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The Gossip Girl Reboot: How Does It Compare to The Original?

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What is Gossip Girl? Gossip Girl is an anonymous blogger who sensationalized the lives of Manhattan’s Elite, think of it as a Fitzgerald novel but for the modern teenager. Before we had real gossip sites or easy access to the internet on our phones, Gossip Girl, jumped onto a growing movement of social media, or should we say establishing a need for it, and the need for bigger and juicer information, at a time when those things weren’t as readily available.

Gossip Girl became a phenomenon, influencing how we dress, behave, and our own social needs, but how did we get here? And how does the new series compare to our favorite Upper East Siders? Let’s delve into the background of the series and explore the first six episodes in this highly anticipated reboot.

How did the Gossip Girl Phenomenon Start?

So how did Gossip Girl come about? Well, it all comes from the mind of writer Cecily von Ziegesar, who attended the prestigious Nightingale-Bamford School where most of the inspiration for the characters, plots, and locations are taken from. The books, there are 13 in total with two spinoff series, centers around Blair Waldorf and Sarena van der Woodsen who are privileged teenage socialites attending the Constance Billard School for Girls, in the book we read about these young women who must navigate boyfriends, schoolwork and society’s pressures all while being exploited by an anonymous blogger only known as Gossip Girl.

The original book series was published between 2002 – and 2011, in September of 2007 the book would be adapted into a TV show and premiere on the CW network, after being picked up and produced for TV by Josh Schwartz, the man behind The O.C., and Stephanie Savage. The show would last for six seasons and change the way teenagers and young adults would interact with each other, dress, socialize and look at the world at large, with a passionate fan base behind it, it would only be a matter of time before a reboot would be on the horizon.

As an avid fan of the show myself, and September edging ever closer as my yearly re-watch of the show is about to begin, I have seen the show analyzed over the years, with people exploring the characters in-depth as well as what the world was like then. Also, it is always fun to play detective with other fans as you try and work out who Gossip Girl really is. I do hope that with time we will get to explore this reboot with that same passion and even compare the different shows.  

How do the Original and New Teens of the Upper East Side Compare?

Serena Van Der Woodsen is who the show and Gossip Girl blog is about, after returning from a year away at boarding school, she wants to have a more peaceful life, but that’s not possible on the Upper East Side. She is tall and slender, with long blond hair and a manic pixie dream girl vibe that most men lust after, she is the “IT Girl” of Constance Billard School. In comparison, we have Julian Calloway an “IT Girl” in her own right who is an Instagram influencer and whose entire life is controlled by her friends and the person she must portray to the world. In a lot of ways, they are similar but in other ways, they are very different, but both young women are on a journey of discovery. While Serena had Dan Humphrey and Vanessa Abrams who brought out the best in her while showing her the realities of the world outside her UES bubble, while Julian has half-sister Zoya and boyfriend Obie who are obvious avatars for Dan and Vanessa.

In Gossip Girl (2007) Blair Waldorf is the best friend of Sarena, although they have a very on-again off again friendship, they are more like sisters really. Blair is the Queen Bee of the Upper East Side and is determined to stop at nothing to stay in that position. She is short with deep brown eyes that match her hair and has the air of an old Hollywood film star about her. Her Gossip Girl (2021) counterpart seems to be that of Audrey Hope, who is the best friend of Julian and Aki’s girlfriend, she has a very Blair Waldorf vibe about her, but is she different from the former Queen Bee of the UES? We won’t truly know until we get deeper into the series, but the two are physically and stylistically, from the way they speak to their preppy style, similar. Is Audrey’s home life as dysfunctional as Blair’s? only time will tell.

