"Those who attract people by their happiness and their performance do not always learn about the understanding rich who have no bad qualities and who give each day the quality of a festival and who, when they have passed and taken the nourishment they needed, leave everything deader than any grass Attila's horses' hooves ever scoured."
- Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast.
Of all the shows I've looked at in this series, the absolute craziest has got to be:
Ostensibly a lifestyle porn soap opera about a group of fabulously wealthy New Yorker young adults and the drones that want to be them, Gossip Girl ran for six seasons on the CW. The reasons for its popularity are immediately obvious. Its central premise (Nick Carraway/insider-outsider type totes dishes on the cool kids OMG via the anonymous blog of the title) is trashy fun.
|And most of the press around the show when it was on the air centered around Leighten and Blake. Go figure.|
Everyone and everything is shiny and beautiful, and it racked up an impressive amount of telenovela-worthy misadventures for its cast.
Here's how the characters are introduced at their respective wikipedia pages, along with some examples of what I mean:
Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively) - "The 'It' Girl of the Upper East Side... After a fight with Blair that ends their friendship, Serena plans to record herself having sex with Dan at the Shepard's divorce party as a way to get back at Blair, but in the process is caught by Dan, who also ends his friendship with Serena.
|"Serena is last seen on a train doing cocaine with an unknown man."|
Blair Cornelia Waldorf (Leighten Meester) - the queen bee of the social scene of Constance Billard High School. (After breaking up with longtime on-again/off-again beau Chuck Bass) she accepts Louis' proposal of marriage. Blair loses her baby and almost loses Chuck; as a result, she makes a promise to God to keep her vows to Louis and never be with Chuck again, as long as Chuck's life is spared. In the season six finale she and Chuck get married."
|But... you just said... ah, forget it.|
Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) - When he's not hanging around his Dad's flat all wigged out on video-meth, Chuck Bass is "cynical, world-weary, handsome and suave; he has no problem living life on the edge." Over the course of the show, he becomes embroiled in an espionage plot with faked deaths, plane explosions, gunfire, and benders in Prague, but it is his obsession with Blair (and hers with him) that edges everything else aside.
Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford) - kind of the Josh Radnor of Gossip Girl, i.e. the show's built around him, but I don't think many people know his name.
|Just calling 'em like I see 'em. Sorry, Chace.|
Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley) - "Dan and Blair are together at the end of the March season 5 hiatus. However, Dan is heartbroken when he learns that Blair chooses Chuck in the season finale. Dan then has sex with Serena at the Shepherds' divorce party." Ruh-roh! Don't worry, he and Serena end up together-4-eva.
The big twist at the end (and sorry guys, the spoiler-window has elapsed) is that the Gossip Girl is none other than Dan.
He met Serena at a party, and she was nice to him. Apprehending in an instant that this was his 'in' to a world of masked orgies, banking dynasties, and yacht parties at Cannes (or as Dan himself put it, "I knew I could never enter your world unless I wrote myself into it") he adopts the alter ego of Gossip Girl, turning her and her friends into an internet obsession, chronicling her every move, thought, betrayal, and aspiration, relayed in a Bridget-Jones-y-friendly style. ("xo, xo")
Another way of looking at this is the stalker-obsessive adopted a Dressed to Kill persona in order to insert himself into the life of the object of his obsession, and she rewards these strategics with marriage and wealth. It's The Talented Mr. Ripley meets Sex and the City. Meets Batman, kind of.
These disturbing implications aside, how does everyone react to the news that the gossiper in their midst is none other than Dan Humphrey? Offended at first - we trusted you! We accepted you, eventually, kind of, as one of our own! - then complacent. After all, being gossiped about is their birthright. That Dan had to resort to such lengths (and "fluid his gender" in the process) only further codifies the distance between themselves and mere mortals.
Throughout the show, the "who is Gossip Girl?" mystery is teased out. It never made any sense to me for people to a) well, care, for starters, but b) not figure it out by process of elimination - I mean, who had access to everyone being written about? Didn't anyone bother looking up who registered the site? They're, like, gazillionaires.
Anyway, Dan's voice-over alter-ego was done by Kristen Bell:
|aka the most successful robot/human hybrid in human history.|
Jenny Humphries (Taylor Momsen) - Dan's sister and (by the end of the second season) "the new Queen Bee, (though this) begins eroding her friendship with Eric * and her own personality. She then hooks up with a drug dealer and tries to lose her virginity with him, but stops just in time. At the end of season three, she ends up losing her virginity to Chuck."
|Taylor ditched the show to become a rock star with The Pretty Reckless. Not a bad gig if you can get it.|
* I didn't mention Eric, who's Serena's brother. He doesn't have much to do with this episode. Same goes for a few other characters like Vanessa (Jessica Szohr) and one of the series' best villains, Georgina (Michelle Trachtenberg):
|Her bitchy one-liners are very meme-ish.|
Finally, there's Rufus (Dan and Jenny's father) and Lily (Serena and Eric's mother), played by Matthew Settle and Kelly Rutherford. Rufus used to be a rock star; now he owns an art gallery and pines for Lily like some emo teen. Lily somehow marries into everyone on the show's families at one point or another. We've come a long way from Jim and Cindy Walsh.
