TV: The Problem with Serena van der Woodsen.

She’s got the clothes, the hair, and she’s mighty fine to look at. But that’s about all Gossip Girl’s Serena van der Woodsen boils down to.

I really liked Serena in season one of the show. I could relate to her because everyone thought she was this spoiled, vapid princess, but she showed her true self to her first love Dan Humphrey.

By the end of season two, she’d stopped evolving, though, and it turns out she was just a spoiled, vapid princess, intent on upstaging Blair Waldorf at every opportunity, stringing a multitude of guys along, and having her antics and dirty laundry on the cover of all the tabloids.

Like in the Cecily von Ziegesar (she made an appearance in last night’s final, telling Serena she’d “read a lot about her”) novels of the same name, Serena is the central protagonist of Gossip Girl. But unlike the books, the show has run with Blair and Chuck Bass in the driver’s seat; characters who have grown, changed and become more likeable as a result. Serena, along with her male counterpart Nate Archibald, followed closely by Dan, has remained a stagnant shell of a human being, like the kinds you overhear on the tram and thank God you don’t know them or, worse, aren’t like them.

There have been many a fan disappointed in and perturbed by Serena’s lack of development. Why has she languished in and regressed to the mindset of a highschooler, albeit with better clothes, more freedom and a more active sex life? Is she just “coasting on cuteness”? Most of her storylines seem to revolve around her busting her bust out in an evening gown or standing around looking bored and Amazonian-like. Just because she looks the way she does, doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be as well written as Gossip Girl’s other characters. In real life, how many of this type of woman do you know? Personally, I don’t associate myself with people—girls especially—with no personalities, who’ll turn on their besties for a taste of the spotlight, and who have no opinions save for what outfit they’re going to wear that day, so I don’t know anyone with the personality of a napkin Serena van der Woodsen.

But, let’s face it, Gossip Girl isn’t exactly a realistic interpretation of life. 20-year-olds don’t flit around the city unemployed, never wearing the same outfit twice, depending on Mummy and Daddy’s trust funds. And if they do, then that’s a reality I’m glad I’m not a part of.

This unreality and lack of character development makes the audience not care about Serena’s storylines. Personally, I loved the Juliet/Ben/Serena storyline, but it was because of the mystery surrounding who Juliet and Ben actually were and what their connection to Serena was, not because of Serena. And the latest development in the character’s tumultuous yet über-boring life leads me to make comparisons to the actress who portrays her, Blake Lively’s, life.

I remember when Gossip Girl first came out, Lively said in an interview that she was very low-key, didn’t like to go out to events and preferred to stay home and work on her Martha Stewart skills.

Flashforward four years and Lively’s oft-papped lifestyle is far from the one she naively spoke about. She’s Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour’s muse, flitting from one European country to the next to attend fashion shows and sun herself on yachts. Not to mention her latest nude photo scandal.

While her acting’s not anything to write home about, Lively still has much more to offer than naked pics and Chanel ads. I just hope that it isn’t a case of life imitating art when it comes to Blake Lively and Serena van der Woodsen.

[Jezebel] Is Kate Hudson Coasting on Cuteness?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Beautiful & Damned: Serena Settles for Second Best.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Who Speculates About Domestic Violence in the Affleck/Garner Household.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Mag Cover of the Week: Blake Lively for Australian Cosmopolitan, February 2011.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Picture Perfect.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] So Misunderstood.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Breaking the Mould.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] On the (Rest of the) Net: 10th December 2010.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] How Very Proustian.

Images via Gossip Girl Fashion, Link Random, Fashion Under 100.

TV: The Beautiful & Damned—Serena Settles for Second Best.

Blake Lively’s had no problem keeping herself in the news since Gossip Girl finished for the year.

She’s allegedly dating Leonardo DiCaprio, her apparent naked body is all over the tabloids, and her biggest movie to date, The Green Lantern with Ryan Reynolds, is pending release.

She met DiCaprio through Baz Luhrmann, who’s directing the Titanic star in his adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, a movie for which Lively was in the running to play Daisy Buchanan, a role that went to English rose Carey Mulligan.

In the season final of Gossip Girl Lively’s character, Serena van der Woodsen, is told by her former high school headmistress that she’s disappointed Serena didn’t leave New York City to go to college, and find her identity away from the pull of the city. This prompts her to finally make a choice between Dan and Nate, which was one of the cliffhangers of last season’s final.

