s teaching career at Constance Billard.
To Blair, this is war. Except this war, she says, “will be different. I need to wait for my moment, and then I’m going black-ops. Off the radar. No accountability. This war I’m gonna win.”And win she does; Carr loses her job after Blair posts on “Gossip Girl” that the teacher had an affair with a student.
As Lily Bart so smartly proclaims in The House of Mirth, “The truth about any girl is once she’s talked about she’s done for; and the more she explains her case the worse it looks.”
With only a few episodes left this season, I can’t wait to see who Blair’s next victim might be. One thing is for certain-in both Gossip Girl and The House of Mirth, the war for popularity is one only a bad girl can win-and I wouldn’t want it any other way.