TV: Gossip Girl—“Hell Hath No Fury Like a Lonely Boy Scorned”*.

dan humphrey gossip girl

It’s been a year and a half since Dan Humphrey was revealed as the titular character of Gossip Girl, a show that began as a poignant guilty pleasure but that culminated in convoluted trash. I recently went back and rewatched the show’s six seasons in an effort to dissect the clues as to who Gossip Girl was all along.

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The Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz-produced effort based on the book series of the same name by Cecily von Ziegesar debuted just prior to the financial crisis of ’08. Fancying itself a commentary on the decadence and debauchery of “Manhattan’s elite”, the show may be narrated by a Kristen Bell-voiced bitchy blogger behind a computer screen (or, more likely, a smart phone), but it is told through the eyes of Brooklyn social pariah, Dan Humphrey.  In his stop-at-nothing quest to get “inside” the society scene of the Upper East Side, Dan becomes the exact thing he despised. Let me count the ways…

In season one Serena Van der Woodsen is a wide-eyed ingénue back from boarding school who wants to “take a year off… to teach English in South Asia” and Dan is her sensitive but invisible admirer. “Lonely Boy”, he is not so affectionately known as. Season one establishes Dan as the “ultimate insider”, embodying “a likable everyman” whose “pursuit of his dream girl begins his descent into the bowels of hell.” His family often comments on how judgmental Dan can be, and he makes Serena feel like shit in “Roman Holiday” when she eagerly buys him a watch for Christmas, which he asks her to return due to its conspicuity. By the same token, Serena effectively emasculates** Dan when she pays the cheque at a fancy restaurant on their first date and constantly ditches him for someone or something more important, like Blair’s crises or a society shindig.

While it’s been suggested that the writers only started plotting the big reveal of Dan-as-Gossip Girl in the final season when it was evident it would be the shows last, keen-eyed and -eared viewers can unearth some early scenes where Lonely Boy as the undercover chronicler of “the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite” seems plain as day. For example, in season two’s “Gone With the Will”, Gossip Girl describes Dan as “brown-bagging it for lunch”, a reference to the receptacle in which he brings his tuna sandwich to school that day. However, as the footage clearly shows, the only people who saw Dan’s brown paper bag were Dan, Serena and Blair. Of course, Serena has her dalliance as Gossip Girl in season five, but combined with the fact that Dan “loses” his phone the very same day that a GG blast*** is sent about Dan and Serena’s shared sibling—about which only Dan, his father Rufus and Serena’s mother Lily know—the evidence mounts in favour of Dan-as-Gossip Girl. Furthermore, in season five, it is revealed that Dan “sent” a video to GG of Blair telling Chuck she still loves him on her wedding day to Louis. What becomes apparent is that he didn’t so much send the video file to Gossip Girl as he uploaded it directly to the site that he is webmaster of, Gossip Girl.

In the season two finale, “The Goodbye Gossip Girl”, when Dan, Serena et al. graduate high school, Gossip Girl has a graduation ceremony of sorts of her own, and crowns Dan “the ultimate insider”, as we come to know him throughout the show’s trajectory. Gossip Girl has always been famed for only writing about high school, specifically Constance Billard and St. Judes, the girls and boys schools the GG cast attend respectively. But, it’s only fitting that if GG is a student at one of those schools that she follows in their footsteps to college, right? Serena, for one, was so happy not to have her digital nemesis tarnish her foray into tertiary education, but no such luck: Gossip Girl now covers college.

As Gossip Girl graduates from high school and into the more grown up university scene, so does Dan, who moves on from Serena to date movie star Olivia Burke, played by Hilary Duff. This is mirrored by GG’s growing penchant for chronicling celebrities and events outside of her previous jurisdiction. This will later be exemplified by Dan’s book, Inside, and his Dominick Dunne-esque society serial in Vanity Fair.

Speaking of, Dan’s fictionalised memoir (which Dunne was also oh-so-fond of) is about his quest to get “inside” “the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite” but its publication in “Memoirs of an Invisible Dan” ends up ostracising him from his friendship (I use that term loosely) group. Serena is upset that she’s painted as a vapid socialite to whom everything comes easy, while Nate expresses disdain that Dan sees him as half a person, so much so that his character is amalgamated with Eric’s. While Dan may have offended pretty much everyone close—and not so close—to him, he makes sure to emphasise his own character’s status as “a judgmental dick who can’t even look at himself in the mirror. My character comes off the worst of all of them.”

As Serena find out in season five’s “Raiders of the Lost Art” during her foray into gossip serialising, getting “inside” actually cuts you off from the rest of the world and makes you post hateful things about your friends and family in an effort to stay relevant and get the most hits. Serena, like Dan, becomes drunk with power. After all, “the more readers I have, the more power I have,” he opines in the final seasons’ “Dirty Rotten Scandals”.