Serena ends up choosing herself, which is commendable for a character who can never be alone and always needs the spotlight on her. But it seems like choosing herself is her second third best option, as both Dan and Nate have moved on from Serena.

Much like Serena’s apparent screenwriting job for the latest movie adaptation of The Beautiful & Damned in the final is second choice to Lively’s Great Gatsby aspirations.

As Fitzgerald writes in his most famous work:

“… All the time something within her was crying for a decision. She wanted her life shaped now, immediately…”

Maybe Lively isn’t such a bad choice to play Daisy after all…

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Gossip Girl Season 4 Final.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Who Speculates About Domestic Violence in the Affleck/Garner Household.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Pretty But Dumb: Serena’s Tertiary Education Predicament.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Surfing the Third Wave: Second Wave VS. Third Wave Feminism on Gossip Girl.

Images via MegaVideo.

TV: Gossip Girl Season 4 Final.

Can I just say: Worst. Gossip Girl. Final. Ever.

Last week’s episode, where Russell Thorpe lured Blair to the roof of Chuck’s hotel in a payback attempt at Chuck, was a better storyline than Chuck saving Blair, them sleeping together, Blair trying to tell her prince of Monaco fiancé that she can’t be with him because she still loves Chuck, and Chuck butting in to tell Louis that he and Blair have his blessing, as he realises Blair’s a better person with Louis.

Or Charlie faking a psychotic break, attempting to jump from the top floor window of the GG brat pack’s former “stomping ground” in Serena’s cotillion dress, being talked down by Serena, who says it’s not as easy being her as people think, Georgina accosting Charlie, whom she believes isn’t really on medication for a psychological disorder, and giving Charlie her phone number to use if she’s ever back in the city. Turns out Georgina was right, and Charlie is actually revealed to be Ivy, who posed as Serena’s cousin to extort money from her trust fund, at the request of Lily’s sister, Carol.

Or Vanessa stumbling across Dan’s manuscript, which she thinks is the best exposé “on the Upper East Side since Bonfire of the Vanities”. When Dan tells her to leave his stuff alone and get out of his life, I’m not sure he meant for Vanessa to steal the manuscript, pitch it to a publishing house, and hightail it to Barcelona.

Or Darota cleaning Blair and Serena’s adjoining bathroom, in which a positive pregnancy test has been discarded.

Now the latter three story arcs are intriguing, I’ll give them that, but the writers did a piss-poor job in making the audience actually care about them. The Charlie thing was really hard to follow, and the fact that her character is almost as infuriating as Vanessa’s doesn’t lend itself to viewer satisfaction.

It’s pretty easy to see that Charlie/Ivy’s going to return to the Upper East Side to wreak havoc with fellow bad girl Georgina. Blair’s the one who’s pregnant, probably to Chuck. And so their relationship is dragged on for another season. Dan will flail around while Vanessa milks him for all he’s worth and Serena will give up her potential screenwriting job (more on that later) on the West Coast to return to the city where she left her heart. Or something.

 

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Devil Works at W: Gossip Girl “Damien Darko” Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Come Together Right Now… Over Gossip Girl: “Gaslit” Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Let Them Eat Cake… And Wear Headbands.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Gossip Girl Proves There’s No Such Thing as Wonder Woman.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Sexual Healing: Gossip Girl Takes a Page Out of John Irving’s Book.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Pretty But Dumb: Serena’s Tertiary Education Predicament.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Surfing the Third Wave: Second Wave VS. Third Wave Feminism on Gossip Girl.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Last Tango… For the Season: Gossip Girl Season 3 Final.

Images via MegaVideo.

TV: Come Together Right Now… Over Gossip Girl—“Gaslit” Review.

Gossip Girl’s Thanksgiving episodes are always ones to remember.

Season one hosted the first installment without a voiceover from Gossip Girl herself, Kristen Bell. And last year’s episode dealt with the fallout from Dan, Vanessa and Hilary Duff’s threesome and Lily’s whereabouts the past summer.

However, this year’s holiday chapter fell short of expectations, with it’s surrounding episodes being much jucier. Last week, the vixen Juliet drugged Serena and turned all her friends against her, while Juliet’s beef with the Manhattan socialite is finally revealed.