Zoya Lott and Julien Calloway are half-sisters on their mothers’ side and have reconnected after finding one another in the Gossip Girl Reboot. But who is Zoya’s counterpart in the original 2007 series, this is a hard one to figure out, she has that Dan Humphrey vibe of being a writer and our window in but I would say she is more worldly and creative, meaning she leans more towards the character of Vanesa Abrams. Vanessa is the moral compass of the show, being a little more worldly than everyone else, she isn’t from the upper east side and hates anything to do with money and the corruption it causes, but as time goes on, she learns how to play the game, but this world just isn’t for her. She is too sweet for the manipulation that is needed to survive in this world and Zoya seems to have that about her too, they are also both quick to act before thinking when their feelings are hurt.

Dan Humphrey is our window into the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite in the OG series, he is from Brooklyn and attends St.Jude’s on a scholarship but that doesn’t stop him from becoming entangled in the lives of his classmates. As a writer and a fan of the novels of Fitzgerald seems like an almost poetic and unbelievable adventure doesn’t it? In contrast, we have both Zoya and Obie to fill this role in Gossip Girl (2021). Obie whose real name is Otto Bergmann IV has feelings for both sisters and comes from a family that is in property development. Aki, whose real name is Akeno Menzies, is an interesting character too, he is the bi-curious boyfriend of Audrey who is best friends with Obie and Max. 

Obie and Aki deal with many ups and downs while both being drawn to two individuals in their lives when it comes to romance, very much like Nate Archibald who spends most of his time entangled in love triangles. On the subject of Nate, he is presented as a good-looking, athletic, and all together dim-witted young man, but the more you get to know him the more you realize he is so much more. Not your typical jock he has secrets just like everyone else runs into some trouble with the ladies from time to time but has a heart of gold. These three men all are weighed down by the burden of expectation that has been thrust upon them by their families and just like Nate, Obie and Aki will hopefully go on a journey of discovery, finding their voices and carving their own paths in this world that aligns more with their beliefs.

Chuck Bass is a decadent, manipulative, and morally corrupt member of society, using his power, influence, and privilege to get what he wants, be that sex, alcohol, or drugs. He does grow up a lot during the original Gossip Girl series but that doesn’t stop him from being a questionable character and making bad choices. Max Wolfe would be more like Bass had he not grown up in the early 00s and had less supportive parents, the pansexual playboy of the group, who seems to be close with everyone while also being able to do his own thing. 

Jenny Humphry, who is the sister of Dan in the OG series, starts off wanting to be like the Blair Waldorf’s and Serena Van Der Woodsen’s of the world. Jenny goes from a sweet, naïve, and down-to-earth girl to an absolute monster, she is the cautionary tale of what wanting power and influence can do, it can destroy you and everything you hold dear.  There doesn’t seem to be a Jenny Humphrey counterpart in this series yet, but there is always time.

Luna La is best friends with Julian and Monet, acting as J’s stylist and M’s partner in crime while Monet de Haan is Julian’s social media manager, a partner in crime with Luna, and a strong, powerful representation of a young lesbian. Luna seems to have all the hallmarks of Penelope, the right-hand woman to Blair Waldorf. Luna and Penelope are both beautiful and privileged with a cutting sense of humor and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals while climbing to the top of the food chain.

Monet is similar in a lot of ways to Luna but is more vicious, headstrong, and self-sufficient while having a genuine interest in her own self-preservation. All these characteristics directly correlate to the conniving, highly intelligent and drama fuelled individual known as Georgina Sparks. Both keep everyone and the viewer at an arm’s distance away, with you never knowing what they are up to or who they truly are. Monat seems to be being set up as the villain of the piece and if she is anything like Sparks the upper East Siders will need to watch their backs.

So How Does the New Gossip Girl Compare?

Episode One: Visually we start off the same as the original pilot episode, following a train coming into Grand Central Station in Manhattan, focusing on a blonde, and then moving to see all the key players. It feels very bland and clinical while stylistically the visuals are clean and beautiful it doesn’t have the same appeal straight off the bat as the original. 

Compared to the kids in the previous iteration these ones have no regard for authority and seem to run wild. Miss Keller, the woman who was on the train, is one of the teachers at the school. Another one of the teachers went to school with the original cast of the show and explains what Gossip Girl is. The teachers seem to be consuming the posts of Gossip Girl at an alarming rate, shocked by the antics of the original teens, which if anyone has read the books know it was toned down for TV, but also very realistic in a way to how high-school and college was. 

