Nine years ago, Serena van der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf graced television screens for the very last time, and the identity of the ever-mysterious Gossip Girl was revealed. Yet, the demise of the infamous blogger has not marked the end of drama for private school students on the Upper East Side.
A reboot of the iconic teen drama, “Gossip Girl” has made its way to HBO Max, bridging the glamour of the original series with a refreshing sense of self-awareness that elevates and refines aspects of the original show. Though “Gossip Girl” is not able to capture the same lighthearted humor and complex dynamics, it certainly replicates the original’s endearing nature by utilizing a modern lens to expose the gossip about Manhattan’s elite.
Named after its predecessor, “Gossip Girl” follows a new generation of private school students in Manhattan who are entangled in drama, placing tension on their cleverly crafted social media images. Though the Gossip Girl blog has been untouched for years, the return of the malicious blogger troubles students whose secrets are meticulously exposed online.
With a setting that takes place after the COVID-19 pandemic, “Gossip Girl” utilizes modernity to propel and define its narrative. Instagram, Twitter and iMessage dominate the lives of Julien (Jordan Alexander) and her group of friends, who deliberately curate their social media accounts to flaunt their privileged, elite lifestyles to their respective audiences. This exploration of influencer status certainly elevates the complexity of the new “Gossip Girl”; the juxtaposition between one’s public persona online and private life offline exemplifies the relevance of the series in 2021.
Pop culture references bombard the series’s new dialogue, making it almost impossible to complete an episode without a character awkwardly using social media terms in every conversation. While these moments sometimes serve to humorously depict the time in which the series takes place, they certainly diminish the value of the series’s writing by rejecting timelessness and relying on viewers’ fluency in social media trends.
Though the series revolves around social media, the first four episodes of “Gossip Girl” succeed in introducing characters who are not strictly defined by their wealth. Julien and Zoya (Whitney Peak) maintain a tricky dynamic given their family history, one of the more interesting and complex elements of the series. Julien dominates the Constance Billard School for Girls while Zoya begins her first day on a scholarship, immediately putting the two at odds. Although the show’s attempt to recreate frenemy dynamics similar to those from the original series can be initially frustrating, Julien and Zoya’s relationship becomes consistently more intriguing episode by episode, as more secrets are revealed about the two through the show’s titular character, the Gossip Girl.
Kristen Bell’s return as the voice of Gossip Girl is undoubtedly the most exciting aspect of the new reboot; hearing the phrase “XOXO Gossip Girl” will never get old. However, the show’s emphasis on adult involvement with teenage drama is, by far, one of its greatest failures. “Gossip Girl” emphasizes the dynamics between the teachers at the private schools on the Upper East Side as they engage with the drama of their own students by reviving the Gossip Girl account. The reboot succeeds in correcting the mistakes of the original show by revealing who Gossip Girl is in the first episode rather than prolonging the reveal, granting audiences insight into the strategic process behind creating Gossip Girl’s posts. A behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the show’s antagonist is certainly a compelling and suspenseful component to the reboot, but the problematic, unlikeable teachers behind the account prevent it from serving as one of the show’s biggest strengths.
Considering how large of a phenomenon the original “Gossip Girl” is, the new series has done its best to continuously embrace its lavishness and grandiose drama. There may be no Serena and Blair (as of yet), but the extravagant parties, luxurious fashion and shocking plot points within the new “Gossip Girl” are sure to maintain viewers’ interests and keep them on their toes for Gossip Girl’s next post.