But “Gaslit” did serve two main purposes, both of which are very promising:

1. Vanessa comes undone and her involvement in Operation Takedown Serena comes out, forcing her out of the city. Ding dong, Vanessa’s dead!

and

2. Blair and Dan join forced to find out what Juliet really wants with Serena. Whilst the two have never been shy about their hatred for one another, as winter passes, perhaps a new-found “appreciation” for each other will blossom along with spring…

xoxo

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Let Them Eat Cake… And Wear Headbands.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Gossip Girl Proves There’s No Such Thing As Wonder Woman.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Sexual Healing: Gossip Girl Takes a Page Out of John Irving’s Book.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Pretty But Dumb: Serena’s Tertiary Education Predicament.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Surfing the Third Wave: Second Wave VS. Third Wave Feminism on Gossip Girl.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Last Tango… For the Season. Gossip Girl Season 3 Final.

TV: Top 10 TV Moments of the Year.

1. OMGSW: Derek Gets Shot on Grey’s Anatomy.

I spent the season six final of Grey’s bawling my eyes out as Reed Adamson and Charles Percy died, Derek, Alex and Owen get shot, and Meredith loses her baby. One of the best season finals I’ve ever seen.

2. Another Day, Another Gun Shot Wound: Chuck Gets Shot on Gossip Girl.

While season three’s finale wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen, it certainly set the ball rolling for an epic season four thus far (see below).

Chuck issued Blair an ultimatum; Dan was revealed to be the father of Georgina’s baby; Chuck slept with Jenny; Jenny went to boarding school; Blair took Chuck up on his ultimatum; Blair found out Chuck slept with Jenny; Serena and Blair went to Paris; Chuck got shot in Prague.

3. Katy Perry’s Chest is Too Ample for Sesame Street.

Sure, Katy’s dress was a little revealing to be prancing around the street named Sesame, but wasn’t it the responsibility of the show’s costume designers to put her in something a little more child-friendly?

4. Airy Fairy: Sookie is a Fairy on True Blood.

What the?! Aside from lots of Eric action and the introduction of hot werewolf Alcide, season three was a confusing exercise in vampirism, culminating in the revelation that Sookie is a fairy, the idea being that her blood is so irresistible to Bill, Eric et al. because it helps them walk amongst the living. (More on Sookie’s allure to come.)

5. The ANTM Debacle.

Well… at least it got Aussie Top Model into the international (entertainment) news. It probably boosted sales for Harper’s Bazaar, with the two finalists on the cover.

6. It’s “Britney/Brittany”, Bitch! Britney Spears on Glee.

In what was probably one of the most anticipated TV moments of 2010, Britney Spears appeared for (literally) a moment on Glee.

7. What Once Was LOST, Now is Found: LOST Finale.

The last ever episode of LOST seemed to ask more questions that it answered, but ultimately was a bit of a letdown.

8. Romeo Serena & Juliet: Serena’s Stalker Saga on Gossip Girl.

GG has always been a guilty pleasure of mine since it debuted in 2007, but it hasn’t always had the greatest of storylines. This season, however, has been one of my favourites, with the mystery surrounding Juliet’s entry into Serena’s life getting stronger each episode. The story arc was resolved in the U.S.’s most recent episodes, but instead of spoiling it for Aussie viewers (which Early Bird has been known to do *blush*), I’ll wait til it airs here to catch you up on the saga.

9. Sexual Double Standards on Jersey Shore.

Speaking of guilty pleasures, Jersey Shore is the epitome of “guilty” if ever there was one!

Violence, racism, sexism and sun damage run rampant in the show, which seems to have gotten even worse in its second season.

Femme fatale Angelina Pivarnick is vilified for sleeping with two guys in one week, when the men of the house have a rotisserie of women for every night of the week. The resentment of Angelina for being a “single girl” and “enjoying herself”, which she constantly made reference to, comes to a head with a cat fight, a “dirty pad” found on the bathroom floor, and Angelina exiting the house for the second time in as many seasons.

10. The Hills’ Curtains Draw to a Close… But Not Before Lifting Them on Reality TV.

Living vicariously through The Hills’ girls hedonistic Hollywood lifestyles is something I’m really going to miss in 2011.

I suppose there’s always Heidi Montag’s tabloid transgressions and Lauren’s new reality show to indulge in…

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Gun Shot Wound to the Head: Grey’s Anatomy Season Final.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Last Tango… For the Season: Gossip Girl Season 3 Finale.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Mag Cover of the Week: Katy Perry on Australian Cosmopolitan’s November Issue.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Messages of Glee’s “Britney/Brittany” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] It’s All About Britney, Bitch!