|Settle was Captain Speirs in Band of Brothers - about as far from Gossip Girl as you can possibly get while staying on this planet, maybe the whole solar system - and Rutherford's been in my Facebook news feed lately due to the many twists and turns of her high-profile child custody case.|
|Their multi-season will-they-ever-make-it-work arc informs part of today's festivities, as well.|
First item on the agenda: this ep doubles as a backdoor pilot for a never-made spinoff show "Valley Girls," which would have starred Brittany Snow as a younger version of Lily and Jessica Jones as her sister and black-sheep-of-the-family Carol.
|I like Krysten Ritter. I haven't seen Jessica Jones yet, but I've heard great things. I'm glad this Valley Girls show never got picked up, as who knows how that'd have altered her career path.|
|Her future Don't Trust the B in Apt. 23 co-star Dreama Walker had an ongoing role on GG, as well, as Hazel, one of the anti-Blair-Waldorf crew.|
The show would have chronicled younger-Lily's misadventures with "the boy from the Valley" and her sister, who renounced her trust fund and inheritance and upwardly-mobile-class-values to chase her dream of becoming an actress in L.A. In an interview at the time, when it looked like the CW was going to pick it up, series co-creators Savage and Schwartz said "In the same way New York is a character on Gossip Girl, the ’80s will be a character on Valley Girls."
|If this would-be pilot is any indication the 80s strokes were pretty broad.|
|Nice 80s villains here, though.|
Wait - how would Gossip Girl (Dan, if you recall) be aware of anything that happened to Lily in her own reverie? i.e. why on earth would he make this shoulder-pads reference? Don't ask questions.
If you're wondering how this backdoor pilot came to be grafted onto the show's Prom episode, it's all on account of Lily reflecting on how she has recreated her relationship with her mother in her relationship with her daughter Serena. As it says at her character's wiki: "Her similarity to Serena can especially be seen when she cries and is unable to make any decisions, both of which are behaviors commonly seen in Serena." I wasn't sure if that was some kind of joke-wiki-edit. Is this for real? What do you think?
|When she has Serena arrested for complicated non-prom-related Season 2 plotting, she reflects back on when she was arrested the first time and all the events leading up to it.|
It actually dovetails pretty well with the modern-day story. Lily realizes she has to forgive her mother in order to repair her relationship with Serena.
|Everyone says I love you, at least until next episode.|
|Younger CeCe (Lily's mother) played by Caroline Langerfelt.|
Carol returns to wreak some havoc in later seasons, but let's move on. Valley Girls might have been the same kind of oblivious kitschy fun that Gossip Girl is, but it probably just would've been 80s dress-up. Or maybe that would have been the oblivious kitschy fun part. Who can tell?
Back in nowadays, upon hearing Serena is still in jail, Dan springs into action.
Thankfully, Jenny - Dan's younger sister - has a prom dress at the ready that Serena can wear. This strikes me as wildly improbable, but hey. Dan arranges for CeCe to bail Serena out and picks her up in a taxi. She changes into the dress, and the two have a night to remember.
"Skipping the prom to spite your Mom is something she would do."
"Thank you for getting me to see that, and thank you for breaking the cycle of crazy."
Dan acts as the same sort of catalyst for Serena and her own mother/daughter dynamics as Rufus is for her's. Like father, like son.
All the above aside, this episode belongs to Blair.
|Equally unsurprisingly , it's revealed she's kept a prom scrapbook under her bed where she has laid out every detail of her perfect prom-to-be.|
One thing this scrapbook does not contain? Winning Prom Queen. Turns out:
She changes her mind when she discovers the winner gets to wear a tiara. Umm... does it make even the remotest amount of sense that someone like Blair Waldorf would either be unaware of this tradition or so taken with tiaras as to thrust aside her elitist sensibilities?
|I'll save you the time - no it does not.|
What Blair doesn't realize is that the anti-Blairs (who would be the heroes resisting Blair's fascist villainy in most other explorations of this plot) have staged this Prom Queen business as a means of humiliating their foe. No one's going to drench her in cow's blood or anything; they just make sure she's on the ballot only so they can rig the results so she doesn't win.
|Unfortunately for them, Chuck overhears their plot - you know how villains are, always cackling about their plans out loud while someone in earshot might still have time to change things - and sandbags it to make sure Blair wins.|
|Long story short - he's been working behind the scenes to make sure Blair gets the bestest prom ever, despite not being her date.|
|Speaking of her date...|
Blair suddenly realizes that part of her whole dream of prom was to go with her "high school boyfriend." Now that she's there with said boyfriend, she realizes that after tonight her boyfriend will no longer an in-season accessory. After prom, he'll just be "high school." Can't have that. His stock market value instantly nosedives. Nate struggles to understand but can't. Then he just gives up and says "Okay."
|Seriously, Nate is the fucking worst.|
This leaves Blair free to hang out with her true traveling partner on the show (at least for these first two seasons) Serena (who must have sent Dan home.)
|They have a heart-to-heart on the steps outside and recap some of the episode's weirder aspects...|
Wait! No, not that at all. Sorry, Mom. Just some hugging and then Serena texts her Mom to see if she wants to watch a movie or something. The End.
Prom Tropes: I've Always Dreamed of a Perfect Prom, Now That We're Here I Realize I'm Over You, Prom Queen, Thwarted Revenge, Correcting Your Own Mistakes Via Your Children, Martyring Your Own Happiness on the Altar of the Unreal.
NEXT: Only one left to go, then that's a wrap on this TV Proms series.