12 Posts of Christmas: The Problem with Serena van der Woodsen.

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th.

I thought I’d take this Serena van der Woodsen-opportunity to talk about what a spoiled brat she was on last night’s episode (you can read about what a spoiled brat she is in general below, and in the original post here.)

When a friend releases their first book to such fanfare as Dan did last night, you should be happy for them, right? Even if one of the characters is semi-based on you, and perhaps doesn’t portray you in the best light, Dan was adamant that Inside is only loosely autobiographical and amplifies Serena, Blair et al’s worst qualities to make it a scandalous and best-selling novel.

But, of course, Serena thinks it’s all about her, all the time, and has a big cry because Dan wrote her character as a selfish, vapid, flighty and irresponsible Upper East Side princess, which she kind of is. She’s so blinded by her anger that she can’t be happy for Dan’s success, worried for Blair’s portrayal and her relationship with Dan and what it might mean for her engagement to Louis, or saddened by Chuck’s character’s death by asphyxiation in the book. Talk about a bonfire of the vanity!

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 Problem with Serena van der Woodsen.

The Beautiful & Damned: Serena Settles for Second Best.

Gossip Girl Season 4 Final.

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?

Image via VideoBB.

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.

The Changing Face of Beauty.

I’ve been meaning to visit Modelinia for a while now, and their History of Models timeline got me thinking about beauty norms across the ages since models became mainstream. Modelinia’s timeline begins in 1928 and follows the top faces (and bodieshello, Elle “The Body” McPherson), such as Twiggy, Iman and Lauren Hutton, through to today’s most famous faces.

Modelinia’s timeline begins with society girls like Dorian Leigh, who was perhaps the “world’s first supermodel” and appeared on the cover of Vogue seven times in 1944 and earned $300,000, “an amount that was unheard of during that time”. Leigh’s partnership with famed photographer Richard Avedon paved the way for future “model as muse” photographer-model dynamics. Leigh was also one of the models who inspired the classic, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

The late 1940s and ’50s ushered in the age of “Hollywood glamour”, when Leigh appeared on Broadway in The Fifth Season, and “Million Dollar Baby” Lisa Fonssagrives married photographer Irving Penn. These women also proved there was life after modelling, with Fonssagrives “designing a line of leisurewear for Lord & Taylor”, and Leigh opening her own modelling school in Paris, much like Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum today.

The period beginning in 1960 was known as the “awakening” and spawned the births of McPherson, Linda Evangelista, Paulina Porizkova, Cindy Crawford, Stephanie Seymour, Christie Turlington, and Naomi Campbell, the women who would later become known as the über-models of the ’90s.

The ’60s were the years of Twiggy, whose picture was discovered hanging in a hairdresser’s window, and in 1965 she appeared on the cover of Vogue in three separate countries, landing the American edition thrice. She was also the subject of three separate documentaries that year, following on from her radio debut, with the single “Beautiful Dream” in 1964.

Around this time, Hutton refused to close the gap in her teeth, paving the way for the gap-toothed everywhere, like Madonna and Aussie model Jessica Hart.

It was a period of firsts for Hutton, which carried over into the ’70s, who was the first model to front a fragrance campaign, the first to sign an “exclusive cosmetics contract” and the first to reach $1 million in earnings.

The days of disco saw the birth days of the second wave of ü ber-models, like Klum, Shalom Harlow, Banks, Kate Moss, and Laetitia Casta, and the juxtapositioning of the all-American girl next door, Christie Brinkley, with the exotic beauty of Iman. In 1974, Brinkley signed a cosmetics contract with Covergirl, which resulted in a 20-year partnership. Iman served as muse for Yves Saint Laurent, who released his African Queen collection in 1978. While Brinkley appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition three years in a row (19771979), Iman proved she has commercial appeal, fronting “the June cover of Italian Cosmopolitan” in 1978.

The era of the “poster girl” (commencing with Brinkley’s aforementioned Sports Illustrated cover in 1987 and culminating in the permeation of models in the mainstream) sees models on the covers of all major magazines, from Life to Cosmo to Vogue to Playboy.

And if the saturation of popular culture in the ’80s seemed extreme, the ’90s sought to solidify this with “the rise of the supermodel”, coinciding with “the waif” ideal popularised by Moss’s “heroin chic” look (or as we would find out in 2005, cocaine chic), which was perhaps named for Calvin Klein’s Heroin Kids campaign, which Moss fronted in 1994 .

George Michael’s classic Freedom ’90 featured a bevy of supermodels, including Crawford, Turlington, Campbell, Evangelista, and Tatjana Patitz, in 1988. To accompany this, said models appeared on the cover of British Vogue, followed by the iconic group runway walk for Versace in 1989.