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Glee Against the Music.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] What Once Was LOST, Now is Found?: Lost Finale.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Surfing the Third Wave: Second Wave VS. Third Wave Feminism on Gossip Girl.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Hills Finale: All Good Things Must Come to an End.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Poor Little Rich Girl: Who Cover Girl Heidi Montag.

[Jezebel] Jersey Shore: If Men Can Wax Their Eyebrows, Why Can’t Women Sleep Around?

TV: Pretty But Dumb—Serena’s Tertiary Education Predicament.

In last week’s Gossip Girl, Serena van der Woodsen was quick to forfeit her Psychology of Business class in order to date the teacher who runs it, Colin Forrester, who is also the man she spent the night before with, who is also the suave businessman who puts a different girl into a cab that Serena hails each morning, thus making her late for class.

Like, get a backbone, girl! Stand up for your right to get an education and become successful in your own right instead of being on the arm of a man who is. (Strong words, yes, but I stand by them. Maybe that’s why I’m still single?!)

Serena’s mother, Lily Humphrey, when she learns that Serena’s dropping the class for a man, even went as far as to ask why Serena’s even bothering with an education when she can use her looks to snag a man like Colin. (FYI, she was using “reverse psychology”, which she picked up from Colin’s book.)

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Surfing the Third Wave: Second Wave VS. Third Wave Feminism on Gossip Girl.

[MamaMia] Do Women Really Use University as an Excuse to Avoid Starting a Family?

TV: Surfing the Third Wave—Second Wave VS. Third Wave Feminism on Gossip Girl.

Not only was last week’s Gossip Girl one of the best episodes I’ve ever seen, with one of the most gorgeous dresses I’ve ever seen (see above), but it also addressed some feminist issues that have been rotating around the blogosphere of late: second wave versus third wave feminism and slut-shaming.

*Spoiler alert* The episode dealt with a Gossip Girl blast suggesting that Serena might have an STI, and the turmoil the rumour created amongst the group. Of course, Little Miss Juliet was the one who tipped Gossip Girl off, in the hopes of taking Serena down and getting her kicked out of Columbia. After all, the episode is titled “Goodbye, Columbia”…

Without giving too much away (What’s that you say? I already have? Whoops!), Serena comes face to face with the dean, who says of Serena’s (alleged) wayward behaviour:

“Women of my generation had to fight for every opportunity. And to be taken seriously, and your attitude, Miss van der Woodsen, makes a mockery of that.”

Now if that isn’t the second wave looking down upon the third wave for our apparent flippancy about “activism”, our “obsession with technology” (Gossip Girl’s blasts are a prime example of this), our “unwilling[ness] to challenge sexual exploitation for fear of pissing off men” (hello, Serena), and our infatuation with Lady Gaga (well, Gossip Girl did feature the Lady herself in an episode…), I don’t know what is.

Susan Faludi recently wrote about this phenomenon in “American Electra: Feminism’s Ritual Matricide”, Amanda Marcotte responded to the article on Pandagon (from which the above quotes were taken), and I featured a link to the latter in last week’s “On the (Rest of the) Net”.

In the article, Faludi asserts that

“despite its [feminism’s] many victories, it seems to falter along a ‘motherdaughter’ divide. A generational breakdown underlies so many of the pathologies that have long disturbed American [or, rather, Western] feminism… its bitter divisions over sex… [and] alongside the battle of the sexes rages the battle of the ages.”

Faludi feels that second wavers ask questions and make comments such as “Why does it feel like we’re sliding backwards?”, “Young women are narcissists who don’t care about politics”, and “We’re really furious with these young women, aren’t we?”

Indeed, this seems to be the attitude of Dean Reuther towards Serena who, granted, isn’t the best feminist role model, but perhaps doesn’t deserve to have such comments hurled at her. Vanessa Abrams is probably the most feminist-y of all the characters on Gossip Girl, and I could almost take her seriously, if she wasn’t so damn annoying. Even Blair could be seen as a third-waver; she refuses to be held down by Chuck, rolls with the boys, strives for academic excellence by conniving her way into becoming Miss Chamberlain’s student assistant, and dumped Chuck for using her sexuality as a bargaining chip. Plus, she’s feisty and rocks a headband.

Of course, I’m not sure Gossip Girl consciously chose to comment on the debate, and no doubt this will be the last we hear of it, but it would be interesting to see Serena fight back and declare herself “sick to death of hearing about the glory days of Seventies feminism”, whilst older women, like Dean Reuther, “decalring themselves sick to death of being swept into the dustbin of history.” However, being the dean at an Ivy League university is hardly being “swept into the dustbin”.