By the series’ end, Dan has become just as bad as the conniving and scheming Blair and Chuck and their cohort. As Gossip Girl, Dan is implicated in the car accident that put Chuck in a coma and induced Blair’s miscarriage, Jenny’s banishment from New York and the general unhappiness of his “friends” and family, yet the gang still welcomes Dan back into the fold, and Serena even ends up marrying him! Why are they so quick to forgive him? Because just as Chuck raped Blair and Jenny, prostituted Blair out to his uncle in exchange for real estate and exposed her to intimate partner violence; Blair had an affair with Chuck’s uncle, sabotaged Serena’s college application to Yale and her catwalk debut, and ran Jenny and Georgina, amongst others, out of town; the supposed moral compass of Gossip Girl, Vanessa, and good girl gone bad Jenny help Juliet drug and abduct Serena in one of the series’ best story arcs in season four; Lily framed an innocent man for statutory rape in order to protect Serena’s image and didn’t tell her one true love Rufus about their baby she gave up for adoption way back when; not to mention the myriad transgressions I haven’t listed here, “you and all your other friends would gave done the exact same thing”. They forgave each other for their seemingly weekly betrayals, so what’s one more?

Related: Is Serena Our Generation’s Dominick Dunne?

The Problem with Serena van der Woodsen.

Elsewhere: [Remind Me of The] Gossip Girl, Jenny Humphrey & Rape Culture.

*Blanket spoiler alert.

**I don’t really believe in emasculation, ideologically speaking. If anything, society drums into us that men have to behave a certain way—in Dan’s case, providing for Serena—and when someone or something challenges that, it’s easy to cry “emasculation” without really examining the root of that notion.

***Another term for a Gossip Girl “post” or “status”. Which begs the question: if everyone hates GG so much and wants her taken down, why do they subscribe to her notifications?

Image via Wet Paint.

TV: Gossip Girl Returns to Form as it Takes Inspiration from its First Season.

Finally, Gossip Girl is slowly but surely returning to its so-bad-its-good dramatic roots, taking inspiration from its first season as the show did in its fifth season finale: Blair struggling to stay on top, Rufus and Lily at loggerheads, and Dan and Serena rekindling their flame on a Vespa!

Nelly Yuki is finally getting the last laugh against her high school nemesis Blair who, try as she might, can’t seem to find a way to revive her mother’s struggling clothing line. Eleanor Waldorf returns to make sense of the mess Blair has left, what with Sage Spence’s penchant for stripping off Blair’s designs, and shames her daughter for being a sexual deviant. While I’m not a fan of the slut-shaming, Eleanor makes a good point when brings up that the plotting and scheming that we all know and love Blair for is so high school, and urges Blair to embrace her “Grace Kelly side”, not her “Grace Jones side” in order to save Waldorf designs.

Enter Nelly, who is now a Women’s Wear Daily reporter, much to Blair’s chagrin. Reverting to their high school selves, Nelly finds Blair contemplating her navel on the Met steps, a location GG die hards will know from the early days of the show that Blair and her minions frequented. When Nelly insinuates that Blair—wearing a headband to boot—is essentially still stuck in high school, she has an epiphany: Blair needs to embrace her striking-fear-in-the-hearts-of-teens attitude in order to be a tastemaker for the 12-25 set of young fashionistas. Ahh, the Met steps: inspiring people everywhere.

Just like in the inaugural episode of the show, Lily and Rufus are fighting in an art gallery. Rufus’ gallery opening is all set, but when Ivy checks the RSVPs, it turns out everyone’s going to a charity art benefit that Lily’s hosting. Ivy, using CeCe’s money gifted to her by Lola, buys all of Lily’s art and replaces it with the artwork from Rufus’ gallery. Meanwhile, Chuck is trying to prevent the sale of one of the works Lily has donated as he thinks Bart has hidden evidence of his illegal oil dealings in it. He has, but Ivy buys the painting off Lily and intercepts Bart’s documents before Chuck can get a hold of them. Phew! Got that?

Finally, it seems the love between former step-siblings Dan and Serena has reignited, after Serena offers to take Dan apartment hunting. Conveniently, Dan has bought a Vespa after his summer in Italy, and, his and Serena’s first date five long years ago. From the photos leaked from the set of the final episode (wedding!), it looks like this time around their relationship is for keeps…

Related: Gossip Girl Season 5 Finale—What Goes Around Comes Around…

Alexa Chung, It Girls & Gossip Girl.

Images via Sockshare, Hello Giggles, Gossip Girl Screencaps, Internet Movie Cars Database.

