I had one simple reaction to the news that Gossip Girl, the show about the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite, based on books by a woman truly named Cecily von Ziegesar, will be rebooted: How? How do you resurrect this soapy drama from its delightfully un-self-aware and un-2019 technologically-ancient casket?
First of all, there’s the show’s premise, which focuses on rich New York City teens. Having a “von” in your name isn’t the only Gossip Girl element that is no longer politically fashionable — Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump once made a cameo in an episode “for the money,” playing themselves at a fictional New York Observer party celebrating the Bachelor of the Year. Attempts at what might, at the time, be considered woke plotlines were limited to gestures like the marriage of Blair Waldorf’s beloved Polish maid Dorota to a doorman, and the fact that insipid softboy Dan Humphrey and his sister Jenny lived in Williamsburg.
The way that producers will try to update Bloomberg’s New York to de Blasio’s sends shivers down my spine. (Not to mention many of the media plots, surrounding internships and referencing defunct magazines and blogs that will now have to be … “editorial” jobs at direct-to-consumer mattress companies?) If the original Gossip Girl was an escapist pleasure, will the new one film at next year’s Women’s March? Will Chuck be red-pilled? Will Jenny Humphrey, instead of going punk, join DSA and form a relationship with a dirtbag-left podcast host who also secretly comes from money?
Then there’s the other update producers have promised: showing how social media has changed since the original stalker-style Gossip Girl blog “spotted” members of the cast around Manhattan. Even with a heavy dose of reality suspension, the way that characters relied on the anonymous, omnipresent narrator and her army of spies for interpersonal drama was dubious — but it was helped by the technology of the time, which we now know to be slow and quaint. The Gossip Girl kids didn’t have smartphones; they weren’t posting all the time about themselves (thus, they were posted about). How much of the new iteration’s breakups and hookups will be facilitated over DM? Will we be subject to watching them make TikToks?
Which leads into my next and perhaps largest concern: the inevitable product placement that, if the show wants to pay any tribute to its predecessor, must occur. Gossip Girl characters infamously shilled Verizon phones (Razrs, naturally), exclusively and performatively used Bing (“according to Bing” never slipped so easily off the tongue), and went to Vitamin Water parties in the Hamptons. Must we now be forced to watch boys in line for Supreme? Or will Instagram itself be a sponsor so that someone can accuse someone else of stealing their naked-in-a-hat pose?
Maybe you’re thinking, You don’t have to watch it … But of COURSE I do, and I hope these questions, which will no doubt reach the reboot creators, will be met with empathy.