On a final note, Faludi spends a lot of time criticising (via her second wave subjects) the technology third wavers use, specifically blogging: “All they want to do is sit at their computers and blog.” Ouch.

I’m sure Gossip Girl would have something to say about that.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Frock & Roll has some poignant points on how to “network, promote and get your blog out there” aka “hustle”. I’ve only read part one of the series, but you can find part two here, with part three on its way.

Who do you write like? Apparently, from the sample I typed in to the analyzer, I write like David Foster Wallace, author of one of Time magazine’s All-Time Greatest Novels, Infinite Jest! Not too shabby!

It’s no secret Prince is one of my favourite musicians, but according to Fajr Muhammad of Stylish Thought, he’s also a style icon, assless pants and all!

Edward Cullen sparkles, but feminism certainly doesn’t. Amplify Your Voice discusses “What Twilight Teaches Young Girls”.

Author Marketing Experts suggest “Seven Powerful Ways to Find New Readers For Your Blog” (there’re actually eight!).

An oldie but a goody: Inappropriate Woman Rachel Hills muses on Gossip Girl, Serena & Effortless Perfection”.

In the vein of last week’s “In Defence of Taylor Momsen” comes the case for Lindsay Lohan as she is released from jail and shipped off to rehab for the umpteenth time.

On Tuesday night, “I Went to See Killers, and It’s All Your Fault”, Jezebel!

Girl with a Satchel has two (here and here) fab pictorials up of this year’s September issues. Here’s just a little taste…

TV: The Last Tango… For the Season – Gossip Girl Season 3 Final.

It’s all about the season finales. Last night, Gossip Girl; tonight, LOST.

After last week’s cliff-hanger, GG’s season finale deals with the fallout from Jenny’s scheming ways when she interfered with the gang’s sting operation to catch out William van der Woodsen in his lie, and what will happen if Blair decides to take Chuck up on his ultimatum to meet him atop the Empire State Building before 7:01pm, or he’ll “forever close my heart to you”.

Dan made a surprise appearance in the back of a limo with Serena last week, comforting her after she said goodbye to her father. Another shocker ensues, when Jenny catches Dan and Serena asleep in bed together, and takes a picture of them to blast on Gossip Girl. The dialogue between the two that follows goes a little something like this:

Dan: “Last night… was a mistake.”

Serena: “We’re both in relationships. We just fell asleep…”

Dan: “… After an entire bottle of wine, and a whole lot of talking…”

Serena: “… And one kiss.”

Uh-oh.

Meanwhile Blair, a heavily pregnant Dorota acting as date chaperone and rugby boy Cameron take a detour “off this island” of Manhattan to Brooklyn to put Little J and Dan in their places for “messing with the people I love.”

Dorota tries to urge Blair to meet Chuck, adding that “I defriend Mr. Chuck on Facebook and in life,” but that she mustn’t do the same. Blair is having none of it.

Point in this episode echo the pilot, when Serena returns from boarding school and Chuck tries to put the moves on Jenny. This time around, it’s Jenny being banished to Hudson to live with her mother and see out the school year. But not before she finds time to get deflowered by a dejected Chuck, who waited for Blair “wearing a bow tie and carrying peonies”, to no avail.

Chuck shouldn’t have moved so fast in attempting to get over Blair, as she shows up on his doorstep, explaining that Dorota had her baby and that’s why she was late.

Aww, it seems everything is hunky dory.

Not so fast!

In the dramatic season final, there are several OMG moments, the first one being that Chuck proposes to Blair at the hospital, which is interrupted by a punch to Chuck’s head from Dan, who has found out what unravelled between he and Jenny. Needless to say, Blair never wants to see Chuck again. No, this time she, like, really is serious, you guys!

Serena decides she needs a break from Nate, citing the oft-used “it’s not you, it’s me” response when Nate asks “why?” Nate proceeds to devour Chuck’s little black book when he leaves for Prague.

Blair hitches a ride with her mother and Cyrus to Paris, and invites Serena along for the ride. Dan gets wind of this and Googles Air France, only to be interrupted by none other than hellcat Georgina Sparks, claiming that she has something of Dan’s… which just happens to be residing in her womb! (OMG moment #2.)

The season ends with a shotpardon the punof Chuck exiting a Prague club and being mugged. In an effort to “protect the past” in the form of Blair’s would-be engagement ring, Chuck is shot (OMG moment #3)!

OMG, indeed.

Until September, XOXO.