This new group of teens seem cool and edgy, with the main character, who we find out is named Julian, sporting a buzz cut. The cast is not just rich white beautiful people, these teens really reflect the diversity of the Gen-Z generation, while the original was deeply rooted in the uncertainty of millennial life. The main girl has a half-sister, Zoya, who is coming to the school, and there seems to be a point of contention among her friends. As it turns out the two girls had reconnected sometime before the show started and concocted a plan to get together, reuniting in the city that never sleeps post-pandemic. 

In the original series we don’t know who Gossip Girl is but by 10 minutes into the show we know who is running Gossip Girl 2.0, this takes the mystery and intrigue out of the show almost immediately. I want to care about these characters and Gossip Girl really helped with that. This pilot doesn’t have the same impact the original did straight off the bat feeling like a money grab or a grasp at some nostalgia for the generation before and those that enjoyed the original show in the last 14 years. At least something that has remained the same is The Steps of the MET is still the place to hang out as a cool kid at Constance and St Judes. The girls in the group, bar Julian, don’t seem to like Zoya but that brings intrigue and deception making you wonder how this will this all pans out, with the sisters being the most likable characters and wanting to play GG at her own game. 

Zoya is our way in but her sister’s boyfriend, “Obie”, has a very Dan Humphrey vibe to him. Julian knows how to navigate this world; Aki, who has a pink buzz cut, is with the blond, who we later find out is Audrey, who seems to have a thing for Max Wolfe, the Chuck Bass character. The character of Max seems to be fully embracing the side of Chuck that wasn’t explored in the original show, which was in the book, but taking it to a more level allowing for queer stories to be told. 

Julian’s friends are terrible, and it seems like her friend, Monet, wants to destroy her from the inside being the one who seems to hate having Julian’s sister around the most. If the show goes to a second season this could be an angle to explore deeper. Julian and Zoya could be stronger together than apart just like Blair and Serena. By the end of the first episode, Julian has lost her sister and her boyfriend while Zoya is in a weird position with her father and people in school while embracing who she really is. 

Episode Two: It’s parent-teacher conference day and it seems it isn’t the students being judged, it’s the teachers, who are painted in this show as poor innocent bystanders to the terrifying monsters that they are paid to educate. The show is written and produced by people in their 40s and it shows, that this feels like a deconstruction of the Gen-Z teens in their care while these teachers seem more preoccupied with obsessing over these underage people than actually teaching them anything.

Julian’s life seems to be falling apart around her, it might seem minuscule, but to teens losing your boyfriend is bad. Audrey seems to be a little more relatable in this episode, with her mother being absent, who is also a designer and going through a divorce. Yes, she has money, but she also has real problems which could make her as beloved as Blair Waldorf if written correctly. Max is actively pursuing his teacher, which as it turns out isn’t a big deal on the upper east side, plus his other out friends from St Jude’s say he likes to sleep around. The big question is why is this teacher at a teen party?

Zoya and Obie seem to be getting closer as Audrey pushes Aki away and into the arms of pansexual Max. the teens are off to a fundraising event at the school, where drama is bound to ensue, as Julian manipulates Gossip Girl into giving her what she wants, dirt on Zoya and to claim back her place, man and follower count. While Julian’s problems on the surface seem superficial, they aren’t her dad is in recovery from alcoholism while Audrey’s mother seems to be in the grips of it herself. Luna and Monet aren’t very good friends at all, yet again they have shown this through their need to laugh at an obviously painful situation that Audrey and her mother are experiencing.

As the episode come to its conclusion, Audrey and Aki seem to be at a crossroads in their relationship, Max is learning that you can’t always get what you want, Zoya is in trouble with her father but seems to have stolen the heart of Obie while Julian has to deal with the repercussions of her selfish need to be on top at the cost of her true happiness.