TV: Gossip Girl Becomes Even More Irrelevant in Its Final Season.

Gossip Girl premiered its sixth and final season in the States two weeks ago and it’s being fast-tracked to Fox8 in Australia like so many U.S. shows are these days (I can’t keep up!). While its finale is a long time coming and I’ll always be nostalgic for the good old days of GG (seasons one and four were probably my favourites), I think Gossip Girl has finally lost the plot.

Last season’s finale seemed to juxtapose where all the characters started out with where they might end up, and fans held out hope that the show would return to its soapie-scandalous roots with Dan wreacking revenge on the Upper East Side, Serena being the lost cause that inevitably rears its head at least once per year, and Blair and Chuck teaming up to drag everyone down with them, namely the traitorous Bart and Lily.

Two episodes in and the season’s not starting off as strong as it could have, and Dan’s struggling to avenge the wrongs he feels he’s been handed by his socialite set of former friends and lovers. Partner-in-crime Georgina spent last week’s episode arranging meetings with all the major New York publications—New York, The Nation, Vanity Fair et al—but Dan instead opts to publish his exposé in serial form in Nate’s Spectator, a fledgling newspaper that’s struggling after Nate let the “who is Gossip Girl” scoop go in exchange for finding Serena.

Seriously?! I mean, despite the fact that The Spectator is a new newspaper in a sea of old-media extinctions run by a presumably not-even-21-year-old that relies on unmasking a high school blogger to sell copies, channelling Dominic Dunne, who rose to fame with his Vanity Fair pieces on crime and justice for the rich and famous in the ’80s, Dan is barking up the wrong tree in trying to get “the memoir he should have written” serialised in a magazine, only highlights the show’s irrelevance.

Georgina opines that once they can get a magazine to bite, in will roll the money, fame and movie rights. Um, hello, blogs are where it’s at these days. Look at all the Tumblrs and Twitter accounts that now have books, TV shows and movies based on them: Suri’s Burn Book, Fuck! I’m in my 20s, Shit My Dad Says, The Social Network, Stuff White People Like, The Sartorialist… I could go on forever. We know Dan did the whole book-to-movie deal, Rufus crapped on about “creating a groundswell” by word-of-mouth, and Serena tried her hand at blogging last season, but if Gossip Girl wants to “move on” from high school and debut in the adult world, as Serena so desperately desires, she’d better stop living in the first half of last decade.

Sage, Serena’s boyfriend Steven’s 17-year-old daughter and Nate’s new girlfriend (phew!), perhaps puts it best when she said, “Nobody in high school reads Gossip Girl. It’s for old people.” Or people who just can’t move on from the way things used to be.

Related: Gossip Girl Season 5 Final—What Goes Around Comes Around…

Is Serena Our Generation’s Dominic Dunne?

Gossip Girl Thinks Bloggers Aren’t Good Enough.

Image via YouTube.

TV: Gossip Girl Season 5 Final—What Goes Around Comes Around…

 

When Gossip Girl debuted five years ago, Dan was a Lonely Boy outsider, Serena and Blair were at war and Jenny Humphrey was around.

The latter might not be true but, for everyone else, the more things change the more they stay the same on the Upper East Side.

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I enjoyed comparing the very first episode of Gossip Girl to its most recent, the season five finale. While it was hard to get used to seeing the fresh faced and über-thin Blair and Serena at first, by the end of the exercise I’m not sure which incarnation of the show I like better! The first season had so much promise, but it also had Chuck as a date rapist. The current season has the abominations that are Lola and Ivy, but is veering back towards that so-bad-it’s-good soap opera quality of yore.

Anyway, back to the task at hand: fairly early on the final, Serena and Blair call it quits on their roommate arrangement and friendship, with Blair finding Serena’s leakage of her diary to Gossip Girl unforgivable. I dare say Blair’s right: Serena has always been a selfish bitch, and Blair was as accurately harsh on her for spilling her secrets as she was for sleeping with her boyfriend six years ago.

Speaking of the wedding at which Serena slept with Nate, six years on and the marriage didn’t seem to last, with the couple hosting a divorce party at the same venue. Cue Serena’s inappropriate sex life and substitute step-brother and Blair’s current squeeze Dan for Nate and you’ve got Serena screwing over (pun intended) her bestie again.

After Dan realises Blair’s rebuffed him for yet another shot at love with Chuck, and Serena’s the shallow vixen she’s so often proved herself to be, he seeks revenge on the Upper East Side, enlisting Georgina to “help me write the book I should have written from the beginning,” you know, because his status as a bestselling author is nothing without Georgina’s “photographic memory and passion for social upheaval”.

