May 14, 2012

Gossip Girl: The novel vs. the TV show

I read the Gossip Girl series in high school (circa 2007), and the Gossip Girl series on CWTV ran throughout my college career. Both creations have received much criticism for the sexual content that is too explicit for its teenage audience.

Naomi Wolf of the New York Times critiqued the Gossip Girl novels in 2006 in an article titled: "Young Adult Fiction: Wild Thing." She wrote: "sex saturates the "Gossip Girl" books ... This is not the frank sexual exploration found in a Judy Blume novel, but teenage sexuality via Juicy Couture, blasé and entirely commodified." Then Wolf went on to quote a passage from the 8th novel "Nothing Can Keep Us Together," where Nate takes a Viagra and gets it on with Serena in a Bergdorf's dressing room. Ironically, this is one scene that I do recall from reading the series five years ago:
Nate was practically bursting as he followed Serena. . . . He grabbed her camisole and yanked it away from her body, ripping it entirely in half. . . . 'Remember when we were in the tub at my house, the summer before 10th grade?' . . . 'Yes!' 'Oh, yes!' . . . Nate began to cry as soon as it was over.
Promos for the movies are stills from sex scenes dubbed with negative reviews.
As for the show, the Parents TV Council gives it a "red light" rating because of occasional "graphic simulated sex scenes" and "plenty of provocative kissing scenes, erotic situations, and skimpy clothing." But it is not the graphic sexual content that makes the series reprehensible. Common Sense Media points out the the sex is not graphic but that "it isn't always equated with love." The Parents TV Council that the sexual content in the Gossip Girl series is often "gratuitous" and the characters appear to be promiscuous.

Besides sex, there are also depictions of unhealthy and un-teen like behaviors such as rampant alcohol and drug use.  New York Magazine points out the lack of consequence (in the novel) that serves to glamorize these negative actions: "kids have sex without pregnancy scares." The Parents TV Council concurs, saying the characters in the TV show often "play musical chairs with their sex-partners, but suffer no physical or psychological ramifications."

As an audience of both, I definitely prefer the wit of Cecily von Ziesegar's prose to the childish drama in the Josh-Schwartz-and-Stephanie-Savage-produced show. The latter seems to drag on forever, replaying the same Blair-Chuck (nicknamed Chair) over and over. At some point, the unthinkable manipulation employed by the characters wears out its charm. The fact that everyone hooks up with everyone, breaks up and hooks up again (!) makes it get old really fast. As the producers run out of ideas for controversy, they arrange for Blair to become an item with Dan, the existence of whom she has spent most of her time either abhorring and ignoring.

To reward your patience for reaching the end of this post, here are some bonus sexy scenes from the show: Blair and Chuck having angry sex and showing off undies. One of Blair's and Nate's rare hookups. Serena's & Nate's drunken first time and fooling around in the kitchen, and an implied threesome between Dan, Olivia & Vanessa.

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