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 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.

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

Who Speculates About Domestic Violence in the Affleck/Garner Household.

Picture Perfect.

So Misunderstood.

Breaking the Mould.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Is Kate Hudson Coasting on Cuteness?

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

15 thoughts on “TV: The Problem with Serena van der Woodsen.

  1. 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.

    I really enjoyed this post, but reading the second half of this sentence I couldn’t help but think: don’t all of us sound like idiots on the tram sometimes, if heard at the wrong time and by the wrong ears? I know I do!

    Also, to hell with Chuck after the second half of last season. Dair forever! (Or for a season or two, at least. GG is starting to drive me mad with its lack of follow up.)

  2. You’re right on both counts.
    The Blair/Dan storyline left me on the edge of my seat and had so much potential, but alas, Blair is set to marry the prince and Dair is just a friendship based on a mutual love of culture and snark. Gossip Girl is starting to look more and more like Glee each episode, with the “lack of follow up” you mentioned.
    Also, I know full well I sound like a dick on public transport and to pretty much anyone who doesn’t know me well who overhears my inane yet spritely conversations! Ahh, judgement!
    Thanks for the comment :)

  3. I stopped watching Gossip Girl mid-way through this season because i couldn’t stand Serena and her pouty ways anymore. Although admittedly, I am missing Blair terribly!

  4. Totally agreed with this! I honestly watch for the Blair&Chuck storylines – I stopped watching around season 3 and then decided to catch up on it again when I saw a random facebook status that said “OMG! Blair and Dan?!!”. THAT I had to see and have now watched season 3 & 4 back to back here in HK.

    Serena bores me and annoys me. (Wait Vanessa does too but thank god she is gone now!! :P) She like Nate are just pretty faces on the show.

    As for the idiocy on the tram – um, totally guilty.

  5. I haven’t actually watched Gossip Girl since halfway through second season because it got a bit dull, but I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that Blake Lively has so much in common with the character she portrays. Remember that she’s in the spotlight so whatever she does/wears/buys/eats is reported on. She seems like a fairly normal girl to me. Just because her annual salary is 10 times more than the average person doesn’t mean she’s less human. Sometimes I go through periods of staying at home knitting, sometimes I enjoy staying out till 4 in the morning.

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  12. I only agree with you until you started comparing the character to Blake Lively. Maybe that’s easy to do because she is not the greatest actress and puts herself too much into the characters she plays. You know since Serena is supposed to be a little bitchier but Blake Lively smiles all the time and is a lot nicer so it’s almost like the writers changed Serena for Blake Lively’s sake because her acting is not so powerful and she comes off as this sweetheart that Serena is not supposed to be. And plus, she looks too much like a California beach girl. Blake Lively seems like a down to earth good girl. She doesn’t party, drink or date a lot and since this was written 4 years ago, you know now that she has settled down with only the fourth man she has ever been with(most people have had more relationships than that) and has a daughter and has launched a very family type company that seems such a humbling business which represents her modest and humble self. Therefore, Serena and Blake are too completely separate people, no matter how much the actress fails to show us with her lack of acting skills.

  13. So I’ve come late to Gossip Girl. A bad cold and bad weather make me watch all six seasons. At the end of it all, Serena is the biggest idiot I have seen on tv for a very long time. Not because she wears fancy clothes, or gets her cleavage out, but because she never learns. Every season, she makes the same mistakes over and over. Meets a bad boy, gets screwed over by a bad boy, mum gets her out of trouble, shafts her mum repeat. It got to the point where I was fast forwarding her scenes.

  14. I have recently started watching the series, but I totally agree.. I was so annoyed with her character that I googled ‘serena van der woodsen irritating’ to find out if there are others who feel the same.. M glad I am not the only one…

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