Now that Dan’s been burned by both Blair and Serena, Chuck opts out of Blair’s tour de indecision, telling her he’s done with her because all she does is ruin his business prospects and “bet against him”. In a casino, in case you didn’t grasp the metaphor of gambling on love before, Blair accosts Chuck and puts her chips “all in” in her quest to win back his love.

Meanwhile, it seems Bart Bass’ return has left Rufus and Lily’s marriage up in the air, as she’s technically married to both of them! As in the first episode, Lily’s snooty and antagonistic treatment of Rufus leads her to choose to stay with Bart.

This flashback to perhaps better times (Gossip Girl has been renewed for a final season later this year; rumour is that the season will only have ten episodes) is not accidental: the writers make reference to it often in the characters’ dialogue. For example, Blair knifes Serena with the revelation that, “The best time I ever had was when you were gone six years ago!” Just watching the first episode again you can tell that Leighton Meester was playing wounded soul well, as Blair looks miserable in it. Talk about growth as a character. Blair goes on to tell Serena that she didn’t “steal” Dan, and that she “would know that if you’d grown up at all since high school”.

When Chuck has his pride and joy, the Hotel Empire, ripped from his hands by his zombie father, he’s told it’s because he’s “never grown up”. That may be true, but it could also be said of the writers of Gossip Girl. Do-over?

Images via Serena Van Der Woodsen Sucks, Sockshare, Gossip Girl Screencaps.

TV: Dominick Dunne Makes a (Re)Venge-ful Return to the Small Screen.

 

When Mason Treadwell, the man who sold out to the Graysons and published a book full of lies about alleged terrorist David Clarke fifteen years ago, resurfaced last night on Revenge, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities with fellow society (hell, Treadwell’s book is called Society Connection) writer, Dominick Dunne.

Just a few weeks ago, Serena van der Woodsen was channelling him over on Gossip Girl, and now it seems the late, (arguably, but definitely in my mind) great Dunne is making an appearance on a show that bears similarities with the real life sideshow that was Dunne’s existence.

Dunne became famous when his daughter was murdered by her boyfriend, who got off scot free, which inspired him to write about the injustices of crime amongst the rich and famous, which parlayed itself into a top-rating TV show. Granted, Dunne was never involved in the takedown of a terrorist, but perhaps his most high profile case was covering that of O.J. Simpson.

Dunne was adept at loss: he was an alcoholic shunned from Hollywood during his first career as a producer, several of his children died in infancy, in addition to daughter Dominique’s death, his wife left him and despite his successes amongst some celebrities, he was outcast by others.

How will Mason Treadwell cope with losing everything?

Related: Gossip Girl—Is Serena Our Generation’s Dominick Dunne?

Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne Review.

The Mansions of Limbo by Dominick Dunne Review.

Images via Sockshare, Deadline.

TV: Gossip Girl—Is Serena Our Generation’s Dominick Dunne?

 

That’s according to Nate, anyway, who talks up Serena’s expose on Ivy Dickens’ stealing her family’s money for The Spectator to a potential investor for the newspaper. “Serena’s writing from the inside. She’s our generation’s Dominick Dunne.”

Like Packed to the Rafters’ Julie penning a chapter for a romance novel competition and suddenly she’s a writer, Serena exploits her social butterfly standing to write a gossip column and she’s hailed as the society writer du jour. Is that my bitter blogger coming through…?

Related: Gossip Girl Thinks Bloggers Aren’t Good Enough.

The Problem with Serena van der Woodsen.

The Beautiful & the Damned: Serena Settles for Second Best.

Pretty But Dumb: Serena’s Tertiary Education Predicament.

Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne Review.

The Mansions of Limbo by Dominick Dunne Review.

Image via SerenavanderWoodsen.com.

TV: Gossip Girl—Blair Channels the Tragic Life of Princess Di & Gossip Culture is to Blame.

 

Tortured lovers Blair and Chuck decided to run away together despite Blair’s betrothal to Louis and her pregnancy. Chuck tells Blair he’ll love her and her and Louis’ baby, just as the paparazzi chasing the car they’re traveling in forces it off the road. If this isn’t a statement about Princess Diana’s fatal car accident, allegedly at the hands of the paparazzi, I don’t know what is. Hint: expect this to be the catalyst for Serena et al. to try to finally take down Gossip Girl

Also, it’s incredibly convenient that Blair’s involved in a car accident whilst pregnant. I can just see it now: Blair will come out of the accident unscathed, however her inconvenient bun in the oven won’t, allowing her to cut all ties with Louis and run back into the arms of Chuck. Providing he survives, that is…

Related: Life Begins at Love on Gossip Girl.

Image via FanPop.