Episode Three: While Zoya and Obi get to know each other and their families, Audrey and Aki begin navigating the awkwardness of their relationship, with neither knowing that they have cheated with Max, while our dapper poly king tries to help Julian get her kingdom back. While elsewhere it seems, the teachers involved in the new Gossip Girl account could be running out of time and luck. Luna seems to be jumping ship and intent on making Zoya the new It Girl of the Upper East Side. All of this happens in the space of one night, with Max and Julian discovering that both their dads seem to be dating.

Wolf is cornered the day after the Gossip Girl post by both Audrey and Aki, I can’t wait to see how this all pans out and with Max’s manipulative ways and home life being a big focus of the episode it makes him even more likable than his OG Gossip Girl series counterpart, Chuck Bass, was, to begin with. Max has two dads and they have brought him up to be his most authentic self and explore everything he can be yet what is going on with his parents and why is one trying to dim the other’s sparkle?

It’s really great to see different family dynamics and units shown during this series, as the world has changed a lot since 2007 and the Upper East Side should be no different. We have got to see single mums, single dads, widows, same-gender parents, and divoices. The episode ends with Max going off the deep end, expositing what is really going on between Audrey and Aki while dealing with the breakdown of his parent’s marriage. Obi and Zoya keep exploring their new relationship while Julian and her father make a promise to be more open and honest. While the teachers scapegoat one of their own, getting her fired and saving themselves from being exposed the duo of Luna and Monet intend to create one of the greatest Queen Bee rivalries since Serena and Blair.

Big shout out to the person who curates the music for this episode for including Hayley Williams’ version of Massive Attacks Teardrops.

Episode Four | Fire Walks with Z: It’s finally Zoya’s 15th birthday while Julian is exploring the real her it seems that Luna and Monet have a plan in motion that could destroy everything. We learn in this episode that Zoya doesn’t celebrate her birthday cause bad things always happen on that day, along with the fact her immunocompromised mother died giving birth to her. Max Wolfe has been missing for over a week and shows up out of the blue back at school, looking a mess and high, before propositioning his teacher in the gym shower.

Milo Sparks makes an appearance, being young, smart, and as it seems just as conniving as his mother Georgina, who for those who don’t know, was a huge part of the drama on the Upper East Side in the original series. While Luna and Monet have caused a rift between the two sisters their fathers have other ideas, being completely done with their drama, but that doesn’t stop the two girls from trying to ruin each other. Audrey and Aki spend the whole episode avoiding the big question, is Aki gay? is he exploring? Or is he just more open to the many different colors of the sexual rainbow?

We find out the reason Zoya had to leave her old school and it doesn’t make for comfortable viewing, but it gives Julian the courage to confront her own demons and bad choices in order to become a better person and mend her relationship with her sister. Aki and Audrey need to confront their relationship and the problems that are obvious, they are both attracted to each other but also to Max Wolfe, who in turn must confront his parents and take responsibility for the chaos he has caused. While Z and J end their war, where does that leave Luna and Monet?

Episode Five | Hope Sinks: It is Halloween season, which is my ravigote time of year and something that was barely touched upon in the original series, Max has established a secret relationship with his teacher while things between Zoya and Julian seem great. The same can’t be said for the Audrey, Aki, and Max situation, the couple is putting on a united front, but Max is always in the wings waiting to ruin things, unintentionally of course.

While everything seems so frivolous Audrey learns that her mother plans on moving them to Connecticut and away from her friends, which sets her on a plan to remind her mother why she loves New York. This backfires greatly and we learn that while Audrey has been making herself look beautiful and trying to appear to the outside world that she is this perfect person her reality at home has been that of a career for her mother. Zoya is sitting between two men who are very similar, but as she grows closer to this new guy, she begins pushing Obi away. Aki on the other hand is on a mission to get Max to see how bad his situation with his teacher is and how it can follow you around forever, as it turns out Max isn’t the first senior he has slept with and it didn’t do Dan Humphrey any harm in the long run.

