Guess What? Gossip Girl Does Not Hold Up

Welcome to The Hold Up, a new podcast/column about the pop culture you used to love. Each week, we’ll discuss a piece of pop culture from the past. From Quicksilver jeans to Dawson’s Creek, the things you loved from yesteryear are fair game. After a fulsome (and hopefully funny) feminist discussion, we’ll provide the definitive verdict about how well it’s aged.

For our inaugural episode, we’re heading to the Upper East Side to catch up with all our favorite preppies. That’s right, we’re tackling Gossip Girl! Xoxo…


Arguments In Favor:

The Cast (Mostly):

Most of the cast have become, if not acclaimed actors, working ones. For his part, Penn Badgley has evolved into something of a feminist pinup boy, thanks to his work on the Netflix sensation You. On You, the former Dan Humphrey basically plays a (slightly) more psychotic version of Dan Humphrey, who stalks women until they agree to date him. Sometimes, he murders them. For her part, Blake Lively is a fashion Goddess. She also has a million babies with Ryan Reynolds and does campaigns for Chanel. The Goddess Leighton Meester has the lead role on Single Parents, a sitcom from the creator of New Girl. As if to prove God exists, she also married Adam Brody from The OC. That’s right! Blair Waldorf married Seth Cohen! Love is real, y’all!

On the flipside, Ed Westwick is probably a serial rapist, so that’s soul-crushing. But otherwise, the casting was solid.


Arguments Against:

The Clothes

It might surprise you the clothes on Gossip Girl have not held up. After all, this CW show was heralded as the most fashion-centric series since Sex and The City. And while the Valentino gowns are gorgeous, the idea of teens dressing like they’re attending The Met Ball when they’re actually attending a school dance makes you want to #eattherich the way Marie Antoinette ate cake. Conspicuous consumption is so 2007! In 2020, truly stylish folks know sustainability is key. That means wearing the same outfit more than once. Nor do they over-accessorize each look with a pair of decorative gloves and tiara-like headbands.


All The Rape-y Stuff

Apparently, rape is acceptable in the Gossip Girl universe. That’s the message we gleaned from our GG re-screen. Sure, the show debuted a decade before #MeToo went mainstream, but we’re pretty sure sexual assault was still illegal in 2007. And yet. Chuck Bass assaults Jenny Humphrey in the freaking pilot. To make things even more upsetting, Chuck’s somehow transformed into Blair’s dreamy One True Pairing a few episodes later. The f-ck? What kind of message does this send to the teens the show is designed to entertain? That rape is romantic? Pass!


The Casual Racism

The show bothers to develop precisely one BIPOC character, Vanessa. And even Vanessa gets unceremoniously written off a few seasons into the show’s run! Gossip Girl is a White Person Party from start to finish. To compound the show’s racism problem, Blair Waldorf bullies one of the few women of color she knows, Nelly Yuki. Anyone remember when Blair tried to sabotage Nelly’s SAT scores in Season One? Yes, this is a plot that actually made it to air, and I think it was supposed to be funny! Ew, ew, ew!


The Verdict:

Gossip Girl has aged about as well as low-rise jeans. Ironically, the people this teen show is most inappropriate are actual teens. This series teaches children to be racist rapists. We recommend rewatching it alone in secret shame while hiding under your duvet.

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Sarah Sahagian

Sarah Sahagian

Sarah Sahagian is a feminist writer based in Toronto. Her byline has appeared in such publications as Elle Canada, Flare, Bitch Media, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. She is also the co-host of You Do You: A Dating Podcast. Sarah holds a master’s degree in Gender Studies from The London School of Economics. You can find her on Twitter, where she posts about politics and live-tweets The Bachelor