The rapid rise of Seymour began in 1989, when she appeared nude in Playboy, began dating Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses and appeared in their “Don’t Cry” video clip, followed by “November Rain”. She became the first major model to sign with lingerie empire Victoria’s Secret in 1990, followed by her runway debut for Valentino.

It is interesting to note that the über-models of this time worked primarily in beauty campaigns and magazines before debuting on the runway, whereas now it’s the other way around. There are a lot of nameless and faceless models who walk on the runways and act solely as “clothes hangers” for the garments. It is rare that a model will move beyond that tag and permeate the zeitgeist, but those who have include Gisele Bündchen, Agyness Deyn, Daria Werbowy and Miranda Kerr.

Crawford’s star also rose even higher during this period, with her marriage to Richard Gere and her constant presence on magazines cover of all kinds, including a sexy 1991 cover of Vanity Fair, in which a bathing suit-clad Crawford shaves k.d. lang in a barbers chair.

But Crawford had some competition rapidly rising alongside her: Moss. In 1991, Moss fronted the Calvin Klein Obsession for Men campaign, as well as the Calvin Klein jeans ad together with Mark Wahlberg.

1992 was also a year for sexy magazine covers, with Seymour gracing Playboy for a second time, and McPherson making her debut for the magazine.

In other mag news, Crawford was asked to posed for the cover of the groundbreaking first edition of John F. Kennedy Jr.’s publication, George, aswho else?George Washington.

19941995 was surely Harlow’s time, as she added to her resume of film roles in In & Out, as well as gracing the cover of February W, March’s Paris Vogue, and June Harper’s Bazaar US in 1994, and March W, and December Vogue with fellow model-turned-actress, Amber Valetta.

That year Banks appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, the first black model to do so solo.

With Bündchen’s appointment to Vogue cover girl in July 1997 the “heroin chic” era allegedly ended, and the championing of healthy bodies like Bündchen’s began. Maybe in the modelling world, but the “heroin chic” movement has wrecked havoc on the notions of beauty, body image and popular culture.

On a side note, recently Playboy.com profiled the changing of women’s breasts over the years, and Jezebel was quick to counter that its not our breasts that have changed, but the media’sie. Playboybelief of what they should look like (NSFW). It is not dissimilar in the case of beauty magazines aimed at women.

By the turn of the millennium, the age of the supermodel subsided, which was noticeable on magazine covers across the world, which began to, and still do, feature actresses and singers on their covers.

With the retirement of the most beautiful faces and bodies in the business, models almost ceased to be relevant, and women who made achievements for something other than their looks were championed. Obviously, there is still a large gap between women on magazines and television and in advertising campaigns and movies in correspondence to how they look rather than what they do, but looking back on the dominance of beauty in the ’80s and ’90s, we are slowly starting to celebrate diversity.

In addition, there’s the whirlwind surrounding plus-sized model Crystal Renn (is she plus-sized, isn’t she plus-sized?), and the model as somewhat of a prop for photographers, magazine editors and designers making a statement, as seen on Evangelista’s November 2009 cover for W magazine’s “The Art Issue”, or Claudia Schiffer (who, interestingly, was not featured in Modelinia’s timeline) and Karl Lagerfeld’s collaboration.

While it’s always nice to look a somethingone beautiful, it’s also nice to realise that there should be more to a model than what she looks like, and in a lot of cases, there is.

You only need to look at the aforementioned Banks and Klum’s careers in television (America’s Next Top Model and The Tyra Banks Show, and Project Runway and Germany’s Next Top Model, respectively), Erin Wasson’s foray into designing, and Kerr’s championing of a healthier life to see this in practice.

But I guess the question is, is this timeline representative of the success of certain types of models in response to our changing attitudes, or are our changing attitudes representative of the success of certain types of models?

Claudia & Karl Sitting in a Tree…

Claudia Schiffer did a Demiposing nude and pregnanton the cover of this month’s German Vogue, shot by fellow countryman Karl Lagerfeld.

This is not the first time they’ve worked together, of course, but Lagerfeld is teaming up with quarterly photography publication, Stern Fotografie, for their 60th issue, which is full of his favourite images he’s shot of the supermodel over the past 20 years.

The cover features Claudia as a sexy librarian, a ’70s disco diva in (controversial, much?) blackface, and Marie Antoinette, amongst others.

With a cover this good, I can’t wait to see what’s on the inside!

Lady Most Likely: Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People

Every time I turn on the readio, it seems like there’s a Will.I.Am collaboration (“3 Words” with Cheryl Cole; Usher’s “OMG”; “Imma Be” with Black Eyed Peas) or Will.I.Am sounding collaboration (“Nothin’ on You” by B.o.B.; “If We Ever Meet Again” by former über-producer Timbaland and Katy Perry) getting airtime. The BEP front man may indeed be the new Timabland, so I was surprised he didn’t make it onto the list. There’s always next year, I suppose…

Someone who did make it on, though, is Lady Gaga.

Cyndi Lauper, Gaga’s partner-in-crime for the MAC AIDS Fund, profiles her for possibly the most talked about ranking this year. I have no doubt Gaga is the most influential person in entertainment today, as she’s collaborating with and inspiring the fashion, beauty, art, advertising, music and film worlds with her own performance artas Lauper writes, “she is inspiring other artists to go further in their own work”and striking up water cooler conversation with her boundary pushing antics, both onstage and off.

Time is spot on in naming Marc Jacobs the only influential fashion figure. Jacobs, who is profiled by fellow fashionista and friend, Victoria Beckham, glamorised grunge, began the bag lady chic movement, and is now championing voluptuousness in his new season looks for Louis Vuitton and his titular line. Perhaps Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour would have made welcome additions, but Jacobs certainly has the respect of all facets of the fashion world his peers, his models, his muses and his loyal subjects.

I am utterly dumbfounded to not see George Clooney on the list. Not only did he single-handedly organise the Hope for Haiti Now telethon but, like a fine wine, he only gets better with age.

In other “Artists” notes, shoe in Oprah is profiled by Phil Donahue, while her partner, “Mr Oprah” Stedman Graham makes the Least Influential list (more on that below); Robert Pattinson is bafflingly included (for influencing legions of teens and, worryingly, tweens ready and willing to let Pattinson bite them? Perhaps Brad and Angelina would have been better choices, as they actually contribute something to societyas well as being really, really ridiculously good looking. Or even Stephenie Meyer, without whom Pattinson wouldn’t have an Edward Cullen to broodingly portray); and “new media mogul” Ashton Kutcher, whom I was pleasantly surprised to see on the list.

Of course, President Obama makes an appearance as one of, if not the most influential leaders. While he certainly is the most well-known leader on the list, whether he’s been as influential as he could have during his first year in the presidency is a point of contention for a lot of politicos and American citizens.

My second favourite President (after Obama, George W. Bush is the only other President whose reign I was [un]lucky enough to grow up during, so Clinton wins via default), I find Bill Clinton funny, charming and smartalthough, hey may not have been utilising the latter during Lewinskygate. Nonetheless, he’s making positive change, and that’s all that matters here.

On the other hand, former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin makes the list. She is certainly fascinating and controversial, but I wouldn’t call her influential. Perhaps she would be more at home on Barbara Walters’ annual most fascinating people list?

Speaking of other lists, on page 96 you will find Joel Stein’s “The Time Bum Hundred”, relaying how he chronicled the 100 least influential people of 2010, split into “four categories… Losers, Flameouts, Morons and Slimy Bastards”. The complete list is not available in the mag, but it is on Time’s website.

Here is a sneak peak of “the Least Influential People Who Used to or Ought to Have Influence”, not including babies (who really are the least influential people in the world!), “the tattooed chick who messed up Sandra Bullocks’ marriage” (negative influence), and Tiger Woods, who just had a “bad year”, but is “still immensely influential, only now his influence lies in preventing men from texting their mistresses”: the Tom Tom GPS navigation system; “We Are the World 25 for Haiti”; Paula Adbul; Michael Jackson’s doctor, Dr. Conrad Murray who, unfortunately, was influential enough last year to play a key role in the death of Michael Jackson; Joaquin Phoenix; gay-disapprover, sex tape “without any sex” star and Former Miss California Carrie Prejean; “first dog” Bo Obama; George Clooney’s ex, Sarah Larson; former MTV TRL host Carson Daly; questionably, The Doors, who “actually sucked and just had a handsome lead singer”; Grover; Carrot Top; news anchor Katie Couric; John Edwards; the quintessential douche bag reality show dropout, Jon Gosselin; keeping it in the familyLindsay and Michael Lohan; Jersey Shore outcast Angelina Pivarnick; Bernie Madoff; Levi Johnston; Tila Tequila; Nicollette Sheridan; witches (“Charmed was like, ten years ago. It’s all about vampires, werewolves and zombies now”); anddrum roll pleaseSpencer Pratt and Heidi Montag, collectively known as Speidi. Let’s hope Heidi truly is uninfluential, especially for The Hills‘ primarily teen audience’ssake, or we could have an army of over-inflated, frozen-foreheaded Barbie clones on our hands.