The sudden appearance of icon Billy Porter made me extremely happy, the use of guest stars really reflects what the Gen Z generation is into and cares about.

With their costumes getting leaked and their rivals turning up dressed as Serena and Blair the girls rally and come up with a way to win the war with their rival school, turning themselves into Dan Humphrey and Chuck Bass. While this is all going on more drama ensues and as it turns out Monet was the one to betray Julian and Zoya, setting up a possible new rival. We also get to meet Nellie Yuki who as it turns out is the boss of Zoya’s new friend, who is in fact a researcher at the New Yorker. Zoya’s dad and her teacher seem to be getting ever closer and I really need that relationship to happen.

We end the episode with Max confronting his teacher lover and realizing he needs his friends right now, while Audrey gets a call from the hospital about her mum, allowing the group to rally around her. Just like with the original series, these people may bitch, moan, and backstab each other but at the end of the day, they are a family, a non-judgmental breakfast club.

Episode Six | Parentsite: And here we are, at the end of the first half of the Gossip Girl Reboot, let’s explore the last episode and see what we have learned so far.

While we see the fallout from the last episode, with Audrey by her mother’s bedside, we spend this episode exploring the relationships between the teens and their parental figures. Julian and her father discuss the importance of schooling and having a fallback in case everything falls down around her, while Zoya’s dad seems distracted at breakfast. Max and Aki rally around Audrey, creating a little support system and trying to convince her that coming to school is just as important as caring for her mum. Kate Keller, the woman behind the Gossip Girl Instagram account has come up with a system and is truly beginning to think like all the influencers and website owners that have become successful in the last decade.

Audrey might be one of the most complicated and yet compelling characters on the show, with her need to look after everyone, the sacrifices she has made for friends and family while also having a carer status, this could be very interesting to explore. It’s not like she has excessive money, as her mother has filed for bankruptcy, although she does have access to the best healthcare in the US but the toll this will make on her mentally and physically needs to be looked at. Yes, this show is about the rich and privileged but that doesn’t mean that we can’t explore deeper issues within that, and I feel as if Audrey might be our window in, or at least mine.

Max is also a very interesting and complex individual, being rich, attractive, and pansexual this needs to be explored more in-depth, the parallels to Chuck Bass are striking but we never got to go in-depth into any of what was portrayed in the book. Max is an avatar for many of us who chose to live a different kind of lifestyle, I am not talking about sexual orientation but about his free-spirited nature and need to be unapologetically himself. He has a caring heart and just wants the best for the people he cares about, but right now he is dealing with the fallout of his brief liaison with his teacher, Raff, and moving forward what will this do for them.

Meeting Aki and Obi’s families really explain why they are the kinds of people they are, both very socially conscious people who want to improve the world but at the same time both have an obligation to their families and are extremely repressed and won’t stand up for themselves. For Obi, he won’t stand up for what he believes in or his family knowing full way that they are wrong in how they choose to treat they deem below them, while Aki has a great relationship with his mother his relationship with his father seems only good on the surface. I hope that one day Aki will have the courage to speak his truth and say, yes, I am bi-curious, and I am exploring who I am and who I want to be.

While Julian and Zoya with the loss of their mother at such a young age and being raised by fathers seems to have allowed these strong, confident, and opinionated women to have no filter and own who they truly are, unlike Aki and Obi. I also hope we get to explore who Aki and Obi truly are as they grow and become fully around people, now that they have discovered how their parents truly view them as objects and solutions to big problems, everyone has grown so much in these first six episodes and its amazing to see.  

So, How did the first six episodes feel for a Gossip Girl diehard?

It often takes new shows a while to find their footing and with an already in-built passionate fanbase, the stakes were high for the Gossip Girl Reboot. Admittedly the first episode felt too clinical and clean but as the show goes on, by episode three it feels like tonally it’s found its place and hits the mark. While these characters live on the upper east side and have money it is important to create interesting, well round characters that you can identify with on a personal level, and overall, I think the reboot has done that. I can’t wait for the next half of the season and to see where this